JOHNNY PODRES has gone fishing.
Johnny Mize has gone golfing.
These were the heroes of a Yankee-Dodger World Series of another era - Podres, the Dodger, in 1955; Mize, the Yankee, in 1952.
Podres goes in the morning for bass in a large pond near his home in the Adirondack town of Witherbee, where he was born and always returned after seasons when he pitched for the Dodgers, first in Brooklyn and later Los Angeles.
He was the pitching hero of the 1955 World Series - the firt world championship the Dodgers won after seven previous failures when he beat te New York Yankees twice: in third game after the Yankees had taken a two-game lead and in the final of the seven-game series, with a 2-0 shutout. It was the first time in a modern seven-game World Series that a team that had lost the first two games had come back to win the series.
That final game victory, helped by a spectacular catch by outfielder Sandy Amoros, made Podres famous. The lefthander has won only nine games and lost 10 that year, but suddenly he was a celebrity. The contract he signed for the next season, with a raise, called for a reported $15,000, considered ample then, but merely pocket money for today's high-priced athlete.
Podres didn't get to pitch in 1956: he ws drefted into the service. (Ted Williams charged that Podres was drafted by "gutless" authorities "for no other reason then he gets famours by beating the Yankees in the World Series.") But Podres came back to be a star i 1957 and eventually accumulate 148 victories during a successful career. He pitched the first game when Dodger Stadium opened in Los Angeles - not one of his victories.
Podres has been watching the series this week on the television and rooting for the Dodgers. "Listen, I played on the Dodgers 13 years. I've got to feel something for them," he says. But no matter the outcome, podres is happy. The fish are biting and he's got his memories of the time when Yankee-Dodger meetins in October were almost an annual event.
"I remember this guy selling programs in the stands at Vero Beach in spring training," Podrs aid. "He'd yell, 'get your programs. Get your names and numbers. See 'em now and see 'em in October.'"
In the October that Podres will always remember, the series shifted from Yankee Stadium to Brooklyn for the third game, the Dodgers desperately needing a victory. "I was only 23 years old. (It was his birthday). I had nothing to lose. Nobody expected me to win. I thought we had a good chance because our club was made for Ebbets Field. Those 370-foot fly balls went out of there."
The Dodgers won, 8-3, and by the seventh game in Yankee Stadium, Podres had grown up a bit. This time he was more nervous. "I remember warming up on the sideline with Dixie Howell, our second string catcher, and the P.A. man was announcing the Yankee lineup. I said, "I don't think that lineup can beat me today, Dixie, I was trying to pump myself up."
The succeeded, with a large assist from Amoros, who made a long run toward the left field foul line to make a sensational catch of a fly ball hit by Yogl Berra.Amoros then threw to Pee Wee Reese who relayed to Gil Hodges to double up Gil McDouglad, who had rounded second thinking the bail would not be caught and could not get back to first in time. Podres watched the play unfold with deepest gratitude, and it has since been etched in his mind.
Podres, now, 45, still does a little pitching. He's a minor league instructor for the Boston Red Sox, giving him the opportunity to show a farmhand a thing or two. On one stop last summer, to the Bristol, Conn, farm team, he took along his 11 and 7-year-old sons. "They'd get me out to the park at 2:30 in the afternoon to pitch to them," he says.
Mize was one of those sluggers in his advanced baseball years the Yankees were fond of the plucking from the National League as pennant insurance.
A big man, 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, who swung a bat the size of a small tree, Mize did more than anyone - except probably Yankee manager Casey Stengel - ever expected once he got to the American League at the age of 36. He helped the Yankees to no fewer than five consecutive pennants and World Series championships.
Three of the World Series triumphs came against the Dodgers, including 1952, when Mize hit three home runs and batted 400. For this he was named player of the series.
When that series began, Mize was on the bench but in the ninth inning of the third game got to pinch hit and homered off Preacher Roe in a losing cause at Yankee Stadium. The next day he started and homered again, this time off, Joe Black, to win the game for the Yankees. He homered again the next day off Carl Erskine. He added two more hits and drove in a run in the deciding seventh game as the Yankees won, 42.
Mize is 64 and back home in Demorest, Ga., "about 1,000 to 150 yards from the bank and post office, so I don't have to go far." Even though his fondest memories are his days with the Yankees - he began his career in 1936 with the St. Louis Cardinals and later played with the New York Giants - he says he's only watching bits of this Yankee-Dodger series on television.
It all depends what's on," he says. "Tuesday night it was M'A'S'H'. Wednesday night it was Nashville Country Music. I'll switch back at commercials and see what going on, but as far as turning it on and sitting there, no."
Mize has his memories, hitting achievements perhaps only dimly re-called by many: a home run in every major league park he played, the only man to hit three home runs in a game six times, a 312 lifetime batting average, 51 homers in 1947 for the Giants.
Still, like any hitter, Mize recalls hits that might have turned out better: a ball that hit near the top of the Ebbets Field fence in the 1949 series that was almost another pinch-hit home run and a leaping catch by the Dodgers' Carl Furillo in the 1952 series that robbed him of a fourth home run in that series.
Mize says he knew he was going to hit that home run off Preacher Roe but the toughest Brooklyn pitcher he ever faced was Kirby Higbe who "threw a knuckleball harder than they throw a fastball today. You can look it up how many catchers got their fingers broken."
Being a Yankee in those days meant not only a confidence that you were going to win, Mize says, but feeling "just like you were going to run 'em off the field, just take over."
This made for an agreeble life. As Mize explains, "It was nicer when you'd go out to dinner. people wouldn't holler at you and say, "When are you going to win one?" When they had to say, "When are you going to lose one?' you could just laugh at 'em."
When Mize retired as a player, he did a radio show before and after Giant games called "Johnny on the Spot." He later helped promote a short-lived Global League. Now he plays golf once or twice a week, despite aching knees and helps care for his mother, who is 84.