By Glen Sparks
The Brooklyn Dodgers won the World Series. Wait ‘till next year? Not this year. Not in 1955.
The Dodgers dropped the first two games in the Series. Oh, no. Here we go again, Brooklyn fans cried. The Yankees, the mighty Bronx Bombers, had taken control. Once again.
They already had defeated the Dodgers in the World Series in 1947, 1949, 1952 and 1953. It looked like they would go it again in ’55, for the fifth time in nine years. All told, the Dodgers had won 10 pennants since 1890. They had still not won a World Series.
Brooklyn came back to tie the 1955 series at 2-2. Then, they won Game 3. They were one victory away from a championship. They could do it. .. Could they do it? The Yankees won Game 6 to force a seventh game.
The Dodgers started 23-year-old Johnny Podres in Game 7 at Yankee Stadium. He was just about flawless. This was the year.
Brooklyn held on to an early 2-0 lead. Veteran shortstop Pee Wee Reese handled a ground ball from Yankee batter Elston Howard and threw it to first baseman Gil Hodges for the final out.
Let the celebration begin. Podres and catcher Roy Campanella jumped into each other’s arms.
“That was a thrill of all thrills,” right-fielder Carl Furillo said in Bums: An Oral History of the Brooklyn Dodgers by Peter Golenbock.
Pitcher Carl Erskine said: “You can’t believe the hunger that existed in my belly, along with the rest of the guys, to win a World Series.”
Podres matched up against the 35-year-old veteran Tommy Byrne in the deciding game. Byrne had won Game 2 for the Yanks. He gave up two runs and struck out six in a complete-game effort. The Yankee beat the Dodgers 4-2. Podres, meanwhile, had won Game 3 for Brooklyn. Like Byrne in his victory, Podres went the whole way. He gave three runs, two earned. Like Byrne, he struck out six.
Game 7 stayed scoreless through three innings. In the top of the fourth, Brooklyn broke through with one run. Campanella doubled and scored on Hodges’ two-out single.
Brooklyn made it 2-0 in the sixth on another RBI from Hodges. His sacrifice fly brought home Reese. The Dodger shortstop had led off the inning with a walk. He raced to second on an error and went to third on a groundout.
The Yankees threatened several times but could not score. In the sixth inning, the Yanks had two men on base and nobody out. Yogi Berra belted a ball into left field. It looked like a sure double and two runs. Sandy Amoros, though, sprinted into the corner and grabbed the hard-hit drive just a few feet from the stands. Billy Martin and Gil McDouglad, as surprised as anyone, raced back to their bases. Amoros whirled and fired to Reese, who threw a dart to Hodges. The throw barely beat McDougald for a double play. Hank Bauer then grounded out to Reese for the final out of that inning.
Podres scattered eight hits and walked two in the biggest 2-0 victory in Dodger history. The lefty from upstate New York, a life-long Dodger fan, won the World Series MVP and was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year, thanks to his two complete-game victories. He had gone just 9-10 in the regular season with a 3.95 ERA (103 ERA+). He threw 18 innings in the World Series with an ERA of 1.00.
“In winning,” Robert Creamer wrote in his Sports Illustrated article about Podres (The Year, the Moment and Johnny Podres), “Johnny became the personification, the living realization of the forgotten ambition of thousands and even millions of onlookers.”
The Brooklyn Dodgers had finally done it.