Carl Erskine has been my favorite player since I was a young teenager. He retired a decade before I was born, but after meeting him even Steve Garvey, my hero at the time, couldn’t compete.
In 1983 I was 14. I was deep into card collecting by this time and I came across Carl’s 1959 Topps card in my dad’s shoebox of 1950’s cards. I was less interested in the Koufax and Campenella cards. I knew Carl was from Anderson, IN, my father’s hometown. What I didn’t know yet was that my grandfather knew Carl. They weren’t buddies but knew each other through various local groups both were members of.
My grandfather set up a meeting with Carl in his office at the bank he was then president of. So I gathered my two Erskine cards: my dad’s ’59 Topps and a 1954 Bowman (my favorite of his cards) I found at a card shop and bought with money I earned mowing and headed to the bank with Grandpa.
We didn’t have to wait. The receptionist was expecting us and took us right into his office.
Carl greeted us with a big smile and a handshake and I had just discovered pure joy! There I was, standing in the office of the only pitcher to pitch two no-hitters at Ebbett’s Field, who knew Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax…Drysdale, Reese, Campanella… It couldn’t get any better for a young Dodgers fan growing up in Reds country.
I expected we would be there a few minutes, I’d get my cards signed and we’d be on our way. But for the next hour I got to listen to Carl tell stories of his playing days. He told me about the memorabilia displayed on his wall including a bat with 14 holes drilled through it. And next to each hole was a name. Names like Berra, Rizzuto , Mize, and Mantle, Mantle, Mantle, Mantle. In Game 3 of the 1953 World Series Carl struck out 14 batters including Mantle four times. It was a record that stood more than 20 years when broken by Bob Gibson in the 1970’s.
I was so amazed!
He wouldn’t sign my cards until he was done telling stories. And I was fine with that. How often would I get such an opportunity? I would have stayed until the bank closed if I could have.
Over the next few years I ran into him a few times and got more autographs. Once at an Old Timers All Star game at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis where I got to meet Joe DiMaggio and carry his uniform! But that’s another story for later.
In 2008 my house and most everything in it was destroyed by a flood. I lost all but two of my Erskine autographs. One fading from a baseball and the other on the back of a flyer for a card show that I got autographs on at the Old Timers game. I know I can mail cards to him and get them back signed but I hope to meet him in person again and get them face to face so I can tell him this story. After 35 years this is still one of my fondest childhood memories.
Carl’s cards are of course included in my One Million Dodgers Cards project, but I want to have at least on of every Erskine card to highlight my collection for me. I currently have only two. In addition to the 1959 Topps I replaced after the flood I recently received a 2017 Diamond King in a trade.
Carl is an amazingly nice guy. You’ll never meet anyone nicer or more interested in doing what he can for others.
I’m a third generation Dodgers fan. This encounter with Carl ensured I’d always be a Dodgers fan.