Paul O'Neill 21: A Blessing for Mother's Day

MAY, 2013

How many boys from Indiana have a street in Brooklyn named after them? One for sure, Brooklyn Dodger pitching great, Carl Erskine. Born 1926 in Anderson, Indiana, the 86 year-old dignitary stood at home plate on the April 26th dedication ceremony at Indiana University’s new, sparkling, $15 million, Bart Kaufman Field. Instead of reveling in his vast, past accomplishments, blasted over the loud speaker, the elder, under a wave of white hair, thought he needed to earn the applause of the thousand fans for a new performance. With much humility, he stepped to the microphone, whipped out his harmonica and played the Star Spangled Banner, a solo instrumental that had to touch everyone in the Stadium. His gratitude and reverence permeated the perfect notes he found in our national anthem. He played that tune like a man half his age. For those three minutes, everything seemed right in baseball out in the middle of the Midwest. It was the antithesis to what is wrong in baseball. Carl Erskine was so touchable that evening. He was one of us and we were all still here, loving the game. Carl Erskine was a great pitcher, a college coach, a bank president and now advocates for impoverished former players through the Baseball Assistance Fund. But the greatest tribute to Carl Erskine’s mother would be that Erskine Street was named for him in Brooklyn for this reason. He and Pee Wee Reese and other Dodgers would go down to the local ball fields during off days and encourage younger players to learn and love the game. Carl went because the kids needed and admired him and he went without an appearance fee. In later years, Erskine donated half his land to build an elementary school that bears his name. He is truly generous and kind and those are the greatest gifts a mother could give to her child. Thank you, Mrs. Erskine.

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