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Dodgers great Carl Erskine dies at 97

Tue Apr 16 3:27pm ET
Field Level Media

Carl Erskine, who made the move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles with the Dodgers, died Tuesday at his home in Anderson, Ind. He was 97.

The Indianapolis Star reported he succumbed after a brief illness.

One of the "Boys of Summer," as immortalized by author Roger Kahn, Erskine appeared in 335 games (216 starts) between 1948 and 1959 with the Dodgers and had a 122-70 record with a 4.00 ERA and 13 saves. The right-hander won 20 games in 1953 and was an All-Star the following season.

In all he threw 1,718 2/3 innings and had 71 complete games and 14 shutouts. Among his wins were two no-hitters -- against the Chicago Cubs in 1952 and four years later against the New York Giants. That 1956 game was the Saturday game of the week on TV, and it became the first televised no-hitter.

He also pitched in five World Series with the Dodgers, winning the 1955 championship. In all, he had a 2-2 record in 11 postseason games (seven starts).

But Erskine was defined by much more than wins and losses. After growing up in a diverse neighborhood in Anderson with a Black best friend, Johnny Wilson, Erskine became a champion for human rights.

Erskine joined the Dodgers a year after Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier, and the two became forever friends.

Erskine told the IndyStar in 2015 about the day Robinson approached him in the locker room.

He recalled the conservation this way, with Robinson asking, "Hey Erskine, how come you don't have a problem with this Black and white thing?"

"I said, 'Well, I grew up with Johnny Wilson,'" Erskine recalled. "'I didn't know he was Black. He was my buddy. And so I don't have a problem.'"

Later, Erskine devoted his efforts to those with physical challenges after his son, Jimmy, was born in 1960 with Down syndrome to Erskine and his wife, Betty, at a time when the condition wasn't understood by many.

Jimmy competed in the Special Olympics as a swimmer, and his parents later devoted their time to raising money for the organization.

The Dodgers remembered Erskine on Tuesday with a statement that touched on Erskine's professional achievements and personal attributes.

"The Dodgers mourn the passing of one of the team's all-time greats, Carl Erskine, at the age of 97," the team statement read. "Carl was an All-Star, a World Series Champion, a true ally to Jackie Robinson and more in the pursuit of equality, and a pioneering advocate for those with special needs, inspired by his son, Jimmy. We send our sincere sympathies and best wishes to his family."

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