"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Poetic tribute to John Callison and the Phillies

The National League seemed like a foreign country when I was young. In the days before inter-league play, those N.L. teams existed in some ethereal world, from the standpoint of us American League fans.
Some of the N.L. stars would come to the Twin Cities for exhibition games. We could only see N.L. players on the NBC Game of the Week occasionally. I watched with great interest, realizing what a scarce commodity this was. It's an important principle in marketing: scarcity or the perception of scarcity.
I developed an interest in the Philadelphia Phillies in the mid-1960s. They had a 1964 rookie named Richie (or Dick) Allen who seemed a mirror reflection of our Tony Oliva that year. Then there was John Callison. He was an outfielder with multiple impressive skills. He became a favorite player of mine. He was a favorite of Samuel Alito, today on the U.S. Supreme Court.
I have written a poem in tribute to the late Callison. It begins with the setting of the 1964 All-Star Game. That all-star showcase was in Queens, New York City, at the new Shea Stadium. It's a subject close to my heart because our family was in Queens for the New York World's Fair in the summer of 1964.
Callison was at the apex of his career: he hit a three-run walk-off home run in the ninth to win the game for the Nationals. Does it get any better than that? What a moment of glory for this young man who had grown up in desolate Qualls OK, with parents who used Native American tools.
Here's my poem, beginning with that all-star game. Thanks for reading.
 
Close your eyes and visualize
Baseball stars in Queens
All the best would thump their chest
There in NYC
 
The N.L. team assumed that gleam
Taking charge at Shea
In the ninth they really climbed
It was "bombs away"
 
Score was tight there in the ninth
Each team with four runs
Could the bats reach Dick Radatz?
Could they be like guns?
 
Pitcher Dick was awful slick
In his Red Sox prime
Never cowed when on the mound
He was like fine wine
 
So the N.L. fought like hell
Getting two men on
Now the stakes are really great
For John Callison
 
Johnny had a launching pad
For his Phillies team
He looked at that Dick Radatz
Resolution keen
 
Here's a pitch that scratched the itch
Johnny found his stride
There's a drive hit long to right
Given quite the ride
 
Past the fence that ball was sent
Off that Phillie's bat
Radatz frowned out on the mound
Fans said "How 'bout that?"
 
N.L. grinned with its big win
Walk-off homer style
7 to 4 was the score
On top of the pile
 
Twice before in all-star lore
A walk-off homer rose
Off the bats of two strong cats
Musial, Williams those
 
Now the bat of Callison
Joined the hallowed ranks
Of the guys who mesmerized
Pounding hard like tanks
 
Callison with those big runs
Shone in '64
Fans at Shea proclaimed "hooray"
As the N.L. roared
 
Phillies had a real good chance
Toward the N.L. flag
With Gene Mauch they were the talk
Of the N.L. fans
 
They could see a first place team
From that Philly base
Could that red stay out ahead
In the pennant race?
 
A choke was all that could forestall
A Philly title "whoop!"
Fans would say, just no way
They could get the boot
 
Then that slide materialized
Nothing like before
Like a man adrift from land
Caught without his oars
 
Legend says a Cincy Red
Gave a horrid curse
With a steal of home he breezed
Nothing could be worse
 
Could we blame just one big play
For the Phillies' woes?
Legend grew that it was true
Phillies' hopes got froze
 
A book was penned with that legend
Such was that belief
Chico Ruiz went and seized
Phillies' destiny
 
Oh my God, it seems so odd
With that blame ascribed
To that guy who just realized
He could run and slide
 
So alas the Phils collapsed
Cardinals stood and crowed
with Dick Groat the Redbirds spoke
In a surging mode
 
Phillies fans were left aghast
Singing loud the blues
Even with such fine talent
They attracted boos
 
Callison with Dick Allen
Were a 1-2 punch
Hitting hard and looming large
They could eat your lunch
 
Dick was black and had a knack
Hitting where they ain't
John was white and showed his fight
In that All-Star Game
 
'64 was years before
PEDs and such
JFK had passed away
How we grieved so much
 
Would that we could just believe
Baseball meant it all
It's no jest we would be blessed
Eyes on that baseball
 
That's because the decade was
Tarred by hellish war
Viet Nam and our Napalm
cursed us to the core
 
We could seize a time machine
Try to change the course
Strive to free humanity
From the din of war
 
Close your eyes and visualize
USA at peace
'64 could be transformed
Wisdom in the breach
 
America that we all love
Sea to shining sea
Hear that buzz with peace and love
And those red Phillies
 
© Copyright 2016 Brian R. Williams

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