(This article was originally published on July 8, 1964.)
NEW YORK -- One of these days Johnny Callison is going to start believing in himself, and he’s liable to terrorize the National League.
He slashed a three-run home run into Shea Stadium’s gaudy upper deck yesterday in the bottom of the ninth inning and the National League pulled out a 7-4 victory over the American League in a crackling All-Star game.
His teammates pummeled him, and reporters probed him, and fans pawed at him afterwards. It’s enough to puff out a man’s chest and jut out his jaw for a month. But Callison isn’t the chest-puffing, jaw-jutting kind.
The Phillies’ rightfielder collects doubts the way other guys collect stamps or rare coins. He didn’t think he’d make the All-Star squad (“I was having as good a year as (Henry) Aaron, but I didn’t figure to beat out (Roberto) Clemente and Aaron.”)
Even after Dodgers manager Walt Alston picked him, he didn’t think he’d play much. (“I figured I’d pinch-hit and that would be it.”)
He doesn’t even have confidence in his own bats, which is why he used a bat he borrowed from Billy Williams for his dramatic home off Dick Radatz. (“I’ve been getting jammed too much using the heavier bat, so I grabbed Williams’ bat. It’s real light, and I wanted to get around on that guy’s fast ball.”)
A belt-high fast ball is what Callison got around on, sending it screeching into the upper deck with two men on and two out in the ninth inning.
Maybe when the hubbub dies, and the realization of what he did sinks in, Callison will chase those doubts. Alston said it best, explaining why he picked the lean outfielder.
“He’s a great all-around ballplayer,” the weepy-eyed manager said. “He can do it all. He’s lefthanded and we needed more lefties. Not to mention what he’s done against us.”
What Callison did lately was hit a homer off Sandy Koufax. “I guess he figured if I hit one off him, I could hit one off anybody,” Callison said.
Callison is 25, and he did not figure to draw more votes than Clemente and Aaron. But the game-winning homer may put his skills in their proper perspective.
He hit .300 two years ago for a seventh-place team. He hit .284 last year. (“I found out it wasn’t that easy, and I got off to a bad start.”) But he did hit 26 homers.
He can run and he can field and he can throw. He led the league in assists and there are third-base coaches around the league black-and-blue from kicking themselves.
But he is shy and quiet and introspective. He goes five-for-five and the writers interview Jack Baldschun or Ed Roebuck. He drives in two runs and throws a guy out at the plate in a 2-1 game and the writers cluster around Johnny Briggs.
“Sometimes it bugs me,” he admitted yesterday, when the last wave of writers had receded. “If I have a real big day, and nobody comes around...but they can have all those shows and interviews. Most of the time, I just like to be by myself.”
Callison won’t have much time to himself, if he keeps hitting dramatic home runs and the Phillies keep winning. “It was a great thrill,” he said, excitement rumbling in his voice. “As soon as I swung I thought it was a homer. Then I thought about the game being over, and a member of the Phillies had done the job.”
His greatest thrill? Callison hedged. “My biggest thrill ‘til now was going three-for-three in my first game in the big leagues.”
That was six years ago for the White Sox, who are managed by Al Lopez, yesterday’s losing manager. Did Callison milk any extra pleasure from beating Lopez?
“Heck, no,” he answered. “Al’s a nice guy. If you hit .170, people don’t keep you.” Callison hit .173 in 1959, and that winter he was swapped to the Phillies for Gene Freese.
He can run, throw, hit and hit with power, and his only flaw is his shyness. But he handled himself smoothly yesterday, and when someone suggested the World Series brings more writers and more foolish questions, he said, “I’d like to try it.”
It wasn’t all Callison, of course. But it’s about time he dominated a story. And he DID hammer that home run into the screeching fans in rightfield to win the game.
But if it hadn’t been for Willie Mays, he might never have gotten the chance. Mays went hitless, and he didn’t get to a couple of extra-base hits that only a Willie Mays gets to. But he turned the game around in the ninth inning, the way only a Willie Mays can.
Radatz had struck out four of the six hitters he faced in the seventh and eighth. He owned a 4-3 lead in the ninth, but he began by walking Mays on a 3-2 pitch.
Mays then stole second while Cepeda missed a second strike. Bobby Richardson, the second baseman, lingered near second to keep Mays close and discourage him from stealing third.
That’s important because Cepeda, on an 0-for-20 All Star famine, blooped a ball towards rightfield. First baseman Joe Pepitone got a turtle start for the ball, and Richardson had too far to go. It plunked into rightfield for a hit, and Mays scurried around third.
Last year, Pepitone didn’t throw home and cost the American Leaguers a run, so this time, he threw home. Nice and low. But it took a wild bounce over Elston Howard’s glove and Mays came scurrying home.
Cepeda busted to second as Mays scored. Curt Flood ran for him and then Ken Boyer popped out. John Edwards was walked intentionally, and then pinch-hitter Henry Aaron struck out.
That brought Callison up, and Lopez had lefthander Gary Peters in the bullpen. Maybe Lopez knows what people in the National League know, and that’s that Callison hits lefthanders as efficiently as he does righthanders.
Anyway, Callison went up there looking for a fast ball. “I pitched him low in the seventh inning,” Radatz mourned, “and he got a good rip. I thought I’d try something different, but it didn’t work out too good.”
It didn’t, and now, after grim years of struggling, the National League is even at 17 victories apiece in All-Star warfare.