Carl Erskine was the 2023 recipient of the John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award.
Erskine’s time atop a pitching mound earned him a long list of impressive numbers and achievements, but his life after the diamond helping others is when his star shined the brightest.
“I’m a little overwhelmed and this is very special to me,” Erskine said. “What an honor this is and it is really unexpected. At this point in my life, this is as big a boost as you can possibly give me.”
As a standout pitcher for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers from 1948 to 1959, Erskine, who was born Dec. 13, 1926, in Anderson, Ind., racked up 122 wins, two World Series championships and two no-hitters.
Later, “Oisk,” as Erskine’s Brooklyn fans affectionately dubbed him, became a successful banking and insurance executive with a longstanding and prolific commitment to acts of citizenship. He helped break down racial barriers as a teammate and close friend of Jackie Robinson, and – with his son Jimmy born with Down Syndrome – he fought for people with intellectual disabilities, their acceptance and the services available to them.
After signing with Brooklyn, he was a starting pitcher on the great Dodgers teams of the 1950s, playing alongside Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges and Sandy Koufax. He played on five Dodgers teams that went on to face the Yankees in a crosstown World Series, setting a World Series single-game record (since surpassed) by striking out 14 Yankees in Game 3 of the 1953 World Series.
His best weapon on the mound was an outstanding overhand curveball.
Erskine, who would retire during the 1959 season, would finish with a 122-78 record (his .610 winning percentage 107th on the career list), throw 14 career shutouts and appear in 11 games during five World Series. He also pitched two no-hitters, one on June 19, 1952, against the Chicago Cubs and the other versus the New York Giants on May 12, 1956.
After his playing career ended, he returned to his hometown of Anderson, Ind., and was the baseball coach at Anderson College for 12 years (1961-1971 and 1973), winning four conference championships.
With more than four decades as a volunteer, he was awarded Special Olympics’ highest honor, the Spirit of the Special Olympics. Erskine was also a charter member of both the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Baseball Assistance Team.
Carl Erskine pitched for the Dodgers for 12 seasons before a post-playing career that saw him champion the rights of Special Olympians. (National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)
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