Sports

Dodgers legend Carl Erskine, last surviving ‘Boys of Summer’ member, dead at 97

Carl Erskine, a legendary pitcher for the Dodgers who was the last surviving member of the 1950s “Boys of Summer” squad, has died. He was 97 years old. 

Erskine died in his hometown of Anderson, Indiana, at Community Hospital Anderson, according to Michele Hockwalt, who serves as the hospital’s marketing and communication manager. 

“For millions of fans, he was a baseball hero,” Hall of Fame Chair Jane Forbes Clark said in a statement about Erskine.

Carl Erskine smiles

Brooklyn Dodger Carl Erskine and Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley May 15, 1956, at Ebbets Field.  (Sports Studio Photos/Getty Images)

Erskine was a Dodgers lifer, playing his entire career with them, from 1948-59. He was with the team after it moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1957. And he helped the Dodgers win five National League pennants during his years with the team, including 1955, when the Dodgers won the World Series. 

The Dodgers won only one World Series during that run of pennants.

A one-time All-Star during the 1954 season, Erskine had a career 4.00 ERA with a 122-78 record and 981 strikeouts. 

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His best year came in 1953, when he won 20 games to lead the National League. He also beat the New York Yankees in the World Series that year in Game 3, striking out 14 hitters, which was a record back then. 

The record stood until another Dodgers ace, Sandy Koufax, broke it in 1963 with 15 strikeouts in one World Series game. 

Erskine received the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award in July 2023, which honors an individual whose efforts enhance the game’s positive impact on society. 

Carl Erskine smiles

Carl Erskine and manager Tommy Lasorda (not pictured) of the Los Angeles Dodgers talk before the final game for the Dodgers in Dodgertown before taking on the Houston Astros in a spring training game at Holman Stadium March 17, 2008, in Vero Beach, Fla. (Doug Benc/Getty Images)

He was also active in the Special Olympics. His youngest son, Jimmy, was born with Down syndrome. Erskine quickly championed those with disabilities, writing a book, “The Parallel,” which pointed to similarities between his son and his former teammate, the legendary Jackie Robinson, in terms of breaking down social barriers.

The Carl and Betty Erskine Society also raises money for the Special Olympics. 

“For his family and thousands of Special Olympians, Carl was someone who always believed everything was possible. His legacy is one of deep compassion and encouragement of the human spirit,” Forbes Clark’s statement continued. 

Erskine was also drafted into the Navy during World War II. He spent a year in the armed forces before he was scouted by the Dodgers and discharged from service. 

Not long after that, Erskine was in the team’s starting rotation, transitioning from a reliever when he made his debut in 1948. In 1951, he joined the likes of Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges and Robinson, among others, and they became known as the “Boys of Summer” as they dominated the National League. 

After retiring at age 32, Erskine returned home to Anderson, where he became the owner of an insurance business. He also coached the town’s local college, Anderson College, for 12 years, including the 1965 team that won the NAIA World Series. 

Carl Erskine pitches

Carl Erskine of the Brooklyn Dodgers is pictured here on the field. (Getty Images)

Later, in 2002, Erskine Street was named after him in Brooklyn for his contributions to the New York City borough. 

“Carl Erskine was an exemplary Dodger,” Dodgers President and CEO Stan Kasten said in a statement. “He was as much a hero off the field as he was on the field, which, given the brilliance of his pitching, is saying quite a lot. His support of the Special Olympics and related causes, inspired by his son Jimmy, who led a life beyond all expectations when he was born with Down syndrome, cemented his legacy.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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