Born: December 13, 1926
MLB Debut: July 25, 1948 for the Brooklyn Dodgers
Last MLB Appearance: June 14, 1959 for the Los Angeles Dodgers
Hear this special audio segment highlighting Carl Erskine’s career:
Erskine was known as “Ersk”, with an accent “Oisk.” Erskine signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946, and after two minor league seasons he made the team in July 1948 as part of a powerful squad that included Roy Campanella, Carl Furillo, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson and Duke Snider. Along with Snider and Reese, he lived in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bay Ridge, and was always around the baseball diamonds on Shore Road, offering encouragement to young players.
Erskine broke into the majors a year before Don Newcombe , and from 1948-1950 was used primarily used as a reliever. For the following five seasons, he was right at the heart of Brooklyn’s rotation, especially with his work in 1952-1953. Erskine was 14-6 in 1952 with a career-best 2.70 earned run average, then had his 20-win season in 1953, leading the league with a .769 winning percentage along with 187 strikeouts and 16 complete games, all career highs.
Erskine, author of two no-hitters was a member of the Dodgers team which won the 1955 World Series for the franchise’s first Series title. He appeared in eleven World Series games from 1949-52-53-55-56), and made the NL All-Star team in 1954. Erskine’s 14 strikeouts as the winner of Game 3 of the 1953 Fall Classic – including striking out the side in the ninth inning – broke the Series record of 13 held by Howard Ehmke and stood for 10 years until Sandy Koufax struck out 15 New York Yankees in the first game of the 1963 World Series. From 1951 through 1956, Erskine won 92 games while losing only 58, which helped the Dodgers to four pennants during the “Boys of Summer” era.
Then in 1957, like so many of his Dodgers teammates, Erskine began his final decline. He moved to Los Angeles with the team the following year, but lasted only a season and a half. The long decline of his career had actually been set in motion during his rookie year when he injured his shoulder in his first major league start, he not only finished the game but started twice more in extreme pain. He pulled a muscle away from his shoulder bone. He was unable to throw between starts by 1957, at only 31, he was on his way out, and he made his final appearance on July 14, 1959. In a twelve-season career, he posted a 122-78 (.610) record with 981 strikeouts and a 4.00 ERA in 1718.2 innings pitched.