There was no stopping Lou Morhaim in 1993.
When the Marlins were about to put tickets on sale for the team’s inaugural season, Morhaim was determined to be the first to buy them.
It took some doing.
A few weeks before, Morhaim paid a visit to team owner Wayne Huizenga’s office in Fort Lauderdale.
“I’ve got cash. I’ve got credit cards,” Morhaim told them.
“We’re not ready yet,” came the reply.
Then came the big day. The night before, Morhaim mapped out a plan.
“I wait until my wife goes to sleep,” Morhaim recalled. “As soon as she goes to sleep, I get dressed, I make a thermos of coffee, I get in the car and I drive over to Joe Robbie Stadium. This is about 1 o’clock in the morning. I’m all by myself in the car, sitting outside the gates of Joe Robbie with the car doors locked.”
When the gates opened, Morhaim rushed in, bought 120 tickets to the team’s first six games and became a Marlins fan for life. He was 63 then. He is 88 now.
“I’ll always be a Marlins forever and ever,” Morhaim said.
The Marlins have included Morhaim in their 25th anniversary celebration taking place this weekend at Marlins Park by having him take out the lineup card before Sunday’s game.
Morhaim used to be a regular at Marlins games. He had season tickets. His first seats were in the upper deck, ones that he had picked out carefully in advance of the season.
“I spent a week in that stadium going seat to seat to seat to find the right seats,” Morhaim said. “It was up in section 450, the 12th row, seats 17 and 18.”
Later on, he moved down to the club level.
He rarely missed a game.
Take, for instance, the time he skipped a relative’s wedding late during the ’93 season after Huizenga’s office called inviting him to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
“I called my wife and I tell her, ‘We’re not going to your cousin’s wedding,’” he said. “I’ve got to throw out the first pitch. She said ‘Forget it. I got a dress for the wedding. You throw to an animal, Billy the Marlin, and it’s over in 10 seconds. Tell them no.”
It took him a few days, but Morhaim was able to change her mind.
Then there was that very first game.
Morhaim wasn’t content with just watching the first game. He had to be the first fan inside the stadium, and he was. But there was more.
“The inaugural game, I had a goal,” he said. “I had to accomplish that goal.
The goal was to get an autographed baseball, and not just any autographs. He wanted the opening day pitchers, catchers and managers to sign it. Two from each team.
“It was one of the toughest things I ever did in my life,” he said.
But he pulled it off by getting signatures from pitchers Charlie Hough and Orel Hershiser, catchers Benito Santiago and Mike Piazza, and managers Tommy Lasorda and Rene Lachemann. He still has the ball. He has a lot of signed balls.
“I’ve got so many baseballs in the house, she can’t handle it,” Morhaim said of his wife, who is also a baseball fan. “It’s too much.”
Morhaim stopped going to games about 10 years ago after his heart attack. His doctor told him it was from all the hot dogs he ate at the ballpark.
“You go to every single game, that’s what it’s doing to your system, clogging up the arteries,” said Morhaim, who would eat two or three a game.
But Morhaim said he and his wife watch every Marlins game on TV, even the ones on the West Coast that start at 10 p.m.
“She’s a fanatic baseball fan, my wife,” Morhaim said. “She knows more about the game than I know. She grew up at Ebbets Field (in Brooklyn) watching the Dodgers. I started at 8 years old going to ball games at Yankee Stadium.”
Sunday will mark Morhaim’s first visit to Marlins Park. He would like to bring along a baseball to have signed by manager Don Mattingly but wasn’t sure it would be a good idea.
“When I go to a game, I always carry baseballs, no matter what game I go to,” he said. “I asked my wife, ‘What do you think I should do? Do you think it’s a wise thing? Should I ask him for an autograph? What should I do?’”
His wife advised against.
“She said ‘Do what you’re supposed to do,’” she instructed him. “If they want you to get the lineups from the manager and give to the umpire, do that.’”
So that’s what Morhaim will do.
He is excited to see the Marlins in person for the first time in years.
“I think I’m going to feel like I’m 10 feet tall,” Morhaim said. “This is going to be a life rejuvenator.”