One of the best outfielders during his prime, Callison was a terrific extra-base hits machine who was also an extraordinary defender. Johnny had a four-year string of leading the National League in assists and was always among the league leaders in fielding percentage among right fielders. A left-handed bat who helped carry the Phillies after their Whiz Kids days, Callison was a three-time All-Star and the MVP runner-up in 1964.
The White Sox signed Johnny as an amateur in 1957 and called him up to the Majors the next season at the age of 19. He showed promise in his cup of coffee but when he looked overmatched in Chicago the next season they traded him to the Phillies for third baseman Gene Freese. As a member of the Phillies Johnny had his finest seasons.
The Phillies made Johnny their regular left fielder in 1961 and he paced Major Leaguers in triples at the position. His breakout season came the following year as Johnny was named to his first All-Star team and tied for the league lead in triples. A .300 hitter for the only time in his career (the 1960s was predominately a pitcher’s decade), Callison began a string of four straight seasons with 20 or more homeruns and scored 107 runs (6th in the NL).
In 1963, Johnny banged out 35 doubles–tops among Major League right fielders. But teams didn’t stand up and take notice of his power bat until 1964. That year Johnny swatted 31 long balls as he led NL right fielders in homeruns and RBI. Of all the outfielders in the Major Leagues, only Johnny and Hall of Famer Willie Mays posted 100 runs scored and batted in. The following year he raised his slugging average up to a career high of .509 when he paced the senior circuit in triples. He also posted back-to-back 30 homerun/100 RBI seasons.
But his ability to swat the long ball mysteriously vanished in 1966 when his homerun stroke became a doubles stroke. He led the National League with 40 doubles in ’66; he was the only player in the Major Leagues to reach 40 two-baggers. When his power numbers and run production began to slip in the late 1960s, the Phillies shipped Johnny to the Cubs for outfielder Oscar Gamble and pitcher Dick Selma. Johnny found Wrigley Field to his liking as his power came back and he teamed with Billy Williams and Jim Hickman to give the Cubs the best homerun hitting outfield in the NL.
But 1970 was Callison’s last good year. His bat went south in 1971 and the Cubs dealt him to the Yankees for Jack Aker. He played two seasons with the Yankees as a reserve outfielder, bat-off-the-bench for New York.
G 1,886/R 926/H 1,757/2B 321/3B 89/HR 226/RBI 840/SB 74/BB 650/SO 1,064/BA .264/SA .441/OBP .331