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Mauch, conversely, thinks that John Callison is the best right fielder around. Except for Third Baseman Richie Allen and Pitcher Jim Bunning, Callison certainly is the closest the Phillies have to a bona fide star. He is also the team's least visible man. Says a Philadelphia sportswriter: "Here's the story of Callison's life: one day he goes 5 for 5, and after the game all the reporters are interviewing Jack Baldschun, the relief pitcher. It's always been that way with Callison. He fades into the woodwork; you don't even know he's out there till you look at the statistics."
The statistics show that Callison is the team leader in runs batted in, if not in volubility, and has been for several years, although the rookie, Allen, is pressing him closely. Callison has led the National League in assists for the last two years and has a good chance to do it again. He is a soft-spoken, disarmingly modest ballplayer who is frankly confused by criticism, no matter how benign. A few years ago, Bobby Del Greco hung the nickname "Candy" on him, and it bothered Callison. Nobody ever defined precisely what was meant by "Candy," but the general interpretation was that he had a brittle arm, a "candy" arm. When he began leading the league in assists, the nickname disappeared (and so did Del Greco).
Callison was one of the many ballplayers who twisted and squirmed and struggled to avoid becoming a Philadelphia Phillie. When Callison was 17 and a hotshot high school athlete in Bakers-field, Calif., Babe Herman led a pack of scouts to the Callison home and tried to establish a rapport by going into the kitchen and whipping up a dinner. Herman's gourmet treats had no effect. Herman was scouting for the Phillies, and to Callison they were anathema. The young slugger signed instead with the White Sox. Two years later, after being injured and sick and generally miserable, he was traded to the Phils for Third Baseman Gene Freese. "It was the worst day of my life," Callison remembers. "That was the team I least wanted to be with."
General Manager Quinn, who could outtrade a Swiss pawnbroker, remembers the circumstances. "We had been dickering with the White Sox, and when they mentioned Callison something clicked in my mind. When Callison had first come up to the majors, the White Sox had made a movie called The White Sox Story. The first thing you saw was Chuck Comiskey sitting at his desk as vice-president of the team, and then you saw Johnny Callison giving his mother a goodby kiss and going off to spring training. And instead of being a White Sox movie it turned out to be a Johnny Callison movie. The fellow was exploited to the sky. He could run, he could throw, he could swing the bat. I never forgot that movie. I don't think the White Sox are showing it anymore. But Freese for Callison was a good trade, a fair trade. It met the needs of both teams."
Callison, underneath his homespun exterior, is not quite so easygoing as he appears. He has been criticized for not believing enough in himself, and there are those who maintain that his own inner doubts are all that keep him from becoming Philadelphia's best hitter since the redoubtable Chuck Klein. Says a teammate: "If John had any idea how great he really is, he'd hit .600. Take for instance, he's always borrowing bats. When he hit that three-run homer that won the All-Star Game, he was using Billy Williams' bat—a 32-ounce bat. When he went 5 for 5 and 4 for 4 against San Francisco, he was using Orlando Cepeda's bat—a 40-ounce bat. Why, the guy doesn't even have any confidence in his bats!"
To all of this Callison answers in his subdued, slow manner: "I believe in myself. I have confidence every time I go to the plate. Heck, if you don't, you might as well quit." Yet in a game against Cincinnati this year, Callison came up in the ninth inning with one out, two on and the Phillies two runs down, and in that all-or-nothing situation, decided to drag a bunt and leave the fate of the team in other hands. Luckily, he fouled the bunt attempt, took a second strike and then bashed a three-run homer to win the game, which to his critics seemed to be what he should have been trying to do all along. "I don't know," Callison says. "I just figured that the next batter had a better chance against a left-handed pitcher than I did."
Callison is touchy about his batting average and goes to great pains to avoid finding out what it is. "I know it sounds silly," he says with utter seriousness, "but every time I've ever looked at my average, it's gone down afterwards. I used to check it out. Two or three days later I wouldn't be hitting nothing. When I read the papers now, I check on my hits, my RBIs and my home runs, but I cover up the column that shows my average. I go into Cincinnati and Houston and they have your average up on the scoreboard. I look at the ground. I look at the crowd. I look around. I look anywhere but that scoreboard."
Callison's average, it can be reported without damage, is high enough to guarantee him employment next year, and, as usual, he is among the league's leaders in assists. But if the Phillies are to win the pennant, some of his teammates are going to have to start hitting, too. As former Whiz Kid Granny Hamner said the other day, "I picked the Phillies to win the pennant, but Callison and Richie Allen can't carry the team all year." Says the astute Johnny Keane, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals: "They're a heck of a ball club, but if they don't hit, they won't win."
Such assessments bother the Phillies little and Philadelphians not at all. "Sure," said the sandwich man on Market Street as he painstakingly constructed a hoagie, "they're not hitting and they got a sore-arm pitching staff. About the only thing they know how to do is win. But that's the name of the game."
All Philadelphia agrees, and no one would be surprised these days to hear a loud noise coming from atop City Hall. That would be William Penn, joining the other residents of Philadelphia, booing the Phillies on to victory.