February 2010

Italian American Sports Hall of Fame

I love the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame.  It is an outstanding foundation that does a lot of good for a lot of people, as well as preserving the heritage of the Italian American culture, a culture that was built on love of God, love of country and love of family. 

It honors excellence and perseverence, and I am proud ot be here in Chicago this weekend to support it.

Here is some history about the IASHOF:


In 1977, George Randazzo founded the Italian American Boxing Hall of Fame as a way to raise money for a struggling local Catholic youth program. Randazzo collected boxing photos and memorabilia, a hobby that inspired him to organize a fundraising dinner that brought together a list of boxing greats and celebrities. The dinner honored twenty-three former Italian American boxing world champions, including Rocky Graziano, Jake LaMotta, Sammy Angott, Willie Pep, and posthumously Rocky Marciano, Primo Carnera and Tony Canzoneri.

The results were so overwhelming that a friend and local businessman, Don Ponte, encouraged Randazzo to start a Hall of Fame to honor all Italian American athletes. One year later, the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame was founded as a non-profit, educational institution. The first induction ceremony and banquet was a star-studded event, as the Hall of Fame honored Lou Ambers, Eddie Arcaro, Charlie Trippi, Gino Marchetti, Dom DiMaggio and “The Yankee Clipper,” Joe DiMaggio. Mrs. Vince Lombardi also accepted the posthumous induction of her late husband, Coach Vince Lombardi.

In the years that followed, celebrities from all walks of life have come to the annual induction ceremonies to pay tribute to outstanding Italian American sports champions and heroes. A special and uninvited guest took part in the 1980 induction ceremony, as Prisident Jimmy Carter offered his congratulations and addressed the crowd. In 1988 the Hall of Fame moved from its original headquarters in Elmwood Park to Arlington Heights.

The NIASHF enjoyed a new beginning in 1998 with the help of Phoenix Suns Chairman/CEO Jerry Colangelo. A 1994 Inductee and Chicago Heights native, Colangelo was asked by Randazzo to serve as Chairman of an ambitious new Hall of Fame building project in the heart of Chicago’s Little Italy. Colangelo accepted, and has succeeded in bringing together civic-minded men and women from across the country in support of the project. In 2000 the new facility was dedicated as “The Jerry Colangelo Center,” a tribute to his efforts and leadership.

There are now over 200 inductees enshrined in the Hall of Fame. To date, the organization has raised over 6 million for scholarships and charitable causes. In 27 years, the collection of sports memorabilia the Hall has amassed is second to none. The priceless artifacts include Mario Andretti’s Indy 500 racecar, Rocky Marciano’s first heavyweight championship belt, Vince Lombardi’s last coat worn as coach of the Green Bay Packers, and swimmer Matt Biondi’s Olympic Gold Medals.

Congratulations to Carl Erskine

Congratulations to Carl Erskine, one of the Boys of Summer, one of the greatest Dodgers of them all!


News Release

For immediate release


Editor’s note: A ceremony to honor Carl Erskine is planned for the south atrium of the Indiana State House on March 2 at 11:30 a.m. Governor Daniels will lead the ceremony. 


Carl Erskine to receive 2010 Sachem Award


INDIANAPOLIS (February 26, 2010) – Governor Mitch Daniels will honor civic leader and legendary baseball player Carl D. Erskine of Anderson with the 2010 Sachem Award, the state’s highest honor, at a ceremony next week. 


“As big a thrill as it is to give this award to one of my childhood sports heroes, it’s not Carl’s baseball career, it’s the totality of the life he has lived, that made him a Sachem,” said Daniels.  “Taken together, his character, his faith, his integrity in business, his marriage and his devotion to his community mark him as a great man and the kind of person we want our children to emulate.”


The Sachem is given annually to recognize a lifetime of excellence and moral virtue that has brought credit and honor to Indiana. Previous recipients include college basketball coaching legend John Wooden, the Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame and world statesman, philanthropist Jane Blaffer Owen, gospel music singing and songwriting pioneers Bill and Gloria Gaither and businessman and civic leader Danny Danielson.


“Most of us who have ‘so called’ achieved anything in life are merely the end result of good mentoring. Most teachers, coaches and parents got more out of me than I thought I had in me.  I am overwhelmed,” said Erskine.


Erskine, 83, was a pitcher for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers and member of the famous Boys of Summer teams in the 1950’s.  During his career he accumulated 122 wins, pitched in five World Series, made the National League All-Star team, and threw two no-hitters.  After retiring from baseball at the age of 32, Erskine returned to his hometown of Anderson where he started a business and began a career in banking and community leadership that continues to this day.


Born and raised in Anderson, Erskine learned to play the game he loved in local park baseball programs and with his father and older brothers.  After graduation from Anderson High School in 1945, Erskine was drafted and served in the U.S. Navy during the closing months of World War II.  While in the Navy, he was scouted by the Dodgers and, upon his discharge, spent a year and a half in the minor leagues before making his major league debut in 1948.


Erskine, or “Oisk” as he was affectionately nicknamed, became the team’s starting pitcher in 1951, playing alongside Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Preacher Row, Duke Snider and Carl Furillo.  He was a part of teams that won five National League pennants as well as the 1955 World Series.


“Carl Erskine is class personified.  Not only was he a great pitcher, he is a great person, which is why you live your life.  I played with Carl, and I’ve admired him for many years.  He’s the best,” said former Dodger teammate Tommy Lasorda, who is expected to attend the ceremony.


Today, Erskine is most known for his community involvement, advocacy and civic leadership. After starting his own insurance business, he later served as president and director of Star Financial Bank. Outside the office, he spent 12 years coaching the Anderson University baseball team, winning four conference championships. He also has served as a member of the board of trustees of Anderson University, St. John’s Medical Center, Fellowship of Christian Athletes among other civic organizations.  His greatest contributions have been through his more than 40 years of service as a volunteer with the Special Olympics and as a supporter of the Hopewell Center, a not-for-profit agency that serves persons with developmental difficulties.


Erskine’s contributions to the Anderson community are evident throughout the city.  At St. John’s Medical Center, the Carl D. Erskine Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine Center stands along with a bronze statue erected in his honor. The city also built Erskine Elementary on property he donated to the Anderson Community School System and the Carl D. Erskine Award of Excellence annually honors an outstanding member of the Anderson University baseball team.


In 1979, Erskine was a member of the inaugural class inducted into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame.  He shares the Sachem with his wife Betty, to whom he has been married since 1947, and to whom he credits with all of his success. They have four children, five grandchildren and three great grandchildren.


Sachem (Say-chum) background:

In 1970, Governor Edgar D. Whitcomb introduced the “Confederacy of the Sachem,” a group of business, industry, publishing, banking and legal leaders, who served as state hosts, welcoming visitors to Indiana and promoting the state’s culture and economy. The organization’s name came from the Algonquin term applied to village leaders, implying wisdom, judgment and grace.


Bylaws outlined that Sachems were to nominate and recommend Sagamore appointments to the governor. The Sagamore of the Wabash dates to the term of Indiana Governor Ralph Gates in 1945 and has been the state’s highest honor bestowed by the governor.


Following Whitcomb’s term, the Sachem project was not pursued, and the organization dissolved in 1989. Whitcomb visited Daniels in 2005 to acquaint him with the concept and to give him custody of remaining Sachem funds. Governor Daniels recreated the Sachem to underscore the importance of moral example; achievement alone without exemplary virtue does not qualify a person for this recognition.


Each Sachem honoree receives a specially-designed sculpture that captures the Native American heritage of the Sachem. All Sachem recipients will be selected by Indiana’s governor.


For additional background information on Carl D. Erskine, contact our office. A digital photo of the Sachem sculpture may be found at: http://www.in.gov/gov/uploads/Sachem_award.jpg.


Photos of Erskine are available here: http://www.carlerskine.com/photo.htm.