Title: Erskine recalls his time as one of the Boys of Summer
AU Professor Brian Dirck and his students studying baseball history opened their classroom to the AU campus on Tues., June 6th as guest speaker Carl Erskine recalled his memories of major league baseball in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Erskine, an Anderson native and current Hoosier resident, pitched for the legendary Brooklyn Dodgers also affectionately known as the Boys of Summer.
From 1948-60, Erskine pitched for the Brooklyn and later the Los Angeles Dodgers. During the twelve years of his major league career, Erskine logged 122 wins and 78 losses, including winning two World Series Championships and pitching two no-hitters against the Cubs in 1952 and the Giants in 1956.
Those gathered in the packed classroom listened and laughed while Erskine easily weaved both serious and humorous memories into his stories. Night baseball was rare when Erskine was growing up in Anderson in 1930’s, but he remembers watching a local team playing at night. “That’s where I got my inspiriation,” explained Erskine. “To watch these guys play under the lights like a stage—It was marvelous.”
Also among his recollections are Branch Rickey, a man of strong Christian ethics, who was instrumental in helping Jackie Robinson break baseball’s color barrier in 1947 when he signed Robinson to play for the majors in Brooklyn. Erskine speculates that one of the main reasons Rickey selected Jackie Robinson was because Robinson, in addition to being a college graduate and gifted player, also had a strong Christian background.
In his early days in the minor leagues, Erskine spent five months playing baseball in Cuba. He remembers his time there as a valuable experience because the Cubans played outstanding baseball.
As Erskine reflects back on the many changes baseball has undergone, going from day to night games, from players traveling my trains to now on planes, and from games broadcast on radio and now on television, he is looking forward to baseball taking another giant leap. Reminiscent of Jackie Robinson taking the first steps to desegregate baseball, Erskine predicts that if Cuba’s political situation changes or when the United States gets better relations with Cuba that Havana will be the next major league franchise. “Baseball is going international,” said Erskine noting that almost a third of all new players being signed are from Latin countries.
“If you’re a coach or manager today, you’ve got to have interpreters on the benches or speak 2 or 3 languages,” according to Erskine. “The spread of baseball around the world speaks strongly of baseball.”
For more interesting tales told by Erskine, his book Tales from the Dodger Dugout is available in local bookstores and online.