ANDERSON, Ind. — Los Angeles became the epicenter of baseball with the MLB All-Star game in town this week, however when the Dodgers first moved to LA it was a man from Anderson who pitched the first game there.
Now that man, Carl Erskine, is being immortalized in a documentary that will premiere August 11 at the Paramount theatre in Anderson. It is called “The Carl Erskine Story.”
“Carl Erskine is what you call a documentarian’s dream,” laughed documentary creator Ted Green. “He is a hoarder. He has so much imagery, scrap books. There were more than 300 reels of film.”
The project has been almost eight years in the making. Erskine played in five World Series and broke a record for the most strikeouts in a World Series game. He also threw two no-hitters, including a game against Willie Mays and the Giants. Despite his glamorous big league career, the documentary highlights his human rights advocacy.
Erskine was a close friend and teammate of Jackie Robinson. When Erskine was 10 years old, he befriended a Black boy named Johnny Wilson. Their relationship prepared him for a better understanding of Robinson when Erskine was called up to the Dodgers for the first time. His debut came a year after Robinson broke the color barrier.
“It turned out it was Carl amongst all the Dodger teammates who was most supportive of Jackie,” said Green, “A newly unearthed quote [from Jackie Robinson] said, ‘No Dodger, none, understood more about what was going on than Carl did.’”
Their relationship helped Carl when he and his wife had their fourth son, Jimmy. He was born with Down syndrome.
“The way Mom and Dad taught us, it was just a normal thing with Jimmy, and we always took him wherever we went,” detailed Gary Erskine, Carl’s second son. “He got to do whatever we did. He was just part of the family. The Golden Rule, treat people like you want to be treated.”
Erskine and his wife went on to aid in the launch of the Special Olympics.
“Jimmy Erskine was expected to live to 35 at best, a couple months ago he turned 62. He worked at Applebee’s for 20 years, and competed in Special Olympics for 50,” added Green.
Green and his team are partnering with the Special Olympics of Indiana to produce a curriculum in Erskine’s honor. It will focus on empowerment, friendship, and inclusion. It is free to Indiana schools. He says so far 70,000 books have been ordered from Indiana schools.