Gritty Lefty

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Johnny Podres

Johnny Podres was a vital member of the Dodgers’ starting rotation for a decade, with a “coast to coast” Dodger career that started in Brooklyn and moved with the team to LA. He was at his best in clutch situations, a battler you could count on to give his best in the game you had to have.

Johnny Podres was 148-116 in 15 major league seasons, 13 with the Dodgers. He was an All-Star three times.

Johnny Podres was 148-116 in 15 major league seasons, 13 with the Dodgers. He was an All-Star three times.

Podres was signed by the Dodgers in 1951 and made his major league debut at age 20 in 1953, going 9-4 for the Dodgers with a 4.23 ERA. He moved into the starting rotation midway into the 1954 season, going 11-7 and following in 1955 with a 9-10 season. He started and won two games in the 1955 World Series, including a 2-0 shutout of the New York Yankees in the deciding seventh game.

After a year in military service, Podres returned in 1957 to go 12-9 while leading the National League with a 2.66 ERA. He also led the major leagues with six shutouts. He went 13-15 in 1958 and 14-9 in 1959, with another World Series victory that year.

His best season with the Dodgers came in 1961, when he posted an 18-5 record with a 3.74 ERA. His .783 winning percentage was the highest in the National League. He went 14-12 for the Dodgers in their pennant-winning 1963 season, winning the second game of the 1963 World Series against the Yankees.

Johnny Podres’ best season came in 1961, when he was 18-5 record with a 3.74 ERA. His .783 winning percentage was the highest in the National League.

Johnny Podres’ best season came in 1961, when he was 18-5 record with a 3.74 ERA. His .783 winning percentage was the highest in the National League.

In 13 seasons with the Dodgers, Podres compiled a 136-104 record with a 3.66 ERA. In 1966, he was traded to the Detroit Tigers, and went 7-6 as a spot starter and reliever over the next two seasons. He was released by the Tigers following the 1967 season, and after one year out of baseball, returned to pitch for the San Diego Padres in 1969, going 5-6 with a 4.31 ERA. He retired after the 1969 season.

In 15 major league season, Podres compiled a 148-116 record with a 3.68 career ERA. He pitched 24 shutouts and was an All-Star three times.

 

 

 

 

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An Extra Dose of Sweet

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Lou Johnson

“Sweet Lou” Johnson was the centerpiece of the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ offense in the mid-1960s. In those seasons, the Dodgers were winning pennants, but they were doing it primarily with the best pitching in the major leagues … with arms like those of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Johnny Podres, Claude Osteen and Ron Perranoski.

The Dodgers of 1965 and 1966 generally didn’t score a lot of runs, but they scored enough to win. Those teams manufactured runs with their legs as well as their bats. And Lou Johnson was an integral part of that “just enough” offense.

Lou Johnson spent 13 season in the minors before finally winning an everyday role with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1965.

Lou Johnson spent 13 season in the minors before finally winning an everyday role with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1965.

Johnson was an all-around star athlete, who excelled particularly on the basketball court. He was signed by the New York Yankees in 1953.

He spent the next 13 years working his way into a full-time major league gig. His first opportunity came in 1962 with the Milwaukee Braves after brief appearances the two previous seasons with the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Angels. He appeared in 61 games with the Braves, batting .282.

In May of 1963, Johnson was traded by the Braves to the Detroit Tigers for shortstop Chico Fernandez. It meant another two seasons in the minors, but the turning point in Johnson’s career came just before the start of the 1964 season when Johnson was traded to the Dodgers for pitcher Larry Sherry.

Johnson spent 1964 in the minors and started the 1965 season as a reserve outfielder for the Dodgers. In early May the team’s hitting star and two-time batting champion, Tommy Davis, suffered a season-ending broken ankle. Johnson took over in left field and hit .259 in 131 games, with 24 doubles, 12 home runs, 58 RBIs and 15 stolen bases. In the 1965 World Series against the Minnesota Twins, Johnson hit .296 with two home runs and four RBIs.

Lou Johnson’s best season with the Dodgers came in 1966, when he batted .272 with 17 home runs and 73 RBIs.

Lou Johnson’s best season with the Dodgers came in 1966, when he batted .272 with 17 home runs and 73 RBIs.

He was the Dodgers’ starting left fielder for the duration of the team’s 1966 pennant-winning season. He hit .272 with 17 home runs and 73 RBIs. He followed up in 1967 by hitting .270 with 11 home runs and 41 RBIs.

Johnson would play for only two more major league seasons. Following the 1967 campaign, the Dodgers sent Johnson to the Cubs, who traded him in June of 1968 to the Cleveland Indians for outfielder Willie Smith. Johnson hit .257 in 65 games with the Tribe, and just before Opening Day of 1969 he was traded to the California Angels for outfielder Chuck Hinton. Johnson hit .203 for the Angels, playing in only 61 games that season, and retired at the end of the season at age 34.

Johnson finished his eight-season major league career with a .258 batting average.

 

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Ron to the Rescue

 

Oh, What a Relief: Ron Perranoski

It was pitching that carried the Los Angeles Dodgers to their World Series championship in 1963. It wasn’t their hitting. Despite having the league’s batting champion in Tommy Davis, the Dodgers as a team batted .251, only fourth best in the National League. They were fifth in the league in runs scored.

Ron Perranoski was the bullpen ace who complemented the Dodgers’ starting rotation of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Johnny Podres. Perranoski was 16-3 with 21 saves for the Dodgers in 1963.

Ron Perranoski was the bullpen ace who complemented the Dodgers’ starting rotation of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Johnny Podres. Perranoski was 16-3 with 21 saves for the Dodgers in 1963.

But that kind of offense was enough for a team that featured Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Johnny Podres in its starting rotation. And even though those three starters accounted for 47 complete games in 1963, the Dodgers’ success also came from a solid bullpen, led by a left-hander who won 16 games in relief in 1963, Ron Perranoski.

Signed off the Michigan State University campus by the Chicago Cubs, Perranoski was traded to the Dodgers in 1960. (While attending Michigan State University, he was a teammate of Dick Radatz, the ace reliever for the Boston Red Sox in the mid-1960s.)

Perranoski made the Dodgers’ squad in 1961, appearing in 53 games (including the only start of his career), and going 7-5 with six saves and a 2.65 ERA. He established himself as the Dodgers’ closer in 1962, appearing in 70 games and finishing 39 of them, with 20 saves and a 2.85 ERA.

After eight seasons with the Dodgers, Ron Perranoski was traded to the Minnesota Twins and led the American League with 31 saves in 1969 and 34 saves in 1970.

After eight seasons with the Dodgers, Ron Perranoski was traded to the Minnesota Twins and led the American League with 31 saves in 1969 and 34 saves in 1970.

In 1963, Perranoski had a career year, with a 16-3 record and 21 saves with a 1.67 earned run average. He appeared only once in the World Series, shutting down the New York Yankees in the bottom of the ninth to earn a save in preserving a 4-1 victory for the Dodgers and Podres. (Every other game was a complete-game victory for the Dodgers’ starter.)

Over the next four years, Perranoski appeared in 256 games for the Dodgers, saving 54 while going 23-27 with a 2.73 ERA. He was traded to the Minnesota Twins following the 1967 season, and saved 65 games for the Twins over the next two years, leading the American League in that category both seasons. His performance tailed off sharply after that, and Perranoski retired in 1973 after 13 seasons.

His 179 career saves made him the all-time leader among left-handers at the time of his retirement. Today his save total still leaves him ninth on the all-time list among left-handed relievers. His 16 wins in relief in 1963 tied him with Philadelphia’s Jim Konstanty for the second highest total in a season. (Roy Face set the record with 18 relief wins in 1959, a record that still stands.)

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