Opinion: Hanging out with ‘Oisk’

Commentary by Dick Wolfsie

Last week I had the honor of presenting to Carl Erskine the Heritage Place Award, given to six senior Hoosiers for their lifetime service to the Indianapolis community. Carl is a retired banker from Anderson.  He also previously pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers, helping the team win the World Series in l955.

Growing up in New York, I often feigned sleeping with a tiny transistor radio hidden under my pillow. I prayed for another no-hitter by Carl (he had two). If you had told that 9-year-old in l955 that Carl Erskine, affectionately known as “Oisk” among Brooklyn faithful, would one day be his golfing partner, he would have thought you were nuts.

My memory of October 4, 1955, is clear. Even then I knew the majesty of those hallowed words: Seventh game of the World Series. This had traditionally been a time for Dodger fans to prepare for the inevitable. The Yankees had beaten Da Bums, as they were called, in four previous Series games.

I remember our tiny TV with the rabbit-ears antenna. The black-and-white picture was quite fitting, because that game was clearly a battle between the forces of good and evil. I perched myself on our wooden coffee table, after pushing it right up to the television. I was not very good at dealing with tension. When the Yankees threatened (and they always did), I retreated to my room until the peril had passed. I still do that during Pacers and Colts games. When Yankee catcher Elston Howard flailed at the final Dodger pitch, I sprang from my perch on the coffee table and let out a scream. The Wolfsie family embraced in a group hug.

The day after the awards dinner, Carl and I played golf. We talked about his son, Jimmy,  who was on his way to bowl at the Special Olympics. Carl talked about his wife, Betty, of 70 years.

“Golf is like marriage,” he said. “I’m not always very good at it, but I want to keep doing it for a long time.”

“Still lots of time for both,” I told my 90 year-old boyhood hero. “You’re going into extra innings.”