Johnny Callison in a Philadelphia Phillies promotional photo.
March 12, 1939|
|Died: October 12, 2006
|September 9, 1958 for the Chicago White Sox|
Last MLB appearance
|August 17, 1973 for the New York Yankees|
|Runs batted in||840|
Career highlights and awards
John Wesley Callison (March 12, 1939 – October 12, 2006) was an American right fielder in Major League Baseball, best known for his years with the Philadelphia Phillies from 1960 to 1969. He led the National League in triples twice and doubles once, and gained his greatest prominence in a 1964 season in which he was runnerup for the Most Valuable Player Award and was named MVP of the All-Star Game. He also led the NL in outfield assists four consecutive times and in double plays once, and ended his career among the top five Phillies in home runs (185) and triples (84).
Born in Qualls, Oklahoma, Callison batted left-handed and threw right-handed. He was signed by the Chicago White Sox out of high school in 1957, being assigned to the Class-C Bakersfield Bears in the California League, where he batted .340 with 17 home runs and 31 stolen bases. The next season, he was advanced to the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians, where he led the American Association in home runs. In September 1958 he was recalled by Chicago, and hit .297 in 18 games.
The next season, Callison split time between Chicago and Indianapolis. He was not on the World Series roster when the White Sox lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and in December he was traded to the Phillies for third baseman Gene Freese, who would spend just one year in Chicago and last played regularly in 1961 (despite staying in the majors until 1966).
Callison became a fan favorite in Philadelphia; Supreme Court Justice and lifelong Phillies fan Samuel Alito recalls he "adopted Johnny Callison out there in right field" as a boy. Over the next decade, Callison would be named an All-Star three times (1962, 64-65). In 1962 he batted an even .300, the only time he would reach that mark, and led the NL with 10 triples. On June 27, 1963 he hit for the cycle against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
On July 23, 1962, in a game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, Callison had the first hit (a single) seen live by television audiences in Europe. A small segment of the game was featured that day in the first transatlantic television broadcast via the Telstar satellite, which had been launched 13 days earlier. The crowd of 6,699 cheered wildly when the public address announcer told them the game was being transmitted live to Europe. Callison's hit (in the top of the third inning) was fielded by Cubs right fielder George Altman. Callison had hit the first pitch he saw in that at-bat from Cubs pitcher Cal Koonce. There was one out and no score by either team at the time. European and U.S. viewers also saw the previous play, a flyout to Altman by Phillies' leadoff hitter Tony Taylor. It was the first and, as of 2012, the only segment of an American sporting event to be televised live by ABC, CBS and NBC simultaneously. The Phillies went on to win the game 5-3.
In the 1964 All-Star Game at Shea Stadium in New York, he hit a game-winning walk-off home run off pitcher Dick Radatz with two out in the ninth inning, a three-run shot to right field to give the NL a 7–4 victory; it was only the third walk-off HR in All-Star history, with Callison joining legends Ted Williams and Stan Musial in baseball annals.
The 1964 season became best remembered, however, for the Phillies' late-season collapse; despite a 6 1⁄2-game lead with 12 games to play, the Phillies lost 10 in a row and finished one game behind the St. Louis Cardinals. Manager Gene Mauch was criticized for his handling of the pitching staff over the final two weeks, but players such as slugging rookie third baseman Richie Allen also drew harsh treatment. Callison was 12-for-48 during the last 12 games, including a 3-homer game on September 27 against the Milwaukee Braves which the Phillies still lost 14–8, dropping them out of first place for the first time since July. With the team behind by two on September 29, Callison did not start because he had the flu with chills and fever. But Callison pinch-hit late in the game and managed a single. He reached first base and would not come out, so the Cardinals and the umpires allowed him to wear a jacket on the base paths, against the rules. Callison was so fevered that he needed help from Bill White to button his jacket. Despite the disappointing second-place finish, Callison ended the year third in the league in HRs (31) and fifth in runs batted in (104). He earned two first-place votes for the MVP Award, won by Ken Boyer of the World Series champion Cardinals.
Callison returned by again leading the NL with a career-high 16 triples in 1965, once more topping 30 HRs and 100 RBI, and paced the league with 40 doubles in 1966. On June 6, 1965, he again hit three home runs against the Cubs for a 10–9 win. He is also remembered for being an excellent outfielder with a formidable throwing arm; his throwing accuracy helped him lead the NL in outfield assists (24) and double plays (7) in 1962, and he topped the league in assists the next three years with totals of 26, 19, and 21. But his power production fell off sharply, and he failed to collect 20 homers or 65 RBI in any of his last four Phillies seasons. After the 1969 season, he was traded to the Cubs, and he posted 1970 totals of 19 HRs and 68 RBI before hitting only .210 in 1971 with just 8 home runs. In January 1972 he was traded to the New York Yankees, and he found limited playing time over two years, closing his career with a .176 average, one HR and 10 RBI in 45 games in 1973.
Callison was a career .264 hitter with 226 home runs, 926 runs, 840 RBI, 1757 hits, 321 doubles, 89 triples, and 74 stolen bases in 1886 games. Following his retirement, Callison remained in Philadelphia where he made frequent appearances and had several business ventures.
In 2012, he was inducted posthumously into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.
- Major League Baseball All-Star Game MVP Award
- List of Major League Baseball annual doubles leaders
- List of Major League Baseball triples champions
- List of top 300 Major League Baseball home run hitters
- Hitting for the cycle
- Walker, Ben (March 10, 2007). "Supreme Court justice trades robe for jersey". Associated Press.
- Paul Lukas (July 12, 2013) "http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/38106/uni-watch-all-star-helmet-mix-ups"
- George Vecsey (27 September 2011). "Recalling a Phillies Fall; Share Your Pennant Race Memories". New York Times. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference
- BaseballLibrary - career highlights
- Steve Wulf (07/11/13). "A Hard-Knock Life". ESPN. Retrieved August 28, 2013. Check date values in:
|date=(help) Biographical article on Callison.
- Fan page with articles and photos
- Johnny Callison at Find a Grave.com