MIAMI (AP) — A Brooklyn Dodgers ballboy during Jackie Robinson’s rookie season helped honor the baseball pioneer Monday by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at the Miami Marlins-Washington Nationals game.
Norman Berman, 84, lives in nearby West Palm Beach and has been a Marlins fan since their first game in 1993. He also was the Dodgers’ 19-year-old ballboy in 1947, the year Robinson broke the sport’s color barrier.
Berman witnessed the challenges Robinson overcame as depicted in the new movie “42,” with opponents relentlessly taunting and heckling the Dodgers rookie.
“That movie was very close to what he had to go through,” Berman said before the Marlins game. “They threw at him, they stepped on his feet, and he never turned his back. He never said anything to them. He never tried to fight them. He walked away with a smile on his face, because they told him, `If you argue and fight with them, you’re going to ruin it for everybody else.'”
Berman’s only season as ballboy was in 1947, and he watched Robinson and the Dodgers reach the World Series. Berman said Robinson befriended him, played catch with him and gave tips on how to make a double-play pivot.
“He was a wonderful person,” Berman said. “I learned something from him — when you go through tough times, you’ve got to stay positive. I don’t think most of the ballplayers who came after him would have been able to be the first black ballplayer, because they couldn’t do what he did.”
Baseball celebrated its annual Jackie Robinson Day on Monday, with players at all major league games wearing the late Hall of Famer’s No. 42.