Longtime Dodgers pitcher Carl Erskine is the 2023 recipient of the Buck O’Neil lifetime achievement award from the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The 96-year-old-Erskine will be honored in Cooperstown on Saturday, July 22 during induction weekend.
The Buck O’Neil award was started in 2007, “to honor an individual whose efforts broadened the game’s appeal and whose character, integrity and dignity is comparable to the late O’Neil,” who himself was inducted to the Hall of Fame last year, 16 years after his death.
In addition to pitching 12 years for the Dodgers (1948-59) in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, winning 122 games, pitching in five World Series, and throwing two no-hitters, Erskine was a charter member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Baseball Assistance Team.
“I’m a little overwhelmed and this is very special to me,” Erskine said in a press release. “What an honor this is and it is really unexpected. At this point in my life, this is as big a boost as you can possibly give me.”
Erskine and his wife Betty have been involved with the Special Olympics for decades, and was honored with the organization’s Spirit of the Special Olympics Award.
In an interview with Norm Heikens of the Sagamore Institute, Erskine explained his obligation to give back to the community.
“Well, they’re happening all the time, it’s almost a moot point. We sometime get the feeling that everybody’s selfish, and withdrawn, and taking care of themselves and the heck with the rest of you. But that’s not true,” Erskine said. “If you start out by knowing that you are actually an heir, a benefactor of what somebody else did that you never met or would never know, you need to do that. I think all of life really should start with thanksgiving and praise because you have life yourself.”
Erskine is the sixth winner of the Buck O’Neil Award, joining O’Neil himself (2008), Roland Hemond (2011), Joe Garagiola (2014), Rachel Robinson (2017) and David Montgomery (2020).