Norman Berman didn’t need to use his cane to help him walk out to the mound Monday night. The adrenaline in his body carried him there.
The 84-year-old from West Palm Beach and former Brooklyn Dodgers ball boy was invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch as part the league-wide celebration of Jackie Robinson Day. Berman called it a thrill he never would have dreamed of back when he was 19 years old and making $7 a day to “hang up uniforms for opposing teams and rub up four dozen baseballs in Mississippi mud to take the shine off the ball.
“If it wasn’t for my daughter, I would have never been here,” Berman said. “She wrote to the Marlins and said, ‘My dad was the ball boy for the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers, and I don’t know if anyone from that team is [still alive].”
Berman, once an aspiring ballplayer himself, said he was hired by the Dodgers to replace a ball boy who was fired for stealing baseballs. At times, he said, he would get on the field and work out with the Dodgers. One time, he said, he played catch with Robinson, who eventually taught Berman “how to pivot at second base.
“He was one of the nicest men I ever met in my life — and I’m not just saying that,” Berman said. “He had to go through something I don’t think anybody else could have gone through.”
After his stint as a ball boy, Berman played two years of minor-league baseball, including in 1949 with the West Palm Beach Indians. He served two years in the Korean War and returned to West Palm Beach to be near his relatives. Berman, who attended a special screening of the new movie 42 about Robinson on Thursday, said story is “pretty close” to reality.
What would Robinson say about baseball celebrating his story and players wearing his retired jersey number on the same day once a year?
“He would have said, ‘Am I glad I did what I did,’ ” Berman said. “He could teach a lot of people a lesson nowadays. When you have a problem and you want to do something, you just persevere, turn your cheek, learn more and get it done.”
The Marlins got good news Monday afternoon when outfielder Austin Kearns was discharged from the hospital.
Kearns, taken to a local hospital Sunday morning after showing up to Marlins Park complaining of an irregular heartbeat, still has a couple tests to do Tuesday, according to manager Mike Redmond.
Giancarlo Stanton, who hasn’t played since Wednesday with a bruised left shoulder, saw a doctor for the second time Monday. Redmond said Stanton told him his shoulder is “still pinching him.” Redmond said he hopes to have a better idea soon on how long Kearns and Stanton will be out.
• Tuesday: Marlins RHP Alex Sanabia (1-1, 4.91 ERA) vs. Washington Nationals RHP Dan Haren (1-1, 9.00), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
• Wednesday: Marlins RHP Ricky Nolasco (0-1, 3.12) vs. Nationals LHP Ross Detwiler (0-0, 0.69 ERA), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
• Scouting report: Sanabia went 2-1 with a 2.04 ERA in three starts against the Nationals in 2010. Haren last faced the Marlins in 2010 — giving up 10 hits and three runs in a loss. He’s 1-3 with a 3.09 ERA against the Marlins in his career.