How the Phillies Put the Freese on Chicago

 

Swap Shop: Johnny Callison Goes to Philadelphia

Johnny Callison thought he had a bright future in Chicago. The White Sox thought so too.

Johnny Callison made his major league debut in 1958 with the Chicago White Sox.

Johnny Callison made his major league debut in 1958 with the Chicago White Sox.

The White Sox signed Callison out of high school in 1957, and the lanky outfielder showed promise in his first two minor league seasons. He batted .340 in 86 games in the California League in 1957. In 1958, moving up to AAA ball, Callison batted .283 with 29 home runs and 93 runs batted in. The White Sox brought Callison up at the end of the 1958 season, and he batted .297 in 18 games.

But he struggled in 1959 with the White Sox, batting only .173 and hitting just three home runs in 104 at-bats. He returned to the minors for the rest of the 1959 season, batting .299 but hitting only 10 home runs. The White Sox were convinced that, in Callison, they had a contact hitter with a great arm but questionable power.

So on December 9, 1959, the White Sox traded Callison for power in the form of third baseman Gene Freese. The 25-year-old Freese had pounded 23 home runs with 70 RBIs for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1959, and seemed on the verge of becoming a star. It was a straight-up swap, and one the Phillies would never regret.

Callison was second in the voting for National League Most Valuable Player in 1964.

Callison was second in the voting for National League Most Valuable Player in 1964.

Freese spent only one season in Chicago, batting .273 in 1960 with 17 home runs and 79 RBIs. In the off-season he would be traded again, this time to the Cincinnati Reds for a pair of pitchers, Cal McLish and Juan Pizarro. The Reds would be Freese’s fifth team in five years.

Callison would become a right-field fixture for the Phillies and an icon for their fans. After a pair of so-so seasons, he would bat .300 in 1962 with 23 home runs and 83 RBIs. He also led the National League with 10 triples that season and was named to the National League All-Star team. He would hit 31 home runs in 1964 (and finish second to Ken Boyer in the MVP voting) and 32 home runs in 1965, driving in more than 100 RBIs both seasons. He would stay in right field for the Phillies for the rest of the 1960s, until he was traded to the Chicago Cubs following the 1969 season.

Callison retired in 1973 after 16 major league seasons. He hit 226 home runs, 185 coming during his decade with the Phillies.

Freese hit only 115 home runs in a 12-year career that was marred by injuries.

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