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Johnny Podres, Pitcher JANUARY 2, 1956

May 31, 2004
May 31, 2004

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May 31, 2004

NBA Playoffs

Johnny Podres, Pitcher JANUARY 2, 1956

watching the World Series on TV at home in Queensbury, N.Y., in
October, 71-year-old Johnny Podres caught a glimpse of his
youthful self as Florida Marlins righthander Josh Beckett mowed
down the New York Yankees in Game 6. Beckett clinched the
Marlins' improbable championship with a masterly 2-0 victory at
Yankee Stadium, a near carbon copy--same score, same mound, same
complete-game dominance--of Podres's unforgettable outing for the
Brooklyn Dodgers 48 years earlier. In 1955 the preternaturally
poised lefthander (like Beckett, Podres was 23) capped his third
big league season with a Game 7 gem that gave Brooklyn its only
world championship. "Why would I be nervous?" Podres says,
thinking back to the day when next year finally came for the
Bums. "Who the hell expected me to beat the Yankees?"

This is an article from the May 31, 2004 issue

His postseason heroics--Podres also won Game 3 and was named the
Series MVP--landed him on SI's cover the following January as our
second Sportsman of the Year. He went on to win 148 games in a
15-year career spent mostly with the Dodgers, then retired as a
player in 1969.

Over the next three decades Podres was a successful pitching
coach and minor league instructor for the San Diego Padres,
Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Dodgers and
Philadelphia Phillies. He helped develop Twins lefthander Frank
Viola into a Cy Young winner, in 1988. Righthander Curt
Schilling, now with Boston, credits Podres with turning around
his foundering career after he was traded to the Phillies in '92.
In one year Philly went from having the National League's worst
ERA to winning the pennant, in 1993. "We had a bunch of guys who
were leftovers," he says. "That's one thing I feel really good
about."

The antithesis of the modern pitching coach, Podres eschews pitch
charts and complex discussions about mechanics. His old school
approach accentuates aggressiveness, confidence and a positive
attitude. In his gravelly voice he stresses the need for nothing
more than the basic repertoire of fastball, changeup and curve.
"I never had my guys keep a book on hitters or anything like
that," Podres says. "I'd rather have them watching the ball game,
not writing things down."

Heart bypass surgery forced him to retire from coaching in 1995,
though he has worked off and on since as an instructor in the
Phillies' minor league system. With his wife of 37 years, Joanie,
Podres spends most of his time at home, about 50 miles south of
the iron-mining town of Witherbee, N.Y., where he grew up, and
fulfills his lifelong passion for horse racing by watching live
telecasts and wagering from his living room. He had surgery last
year to repair a stomach aneurysm and his plans to work with
Phillies prospects in spring training were derailed by severe
arthritis in his hips. "When you get older and have some aches
and pains, it's time to stay home," he says. But in the minds of
Brooklyn fans, he'll be forever young. --Stephen Cannella

TWO COLOR PHOTOS: BATTAGLIA BETTOR DAYS Podres wagers

The MVP of the 1955 Series, Podres spent 30 years as a pitching
coach until heart surgery in '95 forced him to scale back.