Podres Preserves, Nabs Win
BROOKLYN – Though the Bums had not been playing wonderful ball in 1957, they were still in the thick of a playoff race. By mid-year, at 44-36, they had played well enough to be only a half a game behind the third place Phillies, one game behind the second place Milwaukee Braves, and two and a half games behind the league leading St. Louis Cardinals. Coming into Ebbets Field were the highly touted Braves, who at this stage of the season, seemed to be the team to beat.
The Braves had played well in the first few months, and were on the verge of catching fire, after winning their last series against Pittsburgh. Younger stars Henry Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Lew Burdette – as well as older veterans Warren Spahn, Andy Pafko and Red Schoendienst – were bringing pennant hopes to Milwaukee, the city that embraced a once moribund franchise following the move from Boston in 1953.
On this mild July 15th afternoon, 20,871 paying customers came to Ebbets to cheer on their Dodgers, who had their own winning streak brewing, as they had taken both games from Cincinnati earlier in the week. Starting for the Bums was the former New York Giants righty Sal Maglie, who pitched impressively in 1956. ‘The Barber’ got off to an inauspicious start when Red Schoendienst hit a homerun into right field during the first at bat of the game, thereby extending his hitting streak to eleven games. With Bob Buhl pitching for the Braves, the Dodgers were able to counter in their half of the first with a double from Charlie Neal, who was later brought in to score after a Junior Gilliam line out, and a Duke Snider sacrifice fly.
The score remained deadlocked into the latter part of the contest. Both pitchers gave up their share of hits, with Frank Torre shining for Milwaukee with two doubles, none of which drove in any runs. Johnny Podres came in for Maglie in the 8th inning, and it seemed as if he had his work cut out for him. He was due to face the top of the Milwaukee order, starting with Red Schoendienst, who already had one home run that afternoon. Pictured is his 1-0 pitch to the second baseman, on which Schoendienst would ground out back to the mound. After handling Johnny Logan and Eddie Mathews on fly balls, the Dodgers were unable to score in their own half, and Podres’ job became even tougher, facing Aaron, Wes Covington, and Torre – the heart of the batting order. Though the lefty successfully induced to line outs from the first two batters, Torre fired a double to right field, his third of the game. Andy Pafko would then bring the runner home with another two-bagger to left-centerfield, making the score 2-1.
With the game on the line in the bottom of the ninth, the Bums faced a one run deficit under the late afternoon sun. Buhl remained on the mound, and subsequently walked Gino Cimoli on six pitches. With the tying run on base, the burden to put the ball in play fell on the shoulders of veteran Gil Hodges, who, along with Duke Snider, was in the middle of his last great season. On Buhl’s first delivery, the Dodger first sacker hammered the ball into the left centerfield bleachers for a home run, winning the game for the Dodgers.
The triumph was Podres’ first against Milwaukee, and unfortunately, like the majority of his teammates, his season would not bring much more to talk about. Though the Dodgers fought valiantly, they ended the season 11 games out of first place, with Milwaukee taking the pennant, and later, the World Series. Though, during this final season in Brooklyn, there were bright spots to speak of, as two young pitchers, Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax, began to show some promise. By the time they had fully developed into the stars the Dodgers brass had hoped would anchor the team into the 1960s and beyond, it was far too late – the Dodgers had already left Brooklyn forever.