Johnny Podres chats with fans online
1955 World Series MVP will throw out first pitch Aug. 28
Johnny Podres, 1955 World Series MVP, will throw out the first pitch on Aug. 28 at Dodger Stadium to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Brooklyn Dodgers world championship. Podres chatted with fans about playing for the Dodgers, first in Brooklyn and later in Los Angeles.
Base_Ball: What was your bread and butter pitch?
Johnny Podres: I feel like I had three pretty good pitches. Well, my fastball, curveball and changeup. Everybody thought my curveball was my best pitch. But, when you sign with the Dodgers, you had to be pretty good. So I had three good pitches, all of them.
Base_Ball: Did you have any pregame rituals?
Podres: All I wanted to do was be ready to pitch that game that I was supposed to pitch. I knew what I had to do to get ready with my warmups before the game. It didn't matter what game it was, I was focused on pitching for the Dodgers all of those years.
mlb_com_member: When you first started, did you think you were going to win 148 games, 1,435 strikeouts and have an incredible 24 shutouts in 440 games and also world Series MVP in 1955?
Podres: No, not really. I just wanted to pitch for the Dodgers. When I was growing up, I was always a Dodgers fan. When I had a chance to sign with the Dodgers, I jumped at it. I got out of high school, called Mineville High School in 1950, and was pitching for the Dodgers in 1953. In those days, we only played about 10 games a year because it used to snow in April and May. Living in a small town, I don't know how the Dodgers found me. In fact, our principal in high school knew a scout named Alex Isabel for the Dodgers and he came up and saw me pitch and I pitched a no-hitter that night. He invited me to work out in Ebbets Field. That was unbelievable working out there before a game. I threw on the side before the top scouts. It was really enjoyable.
mlb_com_member: How does it feel to be called the "Yankee Killer"?
Podres: It feels great because, you know, I pitched against them four times in the World Series and beat them three times. I pitched against them when I was 20 years old in 1953, I started the fifth game of the World Series and I thought I had a pretty good day. I know there was an error in the game, the ball went through Gil Hodges' legs and he never made any errors. Russ Meyer came in later and Mickey Mantle hit a grand slam off him. I pitched pretty good that day, but '55 was the big time when I beat them in the third game. I think that was most important. Jackie Robinson said to me after the game that it might be the most important game that I ever pitched. Looking back on it, I think the seventh game, to stand out there and finish it and win a World Series, you just dream about those things when your're a kid.
Base_Ball_2: What was your favorite ballpark to play at?
Podres: My favorite park was probably Ebbets Field. The Dodger symphony, Hilda with her cow bell, that was really great. When you walked through that rotunda with the fans there, it was something else, Brooklyn. Other ballparks, when you went on the road, you'd like to pitch in parks where you had good luck in. I liked to pitch in Chicago, especially with the wind blowing in. And I liked to pitch there because they played at 1 in the afternoon and you could go out and have a nice dinner.
jagfire: Who on the Dodgers today reminds you of yourself?
Podres: Now that I'm retired, I don't get to watch much of the Dodgers, because I live in upstate New York. I don't watch too much baseball these days, but I try to see a Yankees game or a Phillies game now and then because that was the last team that I worked for.
Base_Ball_3: How was it playing with Jackie Robinson?
Podres: Growing up, in my life, and to read about those guys and listen to them play every night, Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Carl Furillo, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella, Carl Erskine ... and then two years after you're out of high school, you're in the same clubhouse as them when you're 19 years old, that's quite a thrill in itself. And Clem Labine was one of my best friends. We went out to eat a lot, roomed together and lived in LA together. He was a heck of a pitcher. I'd like to see him pitch in games these days. He used to pitch two or three innings every day. He was terrific.
Leah_Setaghian: Which of your teammates did you learn the most from?
Podres: Well, probably when I first came up, when we were shagging in batting practice, I liked to talk to Preacher Roe when I first came to Brooklyn. He gave me some great advice. He said the first pitch, throw it over the plate with something on it and I've used that most of my career. He helped me a lot.
mlb_com_member: How did it feel leaving Ebbets Field for Los Angeles?
Podres: Well, being from New York, I didn't like it. But, playing with the Dodgers, when they moved there, I was a Dodger and that's where I was going. But I really enjoyed playing there, too. I played longer in LA than I did in Brooklyn until I got sold to Detroit 1966. I pitched with the good guys. The Koufaxes and the Drysdales.
mlb_com_member: On July 2, 1962, you pitched your finest game, retiring the first 20 Phillies and struck out eight in a row. How did you do that and how did you feel after the game?
Podres: It was the first game of a doubleheader and I was pitching a no-hitter, too. I threw a fastball on the outside corner, about half an inch off the plate and the umpire could have rung Johnny Callison. He would have been my ninth straight strikeout. After they got the hit off me, I was completely exhausted and couldn't finish that game. That was a great game. I probably threw harder that day than I ever did in my life, for some reason. Sometimes you have that little extra fastball.
Base_Ball: Was the 1955 Game 7 the highlight of your career?
Podres: Definitely. But I got lucky in that game. Mickey Mantle wasn't in the lineup. He pinch-hit off me and Jackie Robinson didn't start. If I didn't pitch two complete games in that series, Duke Snider would have been the most valuable player. And don't forget Clem Labine, who pitched great in that series.
mlb_com_member: How long did it take you to write your book?
Podres: There was a guy from Vermont who wrote it and would come to my house from time to time. So, I'm not sure, it didn't take me any time!
chsthespian4life: What hitter gave you the most trouble in your career?
Podres: Let me tell you something, the toughest player I had to pitch against was Roberto Clemente. I could get him two strikes as quick as anybody, but I could never finish him off. I could throw him a pitch over his head and he'd hit it down the right-field line or a curveball in the dirt and he'd hit it down the left-field line. Some days when you had your good stuff, you could get anybody out. Other days, you couldn't get anyone out and you'd have a quick shower.
Base_Ball_2: Do you keep in touch with any of your former teammates or go back to Dodger Stadium?
Podres: I haven't been to Dodger Stadium since 2002, for Opening Day, the 40th anniversary. But I'll be going back there next month on Aug. 28 for the 50th anniversary of the World Series. As for teammates, I just talked with Don Zimmer today and I talk with him quite often. I saw Duke Snider about three weeks ago in New York. I get to see those guys once in a while at a card show. And Clem Labine. That's about it.
Base_Ball_3: When did you start playing organized baseball?
Podres: I started playing organized baseball in 1950. I played in the Vermont League, the Northern League, they called it. Robin Roberts pitched in that league and then I signed with the Dodgers and a year out of high school, I started my career in 1951 and pitched in Brooklyn in 1953.
smerf113615: You were one of the best Fantasy Camp managers I ever had at Vero Beach, so thanks. We'd love to have you back.
Podres: That's great. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
mlb_com_member: Who was your favorite player growing up?
Podres: My favorite players were all the Dodgers. It didn't make any difference. You just rooted for the Dodgers, guys like Dolph Camilli, he used to get a lot of big hits for the Dodgers. And big Newk (Don Newcombe) and Campanella and Jackie Robinson when he came up. You can go on and on. Pee Wee Reese, who wound up being my first roommate in baseball.
Base_Ball_3: Do you ever wish you could play in 2005, because of the money and attention?
Podres: Let me tell you something, I played baseball in the big leagues in an era with eight teams in each league. And I feel like I really made the big leagues when I got there. Now, they've got 30 teams. And back then, there were only 400 players. They've got a lot of good players now, but they've got a lot of watered-down guys too. There's a lot of kids that are there because they've got so many teams. You've got to remember, when there were only 400 players in the Major Leagues, there were a lot of guys that probably could have played, but how many guys do you think were supposed to take Pee Wee Reese's job? He played for 18 years. A lot of those guys played in the Minor Leagues, where else could they play? So I'm glad of the time that I played when I did.
Base_Ball_2: What was it like to pitch Opening Day at Dodger Stadium?
Podres: I remember Wally Post hitting the ball over the center-field fence off me. It was a good game. I came to the ballpark that day with Daryl Spencer, we walked across center field and said, "This is a good ballpark to pitch in." But I got beat. I pitched against Bob Purkey, but I hit a double off him that day. A ball in the gap.
Alex_Lambiaso: Do you still go to any baseball card shows?
Podres: Once in a while I go to a card show. But the last one I did, I can't remember. I go maybe once every two or three months. I enjoy going because you get to see guys you played with and you get to say hello to them. I think it's great.
Podres: Well, thank you all for asking such great questions. We hope to see you at Dodger Stadium for the Aug. 28 reunion and don't forget, we've still got live web chats with Don Newcombe on July 25 and Carl Erskine on Aug. 8 so stay tuned for more information.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.