By Jon Weisman
Their hometown of Anderson, Indiana paid tribute to the 88-year-old Wilson with a statue, and Erskine was key to making the honor happen.
… Erskine, the Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher who appeared in 11 World Series games and threw two no-hitters in the 1950s, and Wilson have been friends since meeting as children, in an alley with a basketball hoop attached to a barn, when Erskine offered an innocent invitation: “Do you want to play?”
One white child, one black, they were bound from that point by their love of sports and their meager economic circumstances during the Depression in this north-central Indiana factory town. The friendship with Wilson was Erskine’s bridge to his warm relationship with Jackie Robinson, whom he joined on the Dodgers in Robinson’s second season after breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier.
One day, Robinson went out of his way to thank Erskine for speaking to his wife, Rachel, and children in front of white fans. Erskine said no thanks were necessary, and on Friday he said one name explained why: Johnny Wilson. …
Click here to read the whole story. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Dodgers signing Erskine, after he served in the Navy at the tail end of World War II.