Sunday, March 14, 2010

Carl Erskine

If you are reading this blog, chances are you don't know who Carl Erskine is. Carl Erskine is a Hall of Fame pitcher who played his entire twelve-year career with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Now before you turn away from this post thinking that its about sports, let me assure you that it is. However, although the story I am about to relay is a baseball story, the reason I am bringing up is not only in relation to sports.

In the 1951 season, the New York Giants were trailing the Brooklyn Dodgers for first place in the National League by 13.5 games with only 44 games left (a very difficult obstacle to overcome). In those days there were no standard playoffs; the first-place teams from the two leagues played in the World Series. Well, the Giants caught and tied the Dodgers for first place on the last day of the season. Because they were tied, the teams by rule had to play a best-out-of-three playoff series to determine who would eventually lose to the Yankees in the World Series.

The teams split the first two games of the series and had to go to a winner-take-all third game. Of course, the game came down to the final at-bat. The manager of the Dodgers, Leo Durocher, decided to send in a relief pitcher. In the bullpen, there were two pitchers warming up. One was Erksine and the other was Ralph Branca. When Durocher made the call to his bullpen coach, he asked which one looked better. The response was that they were both throwing quite well.

However, Erksine's best pitch was a sinker ball and it tended to dive down into the ground to fool the batter. On that day, Erksine was bouncing this pitch a little earlier than usual. In addition to this slight problem, the Dodger's primary catcher, Roy Campanella, was injured, and the two backups the Dodgers lacked the athletic prowess necessary to block that pitch. The Dodgers decided to put Branca into the game. Here is the result:

Carl Erksine is a Hall of fame Pitcher. He retired with the record for the most strikeouts ina World Series game. He pitched two no-hitters in his career. Whenever faced with the question of 'what was the most important pitch you have ever thrown?' his response is always the same. "The one in the bullpen that I bounced in the dirt during the 1951 playoff game."

Carl Erksine can't get that one pitch out of his head. It will haunt him for the rest of his life despite all of his his accomplishments. Why?

Because Carl Erksine is no different than any of us. He looks at the things that he has no control over and feels helpless against them. I don't know for a fact that this is true about every person in the world, but I am pretty sure that this is true of most people. You sit up late at night, thinking about that job that you don't understand why you didn't get. You wonder why someone broke up with you because you thought it was going fine, but never got a full answer from the other person and now you're just confused. You fear for your friend because he/she is going through something serious and there is just nothing that you can do about it. You're just as helpless as he/she is. It's the same old story. Despite all that is going right for you, you seem stuck on that one thing.

I have news for you. There is not much that you can do to change it. If you dwell too much in it, you will wake up when you're 78 years old, wondering where your life went. I'll tell you where it went. It passed you by while you were worrying things that happened in the past. Things that you had no control over. Things that had no effect on the life you ended up leading. They were just small things that seemed big at the time, but really had no effect on your life as a whole.

If you go through life thinking only about what happened in the past, it will pass you by. If something is bothering you, grab life by the horns and do something about it. If not, get on with it. Forget about things you can't control because if you don't, you will lose control of the things you can.


  1. Hey at least he isn't Bill Buckner :-P

  2. jugs, I honestly didnt know where you would go with that, but it adds a new spin to something I already knew. Thanks

  3. FbM- True. Or Scott Norwood

    YPGA- Not Jugs. We disqualified that nickname. That's what I was aiming for.

    Erachet- Thanks.

  4. Jug: haha, he called you "jugs" I told you to go with the apostrophe ;p
    BTW, great post, sports metaphors are always good.

  5. I don't get it. :-) My eyes kinda glazed over in the first few paragraphs...but why is the one in the bullpen the most important pitch?

  6. It's the mistake he made that got the other pitcher inserted over himself. The other pitcher lost the game.

  7. Ohhh, okay. I should focus more on my reading before getting confused :-) But but...then it's really not his fault!

  8. Right. The point is that he despite all of his achievements, he chooses to think about this small detail that he had little control ove.