Ex-ballboy remembers Robinson

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 in Miami.

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 all players at all major league games wearing the late Hall of Famer’s No. 42.

Cubs unveil plans

The Chicago Cubs unveiled details of their $500 million plan to renovate 99-year-old Wrigley Field. It calls for more night games, a new hotel, a new clubhouse, extended beer sales, various upgrades for fans – and a massive electronic video screen that could spark a legal battle with rooftop owners who have a financial stake in being able to view the games from across the street.

The proposed 6,000-square- foot screen in left field is nearly three times as large as the venerable scoreboard currently atop the center-field bleachers. Team chairman Tom Ricketts said “significant” advertising- related revenue from the video screen and a 1,000-square-foot sign in right field would be pumped back into the team.

The rub is that the rooftop owners have a contract with the Cubs in which they share revenue from the rooftop seats. The rooftop owners have 11 years remaining on the contract, and they showed no sign of endorsing the big new signs the Cubs want to put up.

Clearing the bases

Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes won’t need surgery on his sprained left ankle, but is still expected to miss three months. … The Reds placed ace Johnny Cueto on the 15-day DL for a strained muscle in his back. The Reds called up right-handed reliever Justin Freeman from Triple-A Louisville to boost their bullpen. … Marlins reserve outfielder Austin Kearns has been released from the hospital after complaining of an irregular heartbeat and undergoing tests. He has not been cleared to resume baseball activities.

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