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It doesn't take much time to make a hero in this country, sometimes no longer than nine innings. A week ago Tuesday it took just that hallowed length of time to turn an obscure Lithuanian-American country boy into one of the best-known and best-liked people in the United States.
What did he do? Well, John Joseph Podres, a left-handed pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, shut out the vaunted New York Yankees in the final game of the 1955 World Series to give the baseball championship of the world to Brooklyn for the first time in the history of that bizarre borough.
In effect, John, a baby-faced young man of 23, had slaughtered the cruel giant and freed his compatriots from an age-old yoke of tyranny, a heroic feat indeed. But heroism in this country requires more than achievement. It demands personality, and of a special, appealing nature. John Podres had it.
First of all, he was young. More than that, he looked young: pink cheeked, blue eyed, yellow haired. He came from the country—a tiny village squeezed between the Adirondack Mountains and Lake Champlain in upper New York State—and the country is the best place for heroes to come from. He was vastly pleased by his success and proud as a man can be, and nothing is more appealing than the sight of a man openly and justifiably pleased with himself (most new fathers, for example, and all successful fishermen).
He drove home in the rain from New York to Witherbee and had a real good fight with his best girl. He had invited her down to see three games of the Series and an enterprising newsman had inferred that the two were engaged. No such a thing, John said, and with a direct courage lacking in older, more experienced men, called the girl and bawled her out for saying it. She, to everyone's admiration, snapped right back at him, saying angrily that she had never said any such thing, John Podres. It was a nice, honest quarrel, just like the one you had with your wife last week. The country loved it.
There were pictures of John in Witherbee, John in the barber shop, John at home with his family: mother, father, kid sister and three little brothers. Every American heart surged with feeling. What a wonderful thing for a small boy to have—a big brother who was the hero of the World Series.
The final touch was delightful. A newsreel clip made in Podres' home had Johnny showing a baseball to his 5-year-old brother, Jimmy.
"This was the last out," Johnny explained to Jimmy. "You remember Pee Wee fielded the grounder and threw to Hodges for the last out?"