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Erskine honored with Indiana's highest award

Former Major Leaguer recognized for a lifetime of excellence, moral virtue

INDIANAPOLIS -- Gov. Mitch Daniels presented civic leader and legendary baseball player Carl D. Erskine of Anderson, Ind., with the 2010 Sachem Award, the state's highest honor, at a ceremony at the State House on March 2.

"In Indiana, character still counts," said Daniels. "We would have given this award to Carl Erskine had he not ever thrown a single pitch. We give this because he was a witness and a champion for civil rights, a witness and a champion for those who are disabled. It is about the exemplary family life that he and his wife Betty have lived for 63 years, and the quiet faith that has animated all of those years and all of those accomplishments."

The Sachem is given annually to recognize a lifetime of excellence and moral virtue that has brought credit and honor to Indiana. Previous recipients include college basketball coaching legend John Wooden, the Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame and world statesman, philanthropist Jane Blaffer Owen, gospel music singing and songwriting pioneers Bill and Gloria Gaither and businessman and civic leader Danny Danielson.

"I never had a teacher, coach, family member or spouse who didn't expect more out of me than I thought I could do," said Erskine. "This is for all of those people who have helped somebody like me do more with what they had and get the most out of what they've been given."

Erskine, 83, was a pitcher for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers and member of the famous Boys of Summer teams in the 1950s. During his career he accumulated 122 wins, pitched in five World Series, made the National League All-Star team, and threw two no-hitters. After retiring from baseball at the age of 32, Erskine returned to his hometown of Anderson, where he started a business and began a career in banking and community leadership that continues to this day.

Born and raised in Anderson, Erskine learned to play the game he loved in local park baseball programs and with his father and older brothers. After graduation from Anderson High School in 1945, Erskine was drafted and served in the U.S. Navy during the closing months of World War II. While in the Navy, he was scouted by the Dodgers and, upon his discharge, spent a year and a half in the Minor Leagues before making his Major League debut in 1948.

Erskine, or "Oisk" as he was affectionately nicknamed, became the team's starting pitcher in 1951, playing alongside Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Preacher Row, Duke Snider and Carl Furillo. He was a part of teams that won five National League pennants as well as the 1955 World Series. Erskine later authored two books "Carl Erskine's Tales from the Dodgers Dugout" and his memoir "What I Learned from Jackie Robinson: A Teammate's Reflections On and Off the Field".

"Carl Erskine is class personified. Not only was he a great pitcher, he is a great person, which is why you live your life. I played with Carl, and I've admired him for many years. He's the best," said former Dodger teammate Tommy Lasorda, who attended the ceremony.

Today, Erskine is most known for his community involvement, advocacy and civic leadership. After starting his own insurance business, he later served as president and director of Star Financial Bank. Outside the office, he spent 12 years coaching the Anderson University baseball team, winning four conference championships. He also has served as a member of the board of trustees of Anderson University, St. John's Medical Center, Fellowship of Christian Athletes among other civic organizations. His greatest contributions have been through his more than 40 years of service as a volunteer with the Special Olympics and as a supporter of the Hopewell Center, a not-for-profit agency that serves persons with developmental difficulties.

Erskine's contributions to the Anderson community are evident throughout the city. At St. John's Medical Center, the Carl D. Erskine Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine Center stands along with a bronze statue erected in his honor. The city also built Erskine Elementary on property he donated to the Anderson Community School System and the Carl D. Erskine Award of Excellence annually honors an outstanding member of the Anderson University baseball team.

In 1979, Erskine was a member of the inaugural class inducted into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame. He shares the Sachem with his wife Betty, to whom he has been married since 1947, and to whom he credits with all of his success. They have four children, five grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Sachem (Say-chum) background:

In 1970, Gov. Edgar D. Whitcomb introduced the Confederacy of the Sachem, a group of business, industry, publishing, banking and legal leaders, who served as state hosts, welcoming visitors to Indiana and promoting the state's culture and economy. The organization's name came from the Algonquin term applied to village leaders, implying wisdom, judgment and grace.

Bylaws outlined that Sachems were to nominate and recommend Sagamore appointments to the governor. The Sagamore of the Wabash dates to the term of Indiana Governor Ralph Gates in 1945 and has been the state's highest honor bestowed by the governor.

Following Whitcomb's term, the Sachem project was not pursued, and the organization dissolved in 1989. Whitcomb visited Daniels in 2005 to acquaint him with the concept and to give him custody of remaining Sachem funds. Governor Daniels recreated the Sachem to underscore the importance of moral example; achievement alone without exemplary virtue does not qualify a person for this recognition.

Each Sachem honoree receives a specially-designed sculpture that captures the Native American heritage of the Sachem. All Sachem recipients will be selected by Indiana's governor.

For additional background information on Carl D. Erskine, contact our office. A digital photo of the Sachem sculpture may be found at:

Photos from today's event will be available here later today:

Audio of the entire program from today's event is included here:

Video of the program will be available later today here: