“Champ” will again share top billing at the 31st annual Champ Day in Port Henry this year. The celebration of the alleged Lake Champlain monster will include a tribute to native son Johnny Podres Saturday, Aug. 4. It’s the second year the community will honor Podres during Champ Day festivities.
“Champ” will again share top billing at the 31st annual Champ Day in Port Henry this year.
The celebration of the alleged Lake Champlain monster will include a tribute to native son Johnny Podres Saturday, Aug. 4. It’s the second year the community will honor Podres during Champ Day festivities.
Podres, who died Jan. 13, 2008, was the Most Valuable Player of the 1955 World Series, pitching the Brooklyn Dodgers to their only championship.
“The addition of the Johnny Podres event has been a real boast to Champ Day,” said Jack Woods, president of the Moriah Chamber of Commerce. “Johnny Podres is a hometown hero — and, of course, everyone loves Champ.”
Champ Day will also feature sidewalk sales, street vendors, entertainment, children’s games and a “Champ Hunt” starting at 9 a.m. The “Champ Hunt” will feature “Champ Dollars” in local businesses. “Champ Dollars” can be redeemed for actual money.
Loose Connections will provide live entertainment 2 to 4 p.m.
The entertainment and games will be on Church Street, which will be closed to traffic for the day. The Podres exhibit will be next to the Lee House on Main Street.
Vendors are being sought for the day, Woods said. There is no charge to participate. Vendors must provide their own tables.
In conjunction with the downtown Port Henry activities there will be a book sale at the Sherman Free Library 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and a town-wide lawn sale.
Pat Salerno will display his extensive collection of Podres memorabilia during Champ Day. He’ll have game jerseys, hats, balls, coins, stamps, gloves, baseball cards and more from Podres’ career.
This year he’ll also have the Dodger uniform belt worn by Podres during the historic Game 7 of the 1955 World Series.
“It’s the first item I’ve received that was actually worn during Game 7 of the ‘55 World Series,” said Salerno, who has collecting Podres items since 1985. “It’s a tremendous surprise.”
The belt came from Bill Harris Jr. of Napa, Calif., who learned of Salerno’s efforts to honor Podres. Harris received the belt from his father, Bill Harris, who worked along side Podres’ father in the Mineville mines.
“He (Harris) found my number and called me,” Salerno said. “He said he wanted me to have the belt. I was shocked.”
Salerno will also show videos of Podres hurling in the famous World Series game and of Podres working with Philadelphia Phillies pitchers as a coach.
“It’s great footage,” Salerno said of the Philadelphia film. “This is the only place you’ll ever see it. The Phillies made the tape and sent it to me.”
Podres grew up on Lamos Place in Witherbee. He graduated from Mineville High School in 1950 before joining the Dodgers. After a long career as a pitcher and later as a pitching coach, Podres retired to Queensbury.
Podres did the unthinkable — he led the Brooklyn Dodgers past the New York Yankees for their one and only World Series championship.
The Witherbee native was named the 1955 World Series Most Valuable Player after winning two games, including the decisive seventh game, 2-0. He was also Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year that season.
Podres ended a legendary sports drought. The Dodgers had lost the World Series to their cross-town rival Yankees five straight times. The day after the final game the New York Post published a full-page photo of the Dodger ace with the headline: PODRES! (Need We Say More?).
As the story goes, Podres told his teammates to get him just one run and the Dodgers would win Game 7. They got him two, and the franchise celebrated its first and only championship while playing in Brooklyn. The team was immortalized as “The Boys of Summer.”
The celebration in Brooklyn following the World Series victory was said to be greater than at the end of World War II. Moriah celebrated, too. Shortly after winning the World Series, Podres returned home for a huge parade and celebration.
Podres pitched 15 years in the major leagues with the Dodgers, Padres and Tigers, posting a 148-116 record with 3.67 earned run average. The southpaw appeared in three All-Star Games and was 4-1 in World Series play (1953, 1955, 1959 and 1963) with a 2.11 ERA.
Podres also served as a pitching coach when he was older, helping develop Frank Viola when he was with the Minnesota Twins and Curt Schilling when he was on the Philadelphia Phillies staff.
In 2005 Podres was grand marshall of the Moriah Labor Day parade as the community celebrated the 50th anniversary of him being named World Series MVP.
In 2006 he was inducted into the Lake Placid hall of Fame.
Champ Day draws its named from the alleged Lake Champlain creature, “Champ,” that has been seen near Port Henry for hundreds of years. Crypto-zoologists think the creature, if it exists, may be a plesiosaur, a large under water reptile not seen since prehistoric times.
Champlain sighted “Champ” in July 1609 and described the creature as a “20 foot serpent thick as a barrel with a head like a horse.” Some believe that “Champ” is a large lake sturgeon.
In 1977, Sandra Mansi photographed “Champ” while she was having a picnic with friends. This is the best known photograph of the creature. This picture was published by Time and various other magazines. “Champ” has been featured on NBC TV's Unsolved Mysteries and Fox Network's Sightings, as well as on Japanese television and The Today Show. It has been the subject of books and hundreds of newspaper articles.
A “Champ” sightings board at the southern entrance to Port Henry on Route 9N lists the names of people who have seen the lake monster.