ARCADIA - Carl Erskine, former Brooklyn Dodger baseball legend, author, and advocate for individuals with special needs, shared an inspirational message about doing the right thing and lessons he learned through his friendship with baseball great Jackie Robinson with second grade students at Hamilton Heights Primary School last week.
The Anderson native, who is a record-setting pitcher and member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, was on the Dodger's roster for 11 years (1948-59) with two World Series wins (1955 and 1959) during his tenure with the team.
Erskine, who enjoyed a storied career on and off the field, also played a role in the integration of baseball when he was a teammate and friend with Jackie Robinson, who joined the team in 1947.
Erskine said it was self-control, discipline and character that enabled Robinson to break the color barrier and have access to opportunities that enabled him to set a number of records in major league baseball, earn impressive recognitions and awards and, ultimately a place in Baseball's Hall of Fame during his lifetime.
He shared that Robinson, much like Martin Luther King, Jr., made a difference by living a life with integrity, character and non-violence.
Erskine said it was Brooklyn Dodgers owner, Branch Rickey, who first reached out to Robinson, a Georgia native, who was playing shortstop for the Negro League's Kansas City Monarchs in the mid-1940s.
"Robinson was an amazing athlete with a lot of fire and drive, who brought a lot to the team and the sport," Erskine said of the UCLA graduate who was the first to earn four letters at the university.
Erskine said if he could use just two words to describe Robinson it would be "self-control."
Throughout Robinson's baseball career, he never responded in kind to those who treated him unfairly or said unkind words due to the color of his skin. While Robison has been gone 45 years, his legacy serves as an inspiration that it is character not color that shines.
Erskine, who has seen many great changes in race relations in his nine decades of life, encouraged students to do the right thing, even if it seems like the action is small. Following the rules and extending the hand of friendship to people of all races and background will provide the momentum for these small actions to result in big changes that bring benefit, value and access to opportunities by all.
Students and teachers alike were captivated by both the speaker and his message. Amy Alt, a second-grade teacher who helped arrange Erskine's visit, said parents shared with her comments from their children about their experience noting the best one came from Cyrus Mason when he said, "That guy is going to be president."