In Memory of Dave Bergman

Former Astro Bergman dies at 61
Jason Beck,
February 2, 2015

(c) Houston Astros

DETROIT -- Longtime first baseman Dave Bergman, who played in parts of 17 Major League seasons and was a key player on the Tigers' 1984 World Series championship team and who went on to become a key contributor to the Detroit community, died Monday morning at age 61. The Tigers confirmed Bergman's death, reported to have followed a long battle with bile duct cancer.

Born and raised in the Chicago area and drafted by the Yankees in 1974, Bergman was a part-time player with the Astros and Giants before Detroit acquired him in Spring Training of 1984. He was part of the same deal in which the Tigers acquired reliever Willie Hernandez in the days prior to Opening Day.

While Hernandez went on to win both the American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Awards, Bergman started 68 games at first base and appeared in 120 games -- the second-highest figure of his career. He might best be remembered that season for a 13-pitch at-bat in the 10th inning against Toronto on Sept. 7, when he fouled off seven pitches before sending a Roy Lee Jackson pitch into Tiger Stadium's upper deck for a walk-off three-run homer.

"That was a classic at-bat," teammate Alan Trammell said, "and he ended up hitting a three-run homer. We went wire-to-wire, but there was a time [the Blue Jays] made a little move on us. That was huge. That was a big part of our season that I know a lot of people will remember, and I know he still remembered it very fondly."

Bergman batted .273 that season with seven home runs and 44 RBIs. He ended up playing nine seasons for Detroit, hitting 39 home runs as a Tiger, before retiring after the 1992 season.

The left-handed-hitting Bergman had a career .258 batting average with 54 home runs and 289 RBIs in 1,349 games. He walked 380 times with just 347 strikeouts.

His contribution in the clubhouse, according to Trammell, was just as important.

"Just a working-class guy who was just a normal guy who played baseball and had a very nice career but was really one of our unsung heroes," Trammell said.

The Hernandez trade wasn't the only big deal in which Bergman was involved. He was the player to be named in the Yankees' 1977 trade that sent him to Houston for slugging catcher Cliff Johnson, a significant contributor off the bench to New York's championship that year, and in 1981, he and Jeffrey Leonard went to San Francisco, where Leonard became a star player.

"Saddened to hear about the loss of Dave Bergman," actor Jeff Daniels, a Tigers fan, tweeted. "A great friend who took his success and used it time and again to give back to others."

Bergman had prepared himself for life after baseball well before retirement and went into the investment industry. He made his home in Grosse Pointe, Mich., for nearly 30 years, and became a central figure in youth baseball in the area.

"Just a super person," Trammell said. "When you say better off the field than on, that would be, for me, Dave Bergman. He's a guy who was never the star, but always was one of the main guys on our ballclub as far as team chemistry and a guy you could lean on."

Trammell kept in touch with Bergman regularly. Bergman appeared at Comerica Park last summer for the 30-year reunion of the 1984 club. Trammell said he last saw Bergman a week and a half ago, stopping at his house on his way home from TigerFest.

"Certainly we've been lucky to cross so many really special people, and he would be included," Trammell said. "What a great friend and teammate."

Bergman, remembered for marathon at-bat, dies
Tony Paul, Detroit News
February 2, 2015

Detroit -- Dave Bergman, the left-handed-hitting first baseman whose acquisition in spring training 1984 was a pivotal move for a Tigers team that would go on to win the World Series, passed away Monday, the Tigers confirmed.

He was 61, and had been in a long fight with bile-duct cancer, the same disease that Ernie Harwell battled.

"Dave was as spirited a person as he was a player," the Tigers said in a statement. "He will forever hold a special place in Tigers history for the versatile roles he played, and his significant contributions as a member of the 1984 world champion Tigers. We will miss sering Bergie at the ballpark and in the community."

Bergman's most famous moment with the Tigers, by far, came June 4, 1984, when, in the bottom of the 10th inning of a tie game, he locked into a marathon battle with Roy Lee Jackson of the charging Toronto Blue Jays.

After fouling off one pitch after another, on the 13th pitch of the at-bat, Bergman sent a winning, three-run home run into the right-field upper deck at Tiger Stadium. The at-bat lasted nearly seven minutes. Today, every Tigers fan claims to have been there, even though the attendance was 26,733.

Bergman played 17 seasons in the major leagues, the last nine with the Tigers. He was acquired March 24, 1984, in a three-way trade with the San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies that also netted the Tigers closer Willie "Guillermo" Hernandez, who would go on to win the MVP award in 1984.

An Evanston, Ill., native, Bergman was drafted by the New York Yankees in the second round of the 1974 draft. He played for the Yankees, Houston Astros and Giants before coming to Detroit.

He was a smooth-fielding first baseman he was one of the best at the old hidden-ball trick, with Alan Wiggins of the Orioles and Ozzie Guillen of the White Sox his two famous victims and carried a repuation as a great teammate, on and off the field. He also was a longtime union rep.

"Bergie, going back to my rookie year (1987), he took me under his wing," said Mike Henneman, a teammate of Bergman's from 1987-92. "He was just a 100-percent class man, in every aspect of life. A huge loss."

Bergman last was at Comerica Park this past summer as part of the 1984 World Series reunion. While he wore his trademark smile, it was clear the illness was taking its toll, as he'd lost so much weight and hair. While battling the illness, though, Bergman always chose not to discuss his health.

Asked again at the World Series reunion, he smiled but declined again so not to take attention away from the 1984 team. During the pregame ceremony June 30 at Comerica Park, Bergman put on a glove and played first base while Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker turned one more double play.

"Dave served as a beloved mentor to me, a patient sounding board, a brave coach and a wise counselor," said Robert Bilkie, Bergman's longtime business partner. "He inspired me with his humility and decency. I believe that the true measure of a man is the cumulative success that he breeds in others. In this regard, Dave truly belongs in the Humanity Hall of Fame."

'Sad day': Dave Bergman, member of 1984 Tigers, dies at 61
Anthony French, USA Today
February 2, 2015

Dave Bergman was asked Friday whether he still had some fight left.

"I do," he said, according to a family friend.

Since a diagnosis of bile duct cancer in May 2012, the former Detroit Tigers first baseman -- a key member of the 1984 World Series championship team -- has spent the better part of three years battling the disease.

Today, that fight came to an end.

Bergman has died, at the age of 61.

"It is with heavy hearts we extend our condolences to the family of Dave Bergman," the Tigers said in a released statement. "Dave was as spirited as a person as he was a player. He will forever hold a special place in Tigers history for the versatile roles he played and his significant contributions as a member of the 1984 World Champion Tigers. We will miss seeing 'Bergie' at the ballpark and in the community."

Bergman played nine seasons in Detroit -- 1984-92 -- and was a lifetime .258 hitter in 17 big-league seasons with the New York Yankees, Houston Astros, San Francisco Giants and Tigers.

"I loved Dave Bergman," former Tiger teammate Lance Parrish said today. "Everybody on the team loved him. He was a great friend and a great teammate."

"It's just a sad day. We know this battle has taken every ounce of strength and energy to fight. It's sad to see it turn out this way."

Bergman is most known for the 1984 season, when he hit .273 with seven home runs and 44 RBIs as a key member of the Tigers' most recent championship team. His most notable moment that season was a game-winning home run against the Toronto Blue Jays on June 4 at Tiger Stadium.

Bergman capped a 13-pitch at-bat with a walk-off, three-run homer into the rightfield upper deck off of Roy Lee Jackson.

"He fouled off 10 or 12 pitches," Parrish recalled. "I don't think anybody that followed us back then will forget that."

It was Bergman's first home run with the Tigers -- he was acquired that spring with closer Willie Hernandez in a three-team trade with the Philadelphia Phillies and Giants -- and none of the other 38 home runs he would hit in his Tigers career were bigger.

"I just happened to hit it right on the button," he said. "I felt extra good that at-bat. I felt if the ball was hittable, I was going to hit it."

On the field, Bergman is remembered as the consummate professional.

"He was a leader," Parrish said. "A very intelligent man who played the game the way it is supposed to be played. He played very hard and I just loved being on the field with him."

Bergman also was a master of the hidden-ball trick:

Off the field, he is remembered for the charitable work Bergman contributed to during and after his playing career in Detroit.

He played a large role in organizations such as C.A.T.C.H., a charity for kids founded by former Tigers manager Sparky Anderson, and youth baseball around the area, most notably the Grosse Pointe Redbirds youth baseball club, which he founded.

He also was a board member of the Joe Niekro Foundation, which supports research for and awareness for brain aneurysms. Niekro was a teammate of Bergman with the Astros and one of his best friends.

"He was a class act," said longtime Bergman friend and coworker Robert Bilke, who visited with him Friday. "A true professional. He was giving in his ways and he served the kids. Anybody that needed him, he'd go out of his way to help."

The Evanston, Ill., native is survived by his wife, Cathy, and children, Troy, Bria and Erica.

Funeral arrangements have not been finalized. The family asks that memorial contributions be made to the Grosse Pointe Redbirds baseball organization.