Inductee — Carl Daniel Erskine

erskine1_6Carl Daniel Erskine

Class of 1979

Birthplace: Anderson, IN

Right Handed Pitcher

Biography:

ERSKINE, Carl Daniel (“Oisk,” “The Gentleman from Indiana”) – born Dec. 13, 1926, Anderson; lives in Anderson. Brooklyn (NL) 1948-1957, Los Angeles (NL) 1958-1959. P. 335g, 1,718.2ip, 122-78, 4.00. Debuted July 25, 1948. 5-10, 165, BR, TR.

Carl Erskine, an outstanding pitcher for the Dodgers’ fabled Boys of Summer teams, pitched in five World Series and threw a pair of no-hitters. He was Brooklyn’s opening day pitcher in 1951-53-54-55.

Erskine starred in baseball and basketball at Anderson High School and joined the navy after graduation. He signed with Brooklyn in 1946 for $3,500 and began his professional career with Danville (Three-I). Since Erskine had signed with the Dodgers while he was still in military service, baseball commissioner A.B. Chandler nullified the contract and declared him a free agent. The Dodgers signed Erskine for a second time, outbidding the Boston Braves with a $5,000 offer.

Erskine possessed an extraordinary fastball and had the ability to change speeds on his curve and changeup. He also had a deceptive delivery and good control. Erskine was pitching in Brooklyn by 1948. He injured his shoulder in his first big league start and frequently pitched in pain the rest of his career.

In 1949 Erskine compiled an 8-1 record, mostly as a reliever, to help Brooklyn win the NL pennant. He went 14-6 in 1952 after moving into the starting rotation. On June 19 that year, Erskine no-hit the Cubs. Chicago’s only baserunner was pitcher Willard Ramsdell, who walked in the third inning. The Dodgers won another pennant in 1952, and in the World Series against the New York Yankees Erskine split two decisions.
Erskine’s .769 winning percentage led the NL in 1953 and his 20-6 record helped Brooklyn win another pennant. The Dodgers again faced the Yankees in the World Series, and in Game Three Erskine’s 14 strikeouts set a record that stood for 14 years.

In 1954 Erskine compiled an 18-15 record for the second-place Dodgers. Brooklyn won the 1955 pennant and Erskine, who went 11-8 during the season, drew one Series start against the Yanks. He failed to earn a decision, but Brooklyn won its first and only World Series title. Erskine, who lived in the borough’s Bay Ridge section, was by then one of the team’s most popular players. The nickname “Oisk” stems from the Brooklynese pronunciation of his last name.

Bothered by a sore elbow in 1956, Erskine went 13-11. On May 12 he pitched a second no-hitter, this time against the arch-rival New York Giants. The Dodgers won another pennant, and again lost to the Yankees in the Series. Erskine was the starting and losing pitcher in the fourth game.

Arm miseries limited Erskine to seven starts and a 5-3 record in 1957. He moved with the team to Los Angeles for the 1958 season and started the first game ever played at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Erskine’s record for ’58 was 4-4. He was 0-3 in June 1959 when he voluntarily retired.

The articulate Erskine did some broadcast work for ABC’s Wide World of Sports and also for the Game of the Week. He enrolled at Anderson College as a 32-year-old freshman, and in 1984 the school awarded him an honorary degree. Erskine coached Anderson’s baseball team from 1961 to 1973. He was college coach of the year for 1965. Erskine sold insurance for several years, and in 1963 he began working for First National Bank. Erskine became First National’s executive vice president in 1972 and in 1983 he was named president.

In 1969 the Dodgers drafted Gary Erskine, Carl’s son, out of Anderson High School. Carl became involved with the Special Olympics after another son, Jimmy, was born with Down syndrome. For a time Erskine served as vice president of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. In 1979 he was inducted into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame. The Indiana Historical Society selected him as one of the state’s Living Legends in 1999. In 2000 Erskine authored a book called Tales From the Dodger Dugout. He occasionally serves as a color commentator for Indianapolis Indians telecasts.

From The Encyclopedia of Indiana-Born Major League Baseball Players, copyright (c) 2007 by Pete Cava. Reproduced with the author’s permission.