Carl Erskine, one of Brooklyn Dodgers' famous 'Boys of Summer,' dies at 97

By Mike Heuer

April 16 (UPI) -- Former Brooklyn Dodgers right-handed pitcher Carl Erskine, 97, died Tuesday at a hospital in his hometown of Anderson, Ind.

"The Dodgers mourn the passing of one of the team's all-time greats, Carl Erskine, at the age of 97," the Los Angeles Dodgers posted on X. "Carl was an All-Star, a World Series champion, a true ally of Jackie Robinson and more in the pursuit of equality."


Erskine also was a "pioneering advocate for those with special needs, inspired by his son, Jimmy," the Dodgers posted. "We send our sincere sympathies and best wishes to his family."


Erskine joined the Brooklyn Dodgers on July 25, 1948, at age 21 shortly after eventual Hall-of-Famer Jackie Robinson saw Erskine pitch five innings during an exhibition game.

Robinson, who broke Major League Baseball's color barrier a year earlier, told Erskine he would join the Dodgers soon, the New York Post reported.

Erskine spent 12 years with the Dodgers, first as a relief pitcher and then as a starter. He posted a 6-3 record in 17 appearances, mostly as a relief pitcher, during his rookie season.

Erskine was 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed 165 pounds and had a commanding overhand curveball, the New York Times reported.

Erskine compiled a career record of 122-48 with a 4.00 ERA and 13 saves. He struck out 981 batters and walked 646 while pitching in 335 games for the Dodgers from 1948 until he retired in 1959.

He also played in five World Series, helping the Dodgers win one title, and was named to the National League All-Star team in 1954.

His best season was 1953, when he posted a 20-6 record as a starting pitcher and struck out a then-record 14 batters while winning game three of the World Series against the New York Yankees.


Erskine struck out Yankees star Mickey Mantle four times in that game, but the Yankees won the series and world championship by beating the Dodgers 4-2 in six games.

Erskine helped the Dodgers win the 1955 World Series, which was the team's only title while in Brooklyn. The Dodgers migrated to Los Angeles following the 1957 season.

Teammates and fans affectionately referred to Erskine as "Oisk," due to the unique way in which many New Yorkers pronounced his last name as "Oiskine."

He was the last surviving member of the Dodgers' famous "Boys of Summer," which included Robinson, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider and Roy Campanella.

Erskine dealt with right-shoulder problems his entire professional career and pitched alongside Don Newcombe, Johnny Podres, Preacher Roe and other Dodger greats.

During his retirement years, Erskine coached the Anderson (Ind.) College baseball team and became an insurance salesman.

He also fathered his youngest son, Jimmy, in 1960. Jimmy Erskine was born with Down syndrome, which prompted his father to promote the Special Olympics while raising Jimmy in the same manner of his three older siblings.


More than 40 years of dedication to the Special Olympics earned Erskine the Buck O'Neill Award, which was presented to him during a ceremony last year at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

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