Jerry Springer has died. The famed television host was 79.
A family spokesperson says Jerry was battling a “brief illness.” Our sources tell us it was pancreatic cancer that was diagnosed a few months ago, and this week he took a turn for the worse.
The spokesperson says he died Thursday morning, peacefully at his home in the Chicago area.
Springer led an incredible life. He was born in a London Underground station during the Blitz after his Jewish parents escaped Poland. He then moved to the United States and grew up in Queens, earned a law degree at Northwestern, served in the Army, was mayor of Cincinnati and then went into television journalism before starting his iconic trainwreck tabloid talk show — among myriad other accomplishments and broadcast gigs.
There was nothing better than the Springer-Maury Povich doubleheader while eating lunch between classes in college.
Springer was also a huge Yankees fan — his office was an unofficial shrine to Mickey Mantle. From an ESPN story in 2011:
“I live and die with the Yankees,” Springer told Page 2 on a recent visit to ESPN headquarters. “That’s my greatest passion.”
“I wore my blue shorts, a jacket, a bow tie, a beret and knee socks (to school),” Springer said. “I had a bloody British accent, and the kids beat the heck out of me and ripped my suit. Next day, I go back to school, same thing happened.”
Not surprisingly, Springer became scared to go to school. So his mother began asking around about how young Gerald could be accepted by his new peers. Told that American boys love baseball, she marched her son to Gertz department store in the Jamaica section of Queens in search of a “baseball outfit.”
Without knowing anything about the sport, she wound up purchasing a youth Yankees uniform bearing No. 8 on the jersey.
“So I wore it to school the next day,” Springer said. “Nobody touched me. Nobody beat me up. Nobody teased me, because at that time, like 1950, if you had your own baseball uniform, that was like, ‘Wow,’ and kids were nice to me. So I was afraid to go to school in the first and second grade without wearing my Yankee uniform.”
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James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jameskratch.