By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
More than $13,000 was raised Thursday night at a special premiere screening of “42” and Special Olympics silent auction benefit at Mounds Mall.
More than 250 fans of baseball and Madison County legend and Jackie Robinson teammate Carl Erskine poured into reception area at Mounds Mall and attended the premiere at 7:30 p.m. The movie tells Robinson’s tumultuous and triumphant story of breaking the color barrier, which lasted nearly six decades in Major League Baseball until Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey brought him up to the majors in 1947.
People in attendance heard Erskine and his son Gary speak on the similar struggles of Robinson and Erskine’s younger son Jimmy, who has Down syndrome. After playing nine years with Robinson and watching the changing sensibilities on race relations, Erskine said he wanted to be a part of the same change with special needs children.
“With Jackie, he suffered a lot of indignities, and he went through all that. I saw the same thing happening to my son not long after,” Erskine said. “Back then they called [Down syndrome] ‘mongolism.’ It was a harsh term, but that was society’s take on that.”
Since then, Carl and Gary Erskine have been dedicated to leveling the playing field for special needs people and educating the public about disabilities like Down syndrome. Jimmy, 53, played baseball in the Special Olympics.
“These two stories are different, but both Jackie and Jimmy represented populations that were relegated,” Carl Erskine said. “I didn’t realize it while it was happening, but getting older can give you perspective. They both demonstrated themselves in sports.”
Also in attendance was Jim Hazen, father of Highland and Anderson University baseball star Jeremy Hazen, who has a small role in the movie. Jeremy responded to a casting call in Atlanta that drew about 1,000 people. Three hundred were picked for tryouts at a baseball facility in East Cobb, Ga. The scene featuring Hazen has him wearing a St. Louis Cardinals uniform and hitting a ground ball to Robinson (played by Chadwick Boseman).
The silent auction featured autographed memorabilia of baseballs, cards, books and photographs. A live auction featured framed jerseys and portraits of Erskine and Robinson with famous teammates like Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges and Duke Snider. A rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” was sung before everyone moved next door for the movie, which opens nationwide Friday.
The event was sponsored by Community Hospital of Anderson, Star Bank, Mounds Mall, Prairie Farms, Texas Roadhouse, Ford Autoworld and The Herald Bulletin.
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