Tag Archives: Vin Scully

‘The Best We’ve Got: The Carl Erskine Story’ makes Indianapolis premier

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

“The Best We’ve Got: The Carl Erskine Story” — a film by Ted Green — made its Indianapolis debut Thursday, Aug. 18 at the Tobias Theater aka The Toby.
After the screening presented by Heartland Film, Green told why he chose the documentary subject.
“I like to do films that celebrate the triumph of the human spirit,” said Green, a producer, director, writer and researcher who partnered with Indiana Historical Society and created a cinematic portrayal of the man who has impacted the baseball world and so much more. “I just found myself drawn to this 95-year old guy up in Anderson, Ind., who was able to sort of move social mountains — not through bombast, not through money, but through grace, through humility, through servant leadership — and I will tell you that the last two years spent during production were the greatest two years of education of my life.
“Maybe just maybe niceness and decency can win in the end.”
Esteemed broadcaster Bob Costas summed it up in his on-screen introduction: “It was a story told softly as you’re about to see and hear about a story that cumulatively speaks to a person who’s deeply admirable.”
Erskine, who became known as “The Gentleman from Indiana,” was born Dec. 13, 1926 in Anderson, won 122 games as a right-handed pitcher for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers.
Throwing an overhand curveball that Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully said could be seen in a snowstorm, Erskine struck out a then-record 14 batters in the 1953 World Series.
“Oisk” — as Brooklyn fans called him — is the last living member of the 1955 team that won the World Series. That group is part of Roger Kahn’s celebrated book, “The Boys of Summer.” Hall of Famer and Indiana native Gil Hodges was also on that team.
Erskine threw two no-hitters and the was the starting pitcher in the Dodgers’ first game in LA.
But that’s just a part of Erskine’s tale.
“When I was a little boy I had this feeling in my soul: Something good is going to happen to you,” said Erskine early in the film. I just had this feeling,”
Carl and Betty Erskine will celebrate 75 years of marriage on Oct. 5. They raised four children — Danny, Gary, Susan and Jimmy.
The latter was born in 1960 — less than a year after Carl retired from baseball — with Down syndrome. Rather than put Jimmy away in an institution, the Erskine showered him with love and treated him like the rest of the children.
“We were an active family,” said Gary Erskine. “Jimmy was not left behind.”
Jimmy got on to a school bus for the first time in 1972 and has gone on to lead an independent life.
When Carl and Betty’s fourth child came along, Indiana had long took a dim view of the “feeble-minded” and in 1907 was the nation’s first state to enact compulsory sterilization to “prevent procreation of confirmed criminals, idiots, imbeciles and rapists.”
Expected to live to around 35, Jimmy Erskine turned 62 this year. He worked at Applebee’s in Anderson for two decades and competed in Special Olympics for 50 (starting with the Indiana State Special Olympic Games in Terre Haute in 1970).
The Carl and Betty Erskine Society raises money for the Special Olympics.
The Erskine Personal Impact Curriculum (EPIC) is a set of materials for elementary, middle and high school students that uses stories from Carl’s life to “create lessons and activities with themes including empowerment, friendship, inclusion and leadership.”
Thursday’s event was also a celebration of the Erskine connection to Special Olympics Indiana and helping to promote grace, humility, diversity, inclusion and servant leadership.
When Carl was 10 and playing basketball in the alley with friends, 9-year-old Johnny Wilson wandered in.
Carl’s question to the boy who happen to be black was, “Do you want to play?”
It was the start of long friendship that lasted more than eight decades — one that will be commemorated with a mural in downtown Anderson in 2023.
The boy who went on to be known as “Jumpin’” Johnny Wilson came from a family on welfare so he often ate at the Erskine house.
Blacks were not welcome in some Anderson restaurants. They could not join the YMCA. They were restricted to the balcony of the movie theater.
The Ted Green film made its world premier Aug. 11 at Anderson’s Paramount Theatre with an encore on Aug. 13.
“Blacks were expected to be where they were supposed to be and the whites on the other side,” said Erskine.
Carl’s parents — Matt and Berths — did not show that prejudice.
General Motors Delco Remy inspector Matt Erskine “walked as easily among blacks as whites.”
Bertha Erskine “was known for seeing the best in everyone and everything.”
Said Carl, “She gave me the feeling that beauty is all around us. Don’t forget to look at it.”
Carl went to the blacks-only swimming pool with Johnny Wilson. He didn’t go to places Johnny couldn’t and he sat in the balcony with his pal.
They later played together on the Anderson High School basketball team. Wilson was chosen as Indiana Mr. Basketball in 1946 and went on to play for the Harlem Globetrotters and is in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. He competed in baseball, basketball, football and track and field at Anderson College (now Anderson University) and is in that school’s athletic hall of fame.
Erskine, who was later head baseball coach at Anderson College for 12 years and is also in the Ravens Hall of Fame, shined on the diamond for Anderson High and Anderson American Legion Post 127.
Throwing a tennis ball against a barn with a strike zone marked in chalk, Carl continually fanned his hero.
Said Erskine, “I can’t count how many times I struck out Babe Ruth.”
First discovered by Indianapolis scout Stan Feezle, Carl landed with the Dodgers after a stint in the U.S. Navy.
The Dodgers were run by Branch Rickey, who signed the Hoosier hurler for $5,000.
“I think there was an esteem there,” said Branch Rickey III of the relationship between his grandfather and Erskine. “He just had a deep, deep appreciation for what character could do individually. We loved what character could do for teams.”
As a minor leaguer pitching against the big club, Erskine first met Jackie Robinson, who made a point of encouraging him his outing.
Erskine made his Dodgers debut in 1948 and went on to toe the rubber for the franchise 335 times.
Two Erskine-penned books are “Tales from the Dodgers Dugout” and “What I Learned from Jackie Robinson” and has been involved with Jackie Robinson Day activities with The Base Indy.
One day after Erskine had shown kindness to wife and son — Rachel Robinson and Jackie Jr. — Robinson expressed his appreciation.
“‘Come on, Jackie, it’s as natural to me as breathing,’” said Erskine of his response. But Jackie was always kind of surprised. He said to me, ‘this black and white thing doesn’t seem to bother you.’ I told him about Johnny my buddy. He said, ‘Carl, I see life divided. You seem to see life connected.’”
When Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella was paralyzed in an auto accident in 1958, the first teammate to visit him in the hospital was Erskine.
A man of faith who met Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, Erskine was there at the start of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Erskine lent his talent to Dale McMillen aka “Mr. Mac” with the Wildcat League for youth in Fort Wayne, Ind.
An insurance salesman and a bank president in his hometown, Carl has been a civic leader along with Betty.
Anderson has Erskine Elementary School (a video message from Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda at the dedication appears in the film).
There’s also was is now known as Anderson Youth Baseball & Softball at Erskine Park.
The broadcast premier of “The Best We’ve Got: The Carl Erskine Story” is slated for 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22 on WFYI in Indianapolis with PBS stations around Indiana expected to follow.
As well as being part of the Heartland International Film Festival Oct. 6-16 in Indianapolis, screenings are planned for Sept. 29 at Eagles Theater in Wabash, Ind., Oct. 13 at Muncie Civic Center with dates to be determined at Artcraft Theater in Franklin, Ind., and Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

The Indianapolis premier of the Ted Green film “The Best We’ve Got: The Carl Erskine Story” was Thursday, Aug. 18 at the Tobias Theater aka The Toby. (Steve Krah Photo)
A memento from the Indianapolis premier of the Ted Green film “The Best We’ve Got: The Carl Erskine Story.” (Steve Krah Photo)

Boynton building ballplayers, relationships with Bethel University

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

A Pacific Northwest native has found his fit in the Upper Midwest.
Kiel Boynton, who was born and raised in Oregon, is now heading into his eighth season as an assistant baseball coach at Bethel University in Mishawaka, Ind.
Boynton, 38, shares his time between worship leader at Grace Church in Granger, Ind., and helping head coach Seth Zartman with the NAIA-affiliated Pilots.
While Boynton’s main focus on-campus is pitching and infielders, he handles more of the out-of-state recruiting with his network while Zartman concentrates in Indiana.
“I’m working the phones a lot,” says Boynton. “Recruiting on the West Coast is a little rough sometimes (with the time difference), but my family at home has kind of gotten used to the fact that around a certain time I go into recruiting mode.
“The travel just depends on the player. If I’m interested in the player I’m definitely going to try to go and see him.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bethel coaches have learned to make some judgment calls on recruits through viewing video. But in-person is best.
“We would always love to see them live because a video can make a kid look really great or a video can make them look really bad,” says Boynton. “When you’re out-of-state, you’re trying to maybe sell the school a little bit more than selling the finances. If they’re in-state we kind of know that they’re going to qualify of additional potential scholarship (money) depending on their grades and their family’s income.”
As a coach, Boynton sees pitching and defense as his strength and lets Zartman concentrate on the offensive part of the game.
“I’m big on the mental side,” says Boynton. “It’s important to see how they respond to adversity and different things.”
In practice, Boynton puts his pitchers in high-pressure situations. It may be a closer coming into the game with less than two outs and runners in scoring position.
“My heart rate’s up and I’ve got to figure out how to stay calm and be able to do that,” says Boynton of the hurler’s task. “We’ll put them on a bike between innings. They’ll have to go real fast and get their heart rate up and then we immediately send them to the mound and have have to pitch and calm themselves down.
“They learn how to overcome that and still get outs.”
Sam Riggleman, who was head coach at Bethel (1995-99) and has more than four decades of experiences and a college coach, gave Boynton some advice year ago about pitchers and adversity that stuck with him.
“He doesn’t give his pitchers multiple chances to succeed because he wants them to have to learn to deal with adversity and failure,” says Boynton. “When he puts them in a situation like that, they get the outs or they don’t get the outs.
“It’s all that mental side that comes into play. They pitcher needs to know the situation (and where and how to deliver his pitches).”
Boynton looks on his coaching career and has witnessed constant change in himself.
“When I first started coaching I just wanted to win,” says Boynton. “It was not as much about building relationships. When the team would lose, I would take it personally. It was like I didn’t do my job or I failed. I would get really frustrated.”
Through the influences of Zartman, Riggleman, Dean Stiles, Mike Manes and others, Boynton’s coaching philosophy has morphed.
“I am not just worried about what they do on the baseball field,” says Boynton. “I heard a long time ago a coach say that if you’re a good coach, you get invited to weddings.
“I started really wrapping my head around that. If a player invites me to their wedding that means that I meant something to their life. Whether or not they were successful on the field they knew that I cared about them enough that they wanted me to be a part of the biggest day of their life.”
Kiel (pronounced Kyle) and wife Faith have two children — son Parker (12) and daughter Aubrie (3) — with one on the way.
As a right-handed pitcher/infielder, Boynton played for Stiles at Crook County High School in Prineville, Ore., since his tiny Christian school — did not have baseball. He also played football and basketball.
Boynton was born with mild form of Cerebral Palsy that effects the muscles on the right side of his body.
“The right side will get to a certain strength and that’s about it,” says Boynton. “When I lifted in college you could always see that my left side was stronger. My left leg what take the primary force of my squat.
“My mom (Teri) and dad (John) did a great job of not letting Cerebral Palsy be a crutch for me,” says Boynton. “They always encouraged me to just work harder. I played pretty much every sport growing up.”
Even with the weakness, John Boynton made his son a right-handed pitcher.
“It’s made a big impact on my coaching career,” says Boynton of CP. “I don’t like laziness or pitchers who kind of take time off. In my own life, I never did that.
“I want my players to work twice as hard.”
Patrick Tubaugh, who has been a Director of Baseball Operations for Bethel, also has Cerebral Palsy.
Boynton is a diehard fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers thanks to his father who grew up in southern California, played at Los Angeles Bible College (now The Master’s University) for Pete Reese and had a tryout with the Dodgers. An EMT director job got him to move to Oregon.
“I grew up hearing about Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and all the great Dodger legends,” says Boynton. “I grew up listening to (play-by-play announcer) Vin Scully. I’ve been following them ever since.”
Each Christmas Faith adds an item to Kiel’s Dodger collection.
“She’s running out of things to get me,” says Boynton.
The younger brother of Cy and Shannon followed his sister when he attended Cedarville (Ohio) University and played four seasons (2003-06) for the Yellow Jackets.
“Coach (Greg) Hughes took that gamble on a kid with Cerebral Palsy and I’m very appreciative,” says Boynton. By that time, Reese was the athletic director at Cedarville.
He was a middle infielder and pitcher and earned undergraduate and masters degrees in sport management with a minor in Bible, and coached at the school 25 miles east of Dayton for five — one as an assistant to Hughes and four on Manes’ staff.
During that time, Boynton met Zartman as a competing coach or someone at the same site on a southern trip.
Among the pitchers he coached were the Ledbetter twins of Indianapolis — David and Ryan.
Boynton met Justin Masterson, who pitched at Bethel in 2004 and 2005 and hails from Beavercreek, Ohio, when he used Cedarville facilities to train during part of his big league career.
Boynton left Cedarville and went back to Oregon, where he was a pitching coach at Corban University in Salem, where he was born, for about three years. He was also involved in youth ministry.
During his time in Salem, Boynton received a call from Zartman letting him know of a potential assistant coach job at Bethel.
There was prayer and family discussion and about a week later, Boynton and let Zartman know it was a good fit and he was ready to move to northern Indiana.
Economic uncertainty at the time led Zartman to tell Boynton not to make the move with his family in case the position was cut.
The following year with things stabilized, Zartman called again and the Boyntons came back to the Midwest. He started at Bethel in January 2015.
Boynton says about three-quarters of his income comes from his worship director position.
“The two jobs really work great with each other,” says Boynton. “My coaching job is pretty much Monday through Saturday. My worship leader job is also a Monday through Saturday thing, but the one day that they actually really need me to be doing something is Sunday.”
Bethel, a member of the Crossroads League, is to open the 2022 season Feb. 4 against Lourdes in Hot Springs, Ark.

Kiel Boynton (Bethel University Photo)