Johnny Podres was grand marshall of the Moriah Labor Day parade in 2005 as the community celebrated the 50th anniversary of him being named World Series MVP.
Johnny Podres was a World Series legend. Pat Salerno wants to be certain everyone remembers it.
Salerno is leading an effort to erect a sign at the south entrance to Port Henry honoring Podres, the 1955 World Series Most Valuable Player and native son.
“I knew Johnny well and I think this is the best way to remember him,” Salerno said. “He’s a hometown hero who had a tremendous influence on a lot of people. I think future generations should be aware of his 50 years in major league baseball.”
Podres, who died in 2008, grew up on Lamos Place in Witherbee. He graduated from
Mineville High School in 1950 before joining the Brooklyn Dodgers. After a long career as a pitcher and later as a pitching coach, Podres retired to Queensbury.
A fund has been set up to raise the $2,000 needed for the sign. Salerno got the project started by selling his own collection of baseball cards during this summer’s inaugural Johnny Podres Day.
A dinner will be held to raise more money on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2 to 5 p.m. at Boni’s Bistro in Port Henry. The dinner will include spaghetti, meatballs, salad and rolls for $10 a person. Take-outs will be available. Reservations can be made by calling Salerno at 546-9775.
During the event, Johnny Podres’ jerseys will be on display. There will also be a 50/50 raffle.
Cash donations are also being accepted for the project. People can mail checks, payable to Town of Moriah Johnny Podres Benefit, to Johnny Podres Benefit, c/o Town of Moriah, Attention Town Clerk, 14 Park Place, Port Henry 12974.
The 4 x6 feet sign will feature a large photo of Podres taken in 1955 wearing his Dodger uniform. It will be similar to a baseball card.
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 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.
Salerno was born in 1959 and doesn’t remember Podres as a player, but got to know him as a pitching coach for the Philadelphia Phillies.
When Salerno was living in southern California, he contacted Podres while the Phillies were in Los Angeles. Podres invited the fellow Moriah native to a game and a friendship was struck.
“Anytime the Phillies were in Los Angeles or San Diego Johnny would get me tickets,” Salerno recalled. “He introduced me to a lot of players. I got to know Curt Schilling pretty well. He was a wonderful man.”
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 Cy Young winner and three-time World Series champion Curt Schilling when he was on the Philadelphia Phillies staff.
Salerno has a large collection of Podres memorabilia, much of it given to him by Podres.
“He had a great influence on a lot of people as a player, coach and friend,” Salerno said. “I think it’s important that we remember him.”
That’s why Salerno organized Johnny Podres Day last August in Port Henry. The event attracted about 300 people who were able to meet the Podres family and see films of the hurler. Next summer Salerno hopes to have some former players attend Johnny Podres Day.
“I thought it was a real success,” Salerno said. “It’s something I want to continue.”
If fundraising efforts are successful, Salerno would like to place similar signs at the north entrance to Port Henry and near Podres’ home in Witherbee.
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.