Miami Beach

Beach High inducts cardiologist — a retired basketball star — into Athletic Hall of Fame

A photo from Richie Berger’s 1958 Miami Beach Senior High School yearbook.
A photo from Richie Berger’s 1958 Miami Beach Senior High School yearbook. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Miami Beach Senior High on Friday inducted its first member into the school’s newly formed Athletic Hall of Fame, retiring the jersey of 1950s basketball star Richard ‘Richie’ Berger.

“This accomplishment is more than me. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my teammates and my coaches,” said Berger, now 76 and a cardiologist. “Bonding with my teammates and playing the game I loved was the happiest time of my life. Nothing is more important to me than Miami Beach High because of all the memories and friends I’ve made here.”

Berger, who played forward for the school’s basketball team from 1953 to ‘58, saw his No. 4 jersey retired during halftime of a basketball game between Miami Beach and North Miami Beach senior high schools. Berger also received a gold jacket stitched with Beach High’s initials during his halftime induction into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

Beach High defeated North Miami Beach 59-51. Miami Beach improved to 8-8 on the season, while North Miami Beach dropped to 10-7. The Hi-Tides held a tight lead over the Chargers throughout the majority of the game before pulling away in the final two minutes.

In 1954, Berger made the school varsity basketball team as a freshman, but did not play because he broke his ankle a few days prior to the first game. His single-game record of scoring 52 points against Archbishop Curley/Notre Dame High School still stands as the most points ever scored by a Miami Beach player.

Over his three-year varsity career, Berger scored more than 1,300 points for Miami Beach and led Miami-Dade and Broward counties in scoring during his senior year with a 25.5 scoring average.

Berger graduated from Beach High in 1958 with a basketball scholarship to Tulane University. He graduated from that school’s College of Medicine a few years later. He is now an associate professor at the University of Miami School of Medicine and a cardiologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center, a few miles away from Miami Beach Senior High School.

At halftime, Beach High Principal John Donohue Jr. presented Berger with a plaque containing the retired No. 4 on a red Miami Beach jersey. When Berger received the plaque, he honored his mentors and former competitors. After his speech, Berger hugged his best friend since childhood, Louie Hayes, and shook hands with each surviving member of Miami Beach’s basketball team.

Berger called out his high school mentor, physical-education teacher Orin Schroeder, whom he considered a father figure. Berger’s parents had been divorced and he looked up to Schroeder. He’d frequently ask the coach for advice and would see him every day. Berger said Schroeder convinced him to pursue a career in medicine — despite Berger being squeamish at the sight of blood. The two would remain friends until Schroeder died of cancer in 1992, Berger at his bedside.

“It means a great deal to the players to see someone from the past that played in the same jerseys, the same shoes and walk those same steps,” Miami Beach Basketball Coach Jacob Shaw said after the game. “He was one of the players at one point. He made the same layup, the same shots and running those same lines in practice.”

A year ago, Beach High retired the No. 5 jersey of former point guard Marquise Warren, 20, who was shot and killed in 2015.

Warren’s jersey was the first retired by Miami Beach High. Berger’s is the second.

“I don’t know why it took this long to do something like this,” Donohue said. “To retire Richie Berger’s number, No. 4, is an amazing thing and a great tribute to a great man. But, also, initiating the Miami Beach High School Hall of Fame and I can’t think of a better person to start with than Richie Berger.”