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BLOG: A True All Star

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Chase Utley is congratulated by teammates after scoring during the 13th inning  against the San Diego Padres. (credit: Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

Chase Utley is congratulated by teammates after scoring during the 13th inning against the San Diego Padres. (credit: Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

Campbell_Bill-FEATURE-img Bill Campbell
Bill Campbell, known to all Philadelphiasports fans as “The Dean,”...
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By Bill Campbell

Johnny Callison

The coverage of the All Star Baseball Game never fails to remind me of Johnny Callison.

They’ve been playing the All Star Game since 1933. But the 1964 game was special. It was the only one to be decided in the ninth inning, and the only one to be decided by a walk-off home run. And the guy who decided it was the Phillies’ Johnny Callison. He was not only a pretty good ball player. He was a friend of mine. I was the Phillies’ broadcaster at the time and I was as happy as Callison himself when he got that pitch in that game, in that year of the “Blue Snow”, as Gus Triandos called it. It was a memorable year.

Most people remember the Phillies of 1964 because that was the year they had a 6 ½ game lead with 12 games to play for the banner and they blew the whole thing. Then the snow wasn’t blue anymore and that’s all she wrote. But they mustn’t forget that Jim Bunning pitched a perfect game on Father’s Day that year and Dick Allen was on a pace for 29 homers and 91 RBI’s. The end of that season still stings, for sure. But today I’m thinking about the consummate All Star, Johnny Callison, even though it’s nearly 50 years since he put himself in the records books.

The 2013 game played in New York, the same place where Callison hit that homer, made its own headlines. But the All Star Game headlines that took shape in ’64 centered on Callison’s game-buster. My friend, Stan Hochman, wrote an piece about Callison’s memorable homer in the Daily News last week reminding us that there were 2 out in the ninth, 2 on base and the score was tied when Callison came up to bat. He wanted a lighter bat to make better contact with pitcher Dick Radatz’s hard fastball. So he borrowed one from the Cubs’ Billy Williams and ripped the pitch into the right field seats at Shea Stadium, giving the NL a 7-4 win. It was the only time a Phillies player was named MVP in the All Star Game. I can still hear the crack of that bat.

There was a picture in the paper the other day depicting some of the stellar names of the NL All Star Team of 1964. Another shot shows Callison as he crossed the plate after scoring that historic homer. Roberto Clemente is in the picture as is Dick Groat. It’s a picture that made me smile. Callison wasn’t the only Phillies player to hit a big home in an All Star Game. Dick Allen did it in 1967. Greg Luzinski in 1977 and 1978. Bob Boone did it too in ’78. Mike Schmidt powered them in 1979 and 1981. Von Hayes in 1989. But they will long remember Johnny Callison’s home run of 1964 because it came at the end of the ninth inning.

I recall that Mike Schmidt made the NL All Star team an incredible 12 times, Robin Roberts and Steve Carlton 9. Larry Bowa and Chase Utley made it 5 times, while Rich Ashburn, Greg Luzinski and Pete Rose were voted on to 4 teams. At 3 appearances are Del Ennis, Granny Hamner, Curt Simmons, Dick Allen, Bob Boone, Lenny Dykstra, John Kruk, Darren Daulton, Curt Schilling, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, and Cliff Lee. A new name appeared in that company this year – that of Domonic Brown. Let’s hope it’s the first time of many for him. But any time a Phillies player is connected to the All Star Game, the first name any local fan should think about is that of Johnny Callison. The bat that he used to homer off Dick Radatz is now resting in the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, as it should be. As the kids say these days, he was The Man.

Phillies on the Farm

Reading pitcher Seth Rosin competed in the Arizona Fall League last year and 2 of his team-mates were Mike Trout of Millville, New Jersey, and Bryce Harper. Both were recently named to their second major league All Star Game. But Rosen’s comment on one of his team-mates, third baseman Maikel Franco, is more than mildly interesting. Recall that Franco, who’s not yet 21, is listed as a hot Phillies prospect hitting 392 with 5 homers in 70 at-bats since his promotion from Clearwater to Double A Reading. He may be playing third base in Citizen’s Bank Park in the future. Rosin said, “I’ve played with some guys in the Fall League like Harper and Trout and I don’t know if I have seen a better hitter than Mikael Franco yet.” Rosin added, “It is really exciting to see his progress. He is really fun to watch play every day.” With Franco, Cody Ashe at Lehigh Valley and Mitch Waldine at Lakewood, the Phillies are deep at third base. This is good news. Another player worthy of mention is pitcher, Steve Inch, who was just promoted to High A Clearwater and is now 2-0 with an ERA of 0.00 in 3 ½ innings in his first 2 games in the Gulf Coast League. J.P. Crawford, the 18-year-old Phillies first round draft pick from Lakewood High School in California, is hitting 17 for 37. Joe Jordan, Phillies Director of Player Development, says, “Crawford is a very advanced professional shortstop.” Better days may be on the horizon.

Baseball Milestones in 2013

The 2013 baseball season hasn’t yet reached its halfway point but it’s been a pretty remarkable one so far. And there are 80 some games still on the schedule. On April 2nd, Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish was one out from a perfect game when Marwin Gonzalez rounded a single right through the pitcher’s legs. He was relieved after the hit, having struck out 14 in Texas for a 7-0 victory. On April 10, the 794-game sell-out streak at Boston’s Fenway Park ended. On April 12th the New York Yankees turned the first 4-6-5-6-5-3 triple play in major league history against Baltimore. On April 14th, Edwin Jackson and Michael Bowden of the Cubs threw 5 wild pitches in an inning—Jackson 2 and Bowden 3 – against the Giants. On April 23, in Colorado the Atlanta Braves’ B.J. and Justin Upton hit back-to-back home runs, the second time the brothers have done so in their careers. Lloyd and Paul Under did it on September 15, 1938. On April 26 in Detroit, the Tigers’ Anibal Sanchez broke a 44-year team record by striking out 17 batters against the Braves. Sanchez did it in 8 innings, breaking the record held by Mickey Lolich set in May 1969. And that was just April.

On May 25th, Angel Pagan hit a game-winning inside the park 2-run homer as the Giants beat the Rockies. The last player to do that was Rey Sanchez of Tampa Bay in 2004. And on July 10th, out in Seattle the Boston Red Sox’s David Ortiz set the record for most career hits by a designated hitter with 1,689. Harold Baines had held that title till then. The season’s first no-hitter was thrown by Homer Bailey of Cincinnati against the Giants on July 2nd. Washington’s Jordan Zimmerman had baseball’s best record, 12-5, but the Phillies’ Cliff Lee wasn’t bad at 10-3. Cole Hamels had the worst record at 4-10. At one point, Oakland’s Grant Balfour was the leading bullpen specialist with 24 saves. In the milestone category, Carlos Beltran of the St. Louis Cardinals hit his 350th home run in June. Tori Hunter of Detroit hit the 300 mark. On July 14th, San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum threw a no-hitter as well. This one was saved on a great catch by former Phil, Hunter Pence, in the 8th inning against San Diego. Lincecum fanned 13, walked 4 and hit a batter. He threw 148 pitches, the second most ever thrown in a no-hitter since at least 1988 which, according to STATS.com, is when they started to keep that rather obscure statistic. In the tough day department, on July 8th San Francisco’s Brandon Belt had the worst day, going 0 for 8 with 5 strikeouts in a 16-inning game. All this happened in just half a season, before the 2013 All Star break.

After the completion of almost 90 games, the regular season takes a time out this week, allowing baseball people to move to the sidelines for a few days to resume play on Friday. The first half of the 2013 season saw the Phillies and Yankees handling more than their share of injuries and their records show it. Boston more games than predicted while Miami had more than its share of empty seats. San Francisco has had its problems too. Oakland probably has been the surprise team of the season, with Miguel Cabrera its most prominent hitter and Grant Balfour impersonating Mariano Rivera out of the bullpen. There’s been some awful pitching from the Chicago Cubs both at home and on the road. The Phillies had a triple play fiasco against the Braves – a double play on a foul ball bunt at Citizen’s Bank Park and also 5 wild pitches in one inning. So there’s been a lot to ponder so far this season.

It’s rumored that there’s also a story about to break about an investigation into drug use in baseball that could sideline or suspend 12 to 15 players. But the game will go on and remain as engrossing as ever as we move into August and September. There will be more excitement, a milestone or two and that welcome suspense that comes with the post-season games and the World Series.

Aaron Hernandez

The Cleveland Plain Dealer has reported that the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, has removed a photo of former New England Patriot tight end, Aaron Hernandez, after receiving complaints about it from visitors to the museum. “In the spirit of good taste, we thought we’d take it down,” said Joe Kerrigan, President of Communications and Exhibits for the Hall of Fame. The picture showed Hernandez high-stepping into the end zone for the Patriots against the Green Bay Packers in 2010. It was the winning entry that year in the Hall of Fame’s annual photo contest. But times have changed. Hernandez has been charged with the execution-style murder of Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old semi-pro football player, in Massachusetts and is held without bail at the Bristol County House of Corrections. Hernandez has pled not guilty to the charge. The Patriots released Hernandez last month shortly after he was arrested. In a related matter, the Pouncey brothers — Maurkice, who plays for Pittsburgh and Mike, who plays for Miami — have been seen on the Internet in photos these days wearing hats that say “Free Hernandez”. We hear they’ve been called in by their front offices to address the matter.

Meanwhile, Penn State has announced that its football season will open in Dublin, Ireland against the University of Central Florida on August 30th, the first international game for both teams. Penn State head football coach, Bill O’Brien, says, “We are very excited to play a game in such an historic and outstanding venue. I have great respect for Coach George O’Leary and his team and playing UCF in Ireland will be a fantastic experience for all the players, coaches and fans.” It will be O’Brien’s second season with the Nittany Lions, a year further away from the ugly Sandusky scandal. Football is right around the corner, folks. Rookies report to Eagles training camp on July 22nd and the full team checks in on the 25th. It’s great to be a sports fan.

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