100 Greatest Phillies: 20 – Johnny Callison – Phillies Nation
100 Greatest Phillies

100 Greatest Phillies: 20 – Johnny Callison

Johnny Callison

Career w/Phillies: .271 AVG / 185 HR / 666 RBI / 60 SB

In 1959, Gene Freese hit .269 with 23 home runs and 70 runs batted in — the best season of his career. Yet the Phillies traded the known commodity to the White Sox for a young Oklahoman named Johnny Callison. For 10 seasons, Callison would patrol right field for the Phightin’ Phils, hitting home runs, stealing bags, roping triples and throwing out runners throughout. The three-time All-Star quickly became one of the game’s better outfielders, and in 1964 he had his best season. What a season. First, he hit .274 with 31 homers and 104 RBI. Those totals were third and fifth, respectively, in the National League. He also was an integral part of the Phils run toward the NL pennant (we all know what happened, of course). But his greatest moment? Bashing a three-run, game-winning home run to win the All-Star Game at Shea Stadium. Callison would enjoy a few more strong years before his play dropped off (most hitters’ play dropped off in the late 1960s), but he would retire and settle back near Philadelphia. Callison died in 2006. Freese? He flamed out quickly after the trade. Advantage? Clearly Philly.

Comment: A hitter with power, speed and an eye, Callison was an authentic ballplayer. And a fan favorite. It was hard to weigh Callison, especially in comparison to No. 19, but this spot seemed right for him — a player who won’t be mistaken for a Hall of Famer, but one who had a spectacular career for the Phils.



  1. BurrGundy

    March 7, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Excellent article abouty a Phils’ fan favorite. Callison would have hit a lot more homers if it were not for Connie Mack’s very deep center field (447 ft) and huge right field wall. He was an outstanding outfielder. Who knows how many homers and doubles he could have hit in a hitters’ park like today’s.

  2. GreysFan

    March 7, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    Probably my biggest favorite on the ’64 Phils (I was 14—let’s not even talk about what that was like). I grew up in north central PA, but I was at Connie MAck to see Callison throw out Roberto Clemente at home plate that summer. I can still see it with perfect clarity.

  3. whizkidfanatic

    March 7, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    A terrific player who was as pointed out, greatly hindered by the right field wall at Connie mack. He was a complete player who could run, throw and hit lefthanders as well as righties. For a man his size, 5’10 and 170 lbs, he had amazing power. Callison was intense and introverted, put too much pressure on himself and was mishandled in every way by GM John Quinn. His biography is very hard to find but makes a great read on the Phillies of the ’60’s and his later years with the Cubs and Yankees.

  4. KM

    March 7, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    My top 10 is all jacked up now, i think i had Callison at 10.

  5. James Kay

    March 7, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    One of the better articles in this list. My top 10 is now shot. I placed Callison in there based more on emotion than pure logic. After a second more sober look, # 20 appears like a good placement. I once heard a story that Callison hit a home run through a hole in the corrugated metal that made up the top of Connie Mack Stadium’s right field wall. I believe it may have been against the Giants. Can anyone confirm this and who was the victim pitcher?

    The following quote from Gene Mauch accurately describes Callison. I was a bit shocked to see Mauch could be philosophical. Mauch said that if he had to put together a book illustrating all the components that go into an ideal ballplayer, he would use photos of Callison swinging, bunting, running, sliding, catching the ball properly, positioning for the throw, all the good stuff. If baseball is, indeed, the easiest game there is to play for those good enough to play it at the highest level, Johnny Callison gave us a rare glimpse of how a ballplayer should look when plying his trade.

    I think Johnny would have given us a longer glimpse of that perfect player if he could have quit his cigarette smoking habits.

  6. James Kay

    March 7, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    666 Career Philadelphia RBI’s. What does that signify?

  7. James Kay

    March 7, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    It was 410′ in dead center field at Connie Mack. Still a hefty home run poke. The right field wall as 50′ high, 13′ higher than the Green Monster. A new copy of the biography, “The Johnny Callison Story”, sells for $219.99 on Amazon. I hope they edited it. The earlier editions. contained grammatical errors only a delinquent 8th grader could make.

  8. ashmidt

    March 7, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    thats alot of money for a book.john wesley callison the face of the 60s phils what a coincidence the other corner ofer was john wesley covington, wes covington wont make this list,but he was one powerful man, he said that he was going to blow up the scoreboard on top of the rightcenter field wall, that was one hell of a shot, they had to be some of the longest doubles ever. he really had a cool batting stance too. the origional salt and pepper lefthanded sluggers. they share a 1966 baseball card.

  9. James Kay

    March 8, 2009 at 2:00 am

    The title of that 1966 baseball card is “Power Plus”. The content of the photo is historical gold. Who is the Latin clown in the background? Adolfo Phillips?

  10. Woodman

    March 8, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Think it’s Johnny Briggs.

  11. ashmidt

    March 8, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    thats a great guess woodman, i think your right, but it might also be ruben amaro sr.in which case the phils g.m.is gonna be pissed that james is calling his dad a clown.

  12. Mr. Phil

    March 8, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    That Latin player could very well have been Adolfo Phillips. He was an up and comer who never panned out. Callison, on the other hand, was a classic hero in ’64. If the Phils had won the pennant he would have been the MVP (it went to Ken Boyer of the Cardinals). I remember a good article in Sport magazine that summer before the Collapse, on Callison. He was my older sister’s favorite Phillie. In later years he was another down to earth guy. There is something to be said about ballplayers who didn’t take themselves too seriously, players who get it. The common folk enjoys players like that. Johnny Callison was a memorable Phillie.

  13. MikeB

    March 9, 2009 at 12:57 am

    I think that BurrGundy is correct in that straight away dead center field at Connie Mack Stadium was 447 ft.,not 410 ft.. Not many players hit home runs to center field there. Richie Ashburn was not a home run hitter but I seen him hit a line drive homer over that high right field wall against the Giants during one of his final seasons playing for the Phillies. If I remember correctly, Callison was mainly a line drive hitter and that made it hard for him to get it over that high wall at Connie Mack. Players who could hit the long lofty high fly balls had a better chance of getting it over the wall.

  14. James Kay

    March 9, 2009 at 10:11 am

    We are both correct. It was 447′ from 1950 until 1968 when it was shortened to 410′. That would make most of Callison’s Phillies career subject to the longer distance.

  15. MikeB

    March 9, 2009 at 10:51 am

    James Kay, I did not know that the center field fence was shortened in 1968. I joined the military in 1965 and departed the Philadelphia area, so I was away when that happened and of course the Phillies moved to the Vet in the early seventies. None of the Phillies fans in my family or friends ever mentioned the change to me but anyway, my apologies to you, you are right on the 410′ change.

  16. ashmidt

    March 9, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    when gene mauch first came here he changed the home bullpen from leftfield to rightfield, and the bullpen coach andy seminick would sit in a chair at the wall, and if a phillie hit a shot to rightfield, he would wave a towell if it was going to hit the wall, gene mauch looked for every edge he could get. homefield advantage.

  17. tom p

    August 15, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    I played little league ball with johnny the summer of 1950 in Bakersfield calif He played third base I played first base . Johnny had a cannon for a arm even then. His swing was pure golden you could tell even the at that age He was something special. that was a good time many summers ago We played for a team called Johnston Testers.

  18. MediaDan

    April 11, 2010 at 12:36 am

    tom p — small world…my grandfather worked for Johnston Testers and used to take me to watch Little League games in 1950, probably you and Johnny. I also lived in the College Heights section of town and got to play a lot of summer pickup games with Johnny at BC while he was in high school at East Bakersfield. It was great when Johnny was assigned to the Bakersfield team in the California League and became a real hometown hero. Years later, in 1962, I moved to Philly and the first time he saw me at Connie Mack Stadium, Johnny greeted me like an old friend. Johnny Callison was not only a super ballplayer, but an even nicer person. As you say, he was something special.

  19. Tom M

    May 8, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    My favorite Phillie. The reason was that I saw him play when I was a youngster and he made a great slidig catch in right field.

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