After shutting out the New York Yankees in Game Seven of the 1955 World Series — the clincher of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ first and only world’s championship — Johnny Podres was more popular in Brooklyn than the Cyclone, Coney Island, egg creams, and Nathan’s combined.
Two years later, the Dodgers’ owner took his team, with young pitchers like Podres and Sandy Koufax, to Los Angeles.
The Dodgers never came back, but Podres, 74, visits Brooklyn periodically, and he made his latest incursion on Sunday, greeting fans who were waiting on line at Keyspan Park to purchase individual game tickets for the Cyclones’ seventh season.
And the first fan on line was Wayne Armstrong, a gruntled postal worker from Brighton Beach.
“I’ve been a fan since the first season,” said Armstrong, who arrived on line on the sidewalk along Surf Avenue at 4 pm Saturday, 17 hours before the tickets finally went on sale.
“It got a little chilly at night,” added Armstrong, who brought a folding chair and a sleeping bag with him.
Armstrong has been first on line for Cyclones’ tickets for three years in a row (ever hear of season tickets, Wayne?).
Another early arrival was Louis Alberici.
“I’m from Bensonhurst — the home of Ralph Kramden,” said Alberici, who then made a confession.
“I have Rudy [Giuliani] blood in me,” he said, admitting his allegiance to the Yankees, both Bronx and Staten Island variety.
Also on line early was Sea Gate resident Sy Golde, who grew up in Coney Island.
“I was a Giants fan, and I was surrounded by Dodger fans who gave me plenty of abuse,” said Golde as he waited to buy tickets for his sons and his grandchildren, all from New Jersey.
“Everyone thought I was crazy to root for the Giants, and I got lots of abuse from the Dodger fans, but it was all in fun.”
Johnny Podres also remembered fun.
“When I came up to the Dodgers, I was only 20 years old, and I stayed at the Bossert Hotel, just down the street from the Dodgers’ offices on Montague Street,” said Podres.
“I would go out to Coney Island all the time. I made sure I got on that first seat on the Cyclone. That was almost as big a thrill as beating the Yankees in the World Series.”
They also took advantage of their talents (while also benefitting from the era’s lack of celebrity culture).
“Tommy Lasorda and I came over [to Coney Island] one time to throw baseballs at those things [dolls on sticks],” said the left-hander.
“We knocked down so many that they found out we were Dodger pitchers, and they wouldn’t let us play any more. [But by then], we’d won so many of those stuffed animals that we took them to Ebbets Field and sold ’em at the ballpark.”
Fifty years after the Brooklyn Dodgers’ last season, baseball enthusiasm in the borough is stronger than ever, albeit in a minor (league) key.
But on a day when Johnny Podres returned to Brooklyn, when hundreds of people lined up for Class A baseball tickets, when the mood was overjoyed that the Cyclones’ original manager, Edgar Alfonzo, is back as skipper, could anyone be blamed for dreaming of a 2007 New York–Penn League championship?