All-Star Game Memories: How Johnny Callison Vanquished Dick “The Monster” Radatz, with a Little Help from Willie Mays

Back before anyone invented the term “closer” or dreamed up “saves” as a baseball statistic, Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Dick Radatz was the best in the business. He was big, burly, and intimidating beyond words. He threw heat, heat, and more heat. For three seasons, 1962-64, Dick Radatz and his fastball were masters of the late-inning world. Mickey Mantle dubbed him “The Monster.”

Dick Radatz

Richard Raymond Radatz was born in in Detroit and graduated from Michigan State. I met him one evening when he was hosting a “Legends” box at a Red Sox game.  Dick was an ideal host in that venue; he loved to tell stories and share his knowledge of the sport. Radatz was also a good sport with a sense of humor. I decided to kid him during handshakes and introductions by saying that my name was Johnny Callison. He first glared at me, then broke into a grin and said, “They were bringing me the keys to the Corvette, and that guy took it away from me. Let me tell you about Johnny Callison.”

John Wesley Callison was a right fielder who grew up in Oklahoma, broke in with the White Sox, and was traded to the Phillies in 1961. In Philadelphia, he blossomed into a star. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito was his big fan. Callison’s single against the Chicago Cubs in a 1962 game was the first hit ever seen by a live television audience in Europe. A portion of that game was shown on the first transatlantic broadcast via Telstar, which had been launched a few days earlier.

Johnny Callison

The 1964 All-Star game was a close affair. The American League called upon Radatz in the seventh inning with American league leading 4-3. The first player he faced was Callison, who flied out deep to right field; the long out carried to the warning track. Radatz then retired the next five batters.

The Nationals tied the game in the last of the ninth on a walk, a bloop single, and a bad throw by Yankee Joe Pepitone. Callison came to bat with two outs and two men on base. He stepped into the batter’s box, then asked for time out and went back to the dugout. He emerged a minute later, then blasted a Radatz fastball into the seats for the All-Star Game’s third-ever walk-off home run. In previous years, Stan Musial and Ted Williams had also ended the All-Star Game with a home run. That earned Callison the game MVP award, a Chevrolet Corvette.

Years later, Radatz related, he encountered Callison and asked why he had gone back to the dugout.  Callison explained that, with his own bat, he hadn’t quite been able to “get around” on Dick’s fastball.  His fly-out had gone to the warning track – not good enough. So Callison borrowed a bat from teammate Willie Mays. Willie’s bat was one ounce lighter. A single ounce made all the difference.

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