In 1930, they were planted in graphic form when Erskine’s father Matt took Erskine to Marion, Indiana the morning after a mob stormed the prison and hanged two black inmates. Matt Erskine wanted his son to see the effects of hate.
The sight of bare tree branches and rope remnants has been seared into Carl Erskine’s consciousness ever since. In a state that was once a member of the Ku Klux Klan, where about 30 percent of the male population pays dues, Erskine grew up with his black best friend, Johnny Wilson, an achievement that gives him special admiration. he said it was nothing.
“I lived in a mixed neighborhood and knew many talented black families and hard working families, and Johnny was a friend,” Erskine said. “I ate at his house, he ate at mine, and we got along very, very well. We never cared about the color of our skin. I was never involved, so it’s hard to take credit for it because it was natural for me.”
On the top shelf of the Erskine’s living room cabinet is a figurine given by Wilson to an old friend. Two boys in baseball uniforms sit on a bench—one black, the other white. Wilson’s note is hidden behind it. “Like when we were kids”.
Wilson passed away in 2019. Roger Craig, the last Dodgers other than Erskine to appear in the 1955 World Series, died last month. Two of Erskine’s children, Gary and Susie, will represent him in Cooperstown and are part of a large family with five grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren, including a girl named Brooklyn.
Erskine’s name will be on permanent display in the Hall of Fame by the Buck O’Neill statue, down the hallway and around the corner from the Plaque Gallery. The room honors some of Brooklyn’s most sacred names, including Robinson, Campanella, Snyder, Reese and Hodges, and sends Erskine a subtle yet powerful message he’s spent his life promoting.
“There’s one important element in the plaques that surround the Hall of Fame rooms,” Erskine says. “They’re all bronze. They’re all the same color.”