Johnny 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 to the NL All-Star roster three times (1962, 64-65).[b] 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. Johnny 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.
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. Johnny 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 Phillies behind by two on September 29, Callison did not start because he had the flu with chills and fever. However, 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 his Phillies jacket on the base paths, against MLB rules; due to his high fever, Callison needed help from Bill White to button his jacket. Despite the disappointing second-place finish for Philadelphia, 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. In the 1964 All-Star Game at Shea Stadium in New York on July 7, Callison 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.
In 1965, Johnny Callison again led the NL with a career-high 16 triples, once more topping 30 HRs and 100 RBI; on June 6, he hit three home runs against the Cubs and the Phillies won 10-9. In 1966, he paced the league with 40 doubles. Callison also is remembered for being an excellent outfielder with a formidable throwing arm. He led the NL in fielding average as a right fielder in 1963 and 1964, and 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. Johnny 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. A resident of Glenside, a northern suburb of Philadelphia, Callison died in 2006 in Abington, Pennsylvania.
- March, 12, 1939
- Qualls, Oklahoma
- October, 12, 2006
- Abington, Pennsylvania