If you love sports, chances are you had a childhood hero when you were a youngster.
I am older than most of you so my childhood heroes were mostly baseball stars from the 60’s. I was a big fan of Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and Roger Maris and the great New York Yankees teams of the early 60’s. The first summer I followed baseball was in 1961, the year that Maris broke the home run record of Babe Ruth.
I was a Yankees fan because of my dad. He was Italian and a big fan of Yogi Berra. I had other favorite players. I loved Sandy Koufax of the Dodgers and Roberto Clemente of the Pirates.
One year however, in 1963, my father took me to Crosley Field in Cincinnati and we sat down the right field line. The Reds were playing the Phillies that day and Phillies right fielder was Johnny Callison. He had a trenendous day that day and was very friendly with the fans in right field. I thought he was the coolest person I had ever seen.
Callison was also a good player in his prime. He could run, hit for power and had a cannon for an arm. In 1964, he would have been the Most Valuable Player of the National League has the Phillies not blown the pennant in the final 10 days of the season.
It is a funny thing about childhood heroes. You find out all you can about them. Callison was from Bakersfield, California. His wife was Diane and he had three daughters. His birthday was March 12th and thus the reason for the commentary today. Today is March 12th and for some reason I always think of Callison on this day.
Who knows why you remember the things that you do from your childhood. For example, I still remember the phone numbers of my best childhood friends and my first high school girlfriend. However, I can’t remember anything from today.
There used to be a sports writer in Charleston for the Daily Mail named Mike Cherry. Mike was from south Jersey and a big Phillies fan. He remembered Johnny C and he used to get a big kick ofut of the fact that every March 12th I called him to wish him a Happy Johnny Callison birthday. Sadly, we lost Mike to cancer three years ago and many in Charleston still mourn his passing.
I have no one to share with today, so I share it with you. Hope you don’t mind.
So Happy Birthday today on March 12th to Johnny Callison, a good but not great baseball player from the 1960’s and a childhood hero to a kid who grew up in a coal camp in McDowell County, West Virginia.