Dan Callahan, 1958-2010
Nov. 22, 2010
By Jason Clay
Callahan memorials can be made to the Coach Kill Cancer Fund at P.O. Box 3988, Carbondale, Ill., and/or the Dan Callahan Memorial Fund that is set up through the SIU Foundation to benefit the Saluki baseball program. For more information on the Dan Callahan Memorial Fund, please contact Kevin Ginther in the SIU Athletic Department at 618-453-5408.
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Over 1,500 mourners filled Southern Illinois' Abe Martin Field late Monday afternoon to celebrate the life of late Southern Illinois University baseball coach Dan Callahan.
Callahan, 52, died surrounded by family at his home on Monday, Nov. 15, after his courageous battle with a rare form of skin cancer.
A 45 minute celebration of the coaches life brought back so many of his close friends, former colleagues and players of past and present.
Former Saluki football coach and current Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill, SIU president Glenn Poshard, childhood friend Mark Erickson, Saluki and Illinois baseball coaching legend Richard "Itchy" Jones and SIU Hall of Fame Broadcaster Mike Reis all reflected to the audience about how truly great Callahan was as a man.
The humble "Coach Cal," as he was known, might not have wanted such a large event in his honor, but to see so many dear friends and loved ones all come together would have brought so much joy to the Saluki baseball coach of 16 years.
"I am proud to say Dan Callahan was my best friend," said Erickson, who was the best man at Dan's wedding to his wife, Stacy. "The amazing thing about Dan is that there are probably another 20 guys here today that would consider him their best friend."
The lines were painted, the bases were down and Cal's No. 37 was imprinted behind home plate at Abe Martin Field. That is the epicenter where so much of his life's work took place, and that doesn't even include the games he coached. It was where he touched the lives of hundreds upon hundreds of people.
"This was his office," Jones said. "This was his home away from home. This is where he had the opportunity to do what he did best, and that is teach young men how to live and how to play baseball."
When Jerry Kill became SIU's head football coach in 2001, Kill said that the first person to come see him was Callahan.
Kill continued to talk about how special Callahan was for how he appreciated what everybody did for him, and the love he had for his family. He also spoke about Cal's love for the game - a love that never faded, even when he drew ill.
"He is the toughest individual that I have ever met in my entire life," Kill said. "He is the finest individual that I have ever met in my life because the guy was incredible."
Kill closed his speech saying "that guy has sweat and bled on this field for a lot of years." He guaranteed that Cal was listening and asked the audience to give the man a standing ovation that he truly deserves, which the crowd responded with a heartfelt moment.
Reis talked about the sense of humor that Callahan had.
"Cal stories. We all have them, we've all told them," Reis said. "Whether you knew Cal for 52 years, or if you knew Cal for 52 minutes, you probably have a story."
Reis went on to tell a funny account of a Saluki Athletics staff meeting in the spring of 2010, when Director of Athletics Mario Moccia asked all Saluki head coaches to introduce themselves to SIU's new Chancellor, Dr. Rita Cheng.
"Cal gets up and says, `I'm Dan Callahan, the baseball coach. We beat Eastern Illinois yesterday, 9-8. We've won two in a row. We think we deserve a raise.' "
The celebration closed with a note read by Reis from Callahan's family, whom he is survived by his wife, Stacy, daughters Alexa and Carly, parents Ann and Gene and sisters Lynn and Cheri.
The family extended a heartfelt thanks to everybody involved in his life.
"Too numerous to thank by name, but just as important to Dan and his family are his neighbors, friends, colleagues, extended family, players past and present, fellow coaches and a special thanks to (SIU associate head coach) Ken Henderson, for his undying loyalty, hard work and never ending support of Dan."
Other quotes from Monday's Celebration of Callahan's life
"Thank you for giving us Dan for all these years to be our coach and our mentor at this university." SIU president Glenn Poshard thanking the Callahan family
"His passion for doing what he loved and his determination to do his job will be his legacy. He was a man of true courage and character." - Mark Erickson
"Dan was the finest human being I've ever known. He was a humble man...a great head coach that commanded respect, but at the same time he would crack you up with a one-liner. I have never met a guy who liked to laugh and have fun more than Dan Callahan." - Mark Erickson
"College baseball mourns one of the finest coaches, a great gentleman and a great teacher of the game." - Richard "Itchy" Jones
"I really, really appreciate, and I know the family does, the (SIU) administration, and I appreciate the people in Southern Illinois because you all let Danny do what he loved to do. That guy loved baseball and for you giving him the opportunity to coach this great game, you helped a lot of peoples lives and those young people that he can inspire." - Jerry Kill
"I will tell you, Dan Callahan is coach Kill's hero. As my life goes on, I want to be like Dan Callahan. I want to be as good of a parent, as good a coach, as good a teacher and I want to be as good to people as he was. They don't come around like him." - Jerry Kill
"Cal wanted all of Southern's team to succeed. But he had a tremendous ability to be there for the people involved when they didn't succeed." - Mike Reis