During my previous career many years ago in the newspaper business in Anderson, I had enjoyed the opportunity to meet former major league pitcher Carl Erskine. He was a business and community leader. I was a reporter/editor, so the circumstances of being in the same place were typically related to his work with STAR Financial Bank or one of his many volunteer engagements.
In late November, that connection with Carl rose to a whole new level. I was honored to have the chance to speak with the now 92-year-old about his baseball career, life in Anderson and much more. The story features him as the first in a series of Indiana Icons in our BizVoice® magazine.
Hopefully, the article will give you a glimpse into some of his many accomplishments and, more importantly, the grace and charisma that Carl has demonstrated throughout his life. In the two-plus hours I spent with Carl, he regaled me with amazing detail from some of the most memorable games of the 1950s. Of course, it was about much more than the games. As one of his biographies explains, “he was a witness to history” with racial desegregation, night games, television and jet travel among the advancements of his era.
Allow me to share one additional story, this one about Carl’s longtime teammate and friend, Roy Campanella. It tells a lot about both men. In Carl’s words:
“Campy was hurt, in the hospital in New York (in 1958, the first year the franchise had moved to Los Angeles from New York). No one had seen him since he was paralyzed from that car accident. Our game got rained out in Philadelphia; it was a two-hour train ride to New York. On my own, I took the train ride there. Campy was face down, in a special bed. When I walked in, we looked at each other and couldn’t speak for five minutes. Finally, Roy said, very upbeat, ‘I’ll be watching the game tomorrow night.’ ” A special mirror setup allowed Campanella, still lying face down, to see the game.
“I pitched my last complete game in the majors, beat Philly. (Don) Zimmer knocked in the lead run. I give Campy credit for that. I had a no-hitter into the seventh inning. He caught both my no-hitters, caught the 14 strikeouts (a World Series record at the time). Campy went on to live 33 years in that wheelchair. The way he conducted himself was so unbelievable. He would never say how unlucky he was. If somebody asked how do you do it, Roy would say, ‘I lost a few things but I got a lot left.’ ”
And so does Carl Erskine – as he has exhibited for the last 60 years since returning to his hometown of Anderson.