Kiwanian Carl “Oisk” Erskine remembers Jackie Robinson.
It was May 12, 1956, a Saturday game of the week. I went to the ballpark with Duke (Snider), Pee Wee (Reese) and (Rube) Walker. We went in the clubhouse, and in our locker there was a newspaper open on the equipment trunk. The headline said, “The Dodgers are over the hill,” and the sub headline said, “Jackie’s too old, Campanella can’t catch and Erskine can’t win with the garbage he’s been throwing.” That quote came from Tom Sheehan, who was the chief scout for the Giants.
(Walter) Alston handed me the game ball to warm up, and I almost handed it back to him and said, “Maybe I need another day’s rest,” but I couldn’t do it. I had a cortisone shot the night before in my shoulder, and nobody knew it but Duke. I took the ball, now I’m in. I had a lot of doubts whether I could get loose or not.
The game started and there’s no score early. I pitched three or four innings, feeling pretty good, and finally we scored some runs. About the fifth inning, (Willie) Mays came up the second time, and he hit a shot. I mean a bullet. Robinson is playing third base and this ball was going between short and third, and Robinson made a fantastic play, got it on one hop, and threw Mays out easy.
That was the closest the Giants got to a hit, because when it got dark, I had pitched a no-hitter.
Now Jackie is coming to the mound and “Campy” coming out from behind the plate. Jackie embraced me, shook my hand and hugged me. Jackie turned around, ran back to the third baseline where the Giants’ dugout was, and Tom Sheehan was seated right by the Giants dugout. Jackie had that article in his hip pocket. He took it out and waved it at Sheehan and the Giants, and yelled, “How do you like that garbage?!” That’s how competitive Jackie Robinson was.
Campanella caught the no-hitter. Jackie saved the no-hitter. I pitched the no-hitter. The three guys that Sheehan (called out). That is perfect, poetic justice.
Carl Erskine was one of the former Brooklyn Dodgers profiled in Roger Kahn’s book “The Boys of Summer.” At the conclusion of his career, Erskine returned to his hometown, established a career in banking and joined the Kiwanis Club of Anderson.