The Carl D. Erskine Award of Excellence received a physical presence and a permanent place of display in a ceremony Tuesday at the Anderson University Wellness Center. The award was established two years ago by the Anderson Rotary Club to honor an outstanding member of the Anderson University baseball team. That award is presented each October. On Tuesday the award, sculpted by AU art professor Ken Ryden, was put on permanent display inside the Wellness Center. The sculpture is of Carl Erskine in his pitching motion. Erskine was on hand with wife, Betty, and son Jimmy Tuesday for the unveiling.
“I’m always amazed that things have taken the turn they have,” he said. “This is a deeply felt day for all of us. It’s hard to know how to respond. We’re almost embarrassed sometimes to have so many things with the Erskine tag on them. But we’re products of this community. We’ve lived here all our lives.”
The fact that he has become a community icon isn’t by accident. He always admired Anderson’s leaders who came before him and paid attention to the way they served the place where they lived.
“Linfield Myers, chairman of Anderson Bank; Elmo Funk, who owned the Coca-Cola plant; and Wilbur Hardacre, who ran the dairy — these were prominent, giving-back members of the community,” said Erskine. “Their legacy lives on. There’s a lot of things in this community that live on because of those three and many others. The evolution of that has brought us to now.”
But Erskine does find the notoriety he’s achieved in Anderson to be good in at least one way.
“It’s good to know that with an average kid like me, growing up in a modest home, some remarkable things can happen,” he said. “I never felt like I was doing anything special for anyone in the community. It just came as a natural result of living here my whole life. I wasn’t on the honor roll ever. I jokingly say that Johnny Wilson and I carried a 4.0, he was a 2 and I was a 2.”
Erskine coached Anderson College from 1961 to 1973. His teams had a record of 148-94-1 in 12 seasons.
“I was on Carl’s very first team when he coached here for 12 years,” said Don Brandon, who has coached at AU for 32 seasons. “I hope I am a Carl Erskine-type person. That’s what I hope for. His contribution to Anderson University baseball has been tremendous.”
Brandon is also enthusiastic about the quality of the first two winners of the Erskine Award.
“Marty Strother (2002 winner) was an elementary education graduate,” said Brandon. “He did his first year of teaching just south of Nashville. He married a good Hoosier girl named Kara, who is now a nurse at Community Hospital here. He is now teaching at one of the new schools in Hamilton Southeastern. I’m hoping with the new schools here in Anderson we can get him back into town.
“Brent Hodges will marry Jessica Kreegar, an Anderson girl. He is the new athletic director, baseball coach and teacher at Liberty Christian. We’re excited about the caliber of people who have won the award.”
The next award will be presented in October.
— RICK TEVERBAUGH is a sports writer for the Anderson Herald-Bulletin ( www.theheraldbulletin.com ).