A Capital Region man is giving his hometown a sense of pride after helping the Atlanta Braves win the World Series. Ian Anderson returned home earlier this week for the first time since winning the title and he says the community has welcomed him back with open arms.
"To see the support from the [Shenendehowa] community and Clifton Park and where I grew up, it means a lot. I love seeing the stuff from when I was back here and when I was in third grade, I saw that yesterday and I got a good kick out that, so it's fun to reminisce," said Anderson.
Anderson is just 23 years old and is now a household name after his performances in the postseason. In the World Series, he pitched five no-hit innings in Game 3, helping Atlanta take a 2-1 series lead. The Braves won the series in six games, but if a pivotal Game 7 was necessary, Anderson would've gotten the nod.
About 100 miles north of Anderson’s native home, you’ll find a small town in the North Country and an important name. Sixty-six years before Anderson took the mound in the World Series, Johnny Podres of the Hamlet of Witherbee in Town of Moriah attained baseball immortality.
"Johnny was a small town boy from a poor family who made it big,” said memorabilia collector Pat Salerno Jr.
Podres spent more than 50 years in baseball, but it was his Game 7 win over the Yankees in the 1955 World Series that brought the Brooklyn Dodgers and their fans a long awaited championship that made him a baseball legend.
Salerno wants to keep it that way.
"Johnny was so nice to me that I started collecting, and my collection got huge," said Salerno.
Salerno’s father played against Podres in high school and was later a teammate of his in the Dodgers organization. Years after Podres’ playing days were over, Salerno began to closely follow his time as a pitching coach. It was a successful second career that got Podres back to the World Series.
"He really motivated his pitchers; he inspired them. He even taught them to autograph and be good to the fans,” Salerno added.
Podres certainly practiced what he preached, even offering to personalize Pat's sizable collection of cards, jersey, gloves and pictures at his home in Queensbury.
"And I loaded his dining room table up. He sat down and he signed all that stuff for me ... and I'm not kidding you, I was in a sweat just handing him stuff because I valued his time,” Salerno said.
In addition to sharing his collection with the community, Salerno wanted something a little more permanent for the casual baseball far out there. A detailed sign with Podres’ picture now stands on the shores of Lake Champlain made possible with $2,500 Pat raised. It honors the man himself and his greatest accomplishment. Salerno has only one regret about it.
"I wish I would have honored him with the sign earlier while he was alive. Sometimes we do things a little too late. But the sign is up, people stop down there with Harleys and motorcycles, they enjoy it. Putting a smile on people's face with the sign makes me happy," said Salerno.
Thirteen years after Podres passed away, Anderson’s performance for the world champion Atlanta Braves has brought Podres new recognition. Salerno sees similarities between the two.
"Ian [like Podres] is a small town boy," said Salerno.
And if Anderson is so lucky, someone like Pat will be there to make sure no one forgets his name or what one magical win can mean to the town he calls home.
“Somebody is going to see this [Podres collection] and start collecting on Ian and start building a collection, and some day they might put a sign up on Ian down in Albany," said Salerno.
If anyone is going to have a collection like that for Anderson, right now, his dad has the head start. Bob Anderson says he's already started gathering all of Ian's baseball cards.