John Joseph Podres was born September 30, 1932 in Witherbee, New York. The left handed pitcher was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951 making his MLB debut in 1953 at the age of twenty. He went 9-4 with a 4.23 ERA, and a complete game shutout in his rookie year on a Dodger team that won 105 games. In his first World Series he took a Game #5 loss giving up five runs in only 2.2 innings. It would be the only World Series game he would lose, winning his next four Series decisions over four different Series.
He came back to go 11-7 with a 4.27 ERA in 1954, third most wins on the Dodger staff.
In 1955 he was 9-10 with a 3.95 ERA, throwing two shutouts & five complete games. He also struck out 114 batters in 151 innings pitched. But it was in October of 1955 that Podres became a Brooklyn Dodger legend & would forever etch himself in baseball history.
Post Season: In Game #3 of the 1955 World Series Podres pitched a complete game victory on his 23rd birthday at Ebbetts Field. He allowed three runs on seven hits, while striking out six A.L. New York players. He even got a hit and scored a run. Manager Walt Alston gave the young Podres the ball for Game #7 in the Bronx, and Podres went out and was spectacular.
He brought home Brooklyn’s first World Championship after years of frustration with so many good teams. Podres went the distance throwing a shutout, walking only two, scattering eight hits along the way. He became the hero of New York, putting in one of the best World Series performances of all time. He was given the first-ever World Series MVP Award and was presented with a red Corvette. Later during the off season he was honored as the Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated magazine.
Podres missed the 1956 season due to military service, but he came back in 1957 and despite pitching in a hitter’s park, led the league in ERA (2.66) and shutouts (6). He was 12-9 with 186 innings pitched, 109 strike outs, 10 complete games & 3 saves in relief. As the Dodgers moved west to Los Angeles,
Podres would go on to win 12 games or more over the next seven years while being amongst the league’s best in ERA & strikeouts. He made the first of his three All Star appearances in 1958, going 13-15 with a .372 ERA pitching in 210 innings, striking out 143 batters (3RD most in the league). In 1959 he was 14-9 with a 4.11 ERA as the won their first World Series in Los Angeles. Podres got the win in game #2 at Comiskey Park beating the White Sox 4-3. He went six innings giving up two runs on five hits.
In 1960 he was 14-12 with a much better ERA at .308, number eight in the league, getting named to his second All Star game by manager Walt Alston.
In 1961 he won 18 games (18-5) fourth most in the league. He posted the league’s best winning percentage (.783) & a 3.74 ERA. He struckout 124 batters in 182 innings, with 6 complete games. His fine pitching even got him some notice for the MVP voting. He returned to win 15 games the following season.
In 1963 Podres won 14 games, behind Sandy Koufax & Don Drysdale, he threw five shutouts posting a 3.38 ERA and even saved a game out of the bullpen. In the World Series Podres went into the 9th inning of Game #2 before being relieved by Ron Perranoski. He got the win allowing only one run on six hits, walking one & striking out four. That season he earned his third World Championship, in nine seasons. He missed most of the 1964 season due to arm trouble, but came back to go 7-6 in 1965.
The Dodgers won the World Series again but Podres did not pitch in that Fall Classic.
His career winded down by the late sixties, he went to Detroit going 7-6 over the 1966 & 1967 seasons. He would finish his career back in Southern California but this time with the expansion San Diego Padres in 1969 going 5-6 with a 4.31 ERA. Podres finished up his 15 year career 148-116 with a 3.68 ERA, 1435 strikeouts in 2265 innings. He threw 24 shutouts and 77 complete games. It was in the World Series that Podres did his best pitching; 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA. In six games, 38 innings pitched, he allowed only nine earned runs on 29 hits.
Retirement: After his playing days he became pitching coach for the Padres, Red Sox, Phillies & Twins from 1973- 1996. He was big influence on Cy Young winners Frank Viola & Curt Schilling. He retired to Upstate New York in the town of Glens Falls, where he passed away in January 2008 at the age of 75, after having kidney problems. There is a statue of Johnny Podres throwing to catcher Roy Campanella outside the Baseball Hall of Fame.