Wednesday, June 6, 2012

1957 TOPPS CARL ERSKINE

THE '57 DESIGN WAS MADE FOR BROOKLYN CARDS.
AN UNDERRATED PITCHER TO EVERYONE BUT BROOKLYN FANS.

 THE FRONT PAGE

  • In "Brooklysh,'' Carl Erskine is simply known as "Oisk,'' the right-hander who spent his entire 12-year career with the Dodgers. An overhand curveball savant, he threw two no-hitters, won 20 games in 1953 and during that season's World Series against the Yankees struck out a record 14 in the Game 3 victory. 
  • Like the '60 Duke Snider card, my first Oisk.

THE BACK PAGE

  • Nice that the summary included his strikeout record (surpassed by Sandy Koufax with 15 in '63, also against the Yankees) and his no-hitters.

PHOTO PLAY

  • Some don't care for the stark nature of the '57s, but I love their ultra vintage look. 
  • Speaking of vintage, Oisk is demonstrating the popular pitching-follow-through pose.

EXTRA, EXTRA

  • By '57, Erskine was about finished. After six consecutive seasons in double-figures, he won only five games. And after averaging 198 innings the previous seven seasons, he threw only 66 innings. He would throw only 98.1 and 23.1 innings in his final two years, battling shoulder problems. He injured it in his first major-league start in '48 and consistently pitched in pain. This guy was a real warrior.
  • Most know Erskine's ''role'' in Game 3 of the '51 NL pennant tiebreaker series against the Giants. He and Ralph Branca, the Game 1 starter, were warming up in the pen in that fateful ninth inning with the Dodgers clinging to a 4-2 lead and two on. When manager Charlie Dressen called pitching coach Clyde Sukeforth in the bullpen, Sukeforth said Erskine was bouncing his curve. That's all Dressen needed to hear, and Branca got the call. The scene was set for The Shot Heard 'Round the World. 
  • Erskine's son, Jimmy, was born with Down syndrome, which was covered in Roger Kahn's The Boys of Summer. In an L.A. Times story last year, Erskine drew a parallel between Jimmy, who works at an Applebee's in Anderson, Ind., and teammate Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier. "Jackie broke down the social barriers. Jimmy helped do the same thing with Down syndrome. When you got to know Jack, you liked and admired him. Same with Jimmy.'' 
  • Funny story about Erskine's signing. Branch Rickey secured him for $3,500 while Erskine was still serving in the Navy, but Commissioner Happy Chandler forbade teams from signing players still in the military. The Dodgers lost the pitcher's rights -- and the signing bonus, which Erskine was allowed to keep much to the chagrin of legendary cheapskate Rickey. When Erskine was discharged in '46, Chandler declared him a free agent and a bidding war followed. The Dodgers ended up signing him again, this time for $5,000. This story surfaced 12 years later During a Game of the Week broadcast, which just happened to be the day he no-hit the Giants. He was interviewed afterward by Dizzy Dean, whom Erskine told the double signing bonus story to. Dean turned to the camera. "Folks, this here young man deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Not because he pitched two no-hitters but because he got two bonuses out of Branch Rickey!''
  • Erskine eventually found out that Rickey was prepared to pay as much as $30,000. 
  • He was the cornerstone of the Brooklyn rotation, especially in '52-'54, when ace Don Newcombe was serving in the Army.
  • Plays harmonica in the band Old Stuff in his hometown of Anderson. 
  • A successful businessman in Anderson, he became the president of Star Bank and most recently vice chairman of the board.
  • In '02, Erskine Street in Brooklyn was created in honor of him.

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