LOS ANGELES -- Talk show host Jerry Springer made a surprise appearance inside the Marlins clubhouse this morning, and he was quite the hit. Players and coaches posed for pictures with Springer and had him autograph baseballs.
Springer is quite the fan of basebal,as it turns out, and in particular, a huge fan of his beloved New York Yankees. That caused him quite a bit of grief in Cincinnati in the mid-1970s when he was a local politican and a soon-to-be mayor. During the 1976 World Series -- when the Big Red Machine swept the Bronx Bombers in four -- word got out that Springer was a diehard Yankees fan and he said the Cincinnati Enquirer ran a story bearing the headline: "Springer A Yankees Fan."
"So I got booed by 58,000 people," Springer said. "Thankfully, it wasn't an election year."
Springer said he doesn't know much about the Marlins other than the fact they knocked off the Yankees in the '03 Series. Said Springer, standing in the visitor's dugout at Dodger Stadium and cupping his mouth so that he wouldn't be overheard by Marlins players and team officials: "Frankly I'm p***ed."
But Springer said his fondest baseball memory took place at Fort Lauderdale Stadium in 1988 when he participated in a fantasy camp with the New York Yankees. Let Springer tell it:
"The greatest thrill I had was at that '88 dream camp. I was a catcher, and on the final night, the campers play the Yankees. But they give you one of the professionals to be a pitcher, so 10,000 pack into Fort Lauderdale Stadium, or whatever it held, so this is like the greatest moment of my life because they announce the batteries, 'And for the Yankees, (Whitey) Ford and Springer. Whitey's warming up and the game starts, and 10,000 people get to their feet, screaming and yelling, because out of the dugout, here comes Mickey Mantle to step into the batter's box.
"I start physically shaking because my whole life is flashing in front of me. I'm remembering my mom saying, 'Gerald, no ball playing in the house.' I'm shaking. And I'm in tearing up. And my glasses under the mask are fogging up. So I thought I'm going to get hurt because Whitey still threw pretty hard. So I call timeout and I run out to the mound and Whitey says, 'What are you doin'?' 'Whitey, I can't stop shaking.' He just rolls his eyes, and I'm like a little kid, and he says, 'Get the &*#$% behind the plate. Mantle hasn't hit in 20 years and he's stone drunk.' Now I'm fine and I crouch behind the plate, and he flew to left."
Before the Marlins took the field for batting practice this morning, Springer yelled out in the clubhouse: "If there's a fight today out on the field, just starting chanting ("Jerry, Jerry, Jerry") and we'll cover it."