Monday, February 2, 2015

RIP '84 Tiger Dave Bergman

I was saddened today to learn of the passing of former Tigers 1B Dave Bergman.  A member of the '84 champs, he was apparently struggling with bile duct cancer for a while until succumbing at the age of 61.

I actually saw one of Bergman's final appearances with the Tigers during the '84 team's 30th reunion last year, and though I couldn't make him out from my left field seats, he was definitely looking run down, almost unrecognizable, even:
Despite his tragic passing, this seems like a great time to remember a guy not everyone outside of Detroit was familiar with, but still a player that was important to his Tigers teammates and fans.

Dave was a second-round pick of the Yankees back in 1974 out of Illinois State.  He appeared in just 12 games in parts of two seasons with the Bombers, then was sent to the Astros as a PTBNL late in 1977.  After three-plus seasons in Houston he was flipped to the Giants in 1981, and there he enjoyed a pretty solid three years.  Still, in March of '84 he was on the move once again, traded to the Phillies, then to Detroit (along with ace closer and Cy Young/MVP-winner Willie Hernandez) on the same day (essentially a three-team deal).

Detroit would prove to be his home for the remainder of Bergman's career, and with the Tigers he'd average almost 100 games per year for his nine seasons in Motown, primarily as a 1B.  '84 proved to be the apex of that career, but what a high it was as he combined with slugging DH/1B Darrell Evans to form a pretty good platoon at the position for a team that roared out to a lead it never relinquished.  Although he went hitless in his five World Series ABs, he did collect a hit, steal, and run in his only plate appearance in the ALCS against the Royals.

You might think, then, that he wasn't really memorable that season, but that's where you'd be wrong.  On June 4, the Tigers faced the Blue Jays at home, and although Detroit had run out to their amazing start, Toronto wasn't that far behind.  Going into the bottom of the 10th the game was tied at 3.  New pitcher Jimmy Key allowed a single to Lance Parrish, who moved up to second on a Darrell Evans bunt.  Roy Lee Jackson came on and got Rusty Kuntz to ground out, then walked Chet Lemon.  With 2 on and 2 out, Bergman stepped to the plate.  The players battled back and forth for 12 pitches, and then #13 proved lucky for the batter as Bergman launched a moon shot into the right field upper deck.  The game-winner was his first career Tigers homer and it couldn't have come at a better time.  Check out the video here for yourself:

I still get goosebumps thinking about that season and I was only a year old!

So while he wasn't the most famous, even locally, the game and the world are poorer today with his passing.  As my way of remembering him, here are the 19 Bergman cards I could find in my collection:
His '78 Topps RC (what a set for Tigers rookies!) gets its own scan because it's great.  As I mentioned, he'd been shipped to Houston from New York, so he gets an Astros hat on this card.  Joining him is future Rockies/Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.
This bunch is a mix of singles and cards I have from complete sets.  In order they are:  '85 Topps, '86 Topps, '87 Donruss, '87 Topps, '88 Donruss, '88 Topps, '89 Donruss, '89 Fleer, and '89 Topps.  The '85 Topps is my favorite since it includes his stats from the championship season.
Continuing the collection are cards from:  '89 Upper Deck, '90 Bowman, '90 Donruss, '90 Fleer, '90 Leaf, '90 Score, '90 Upper Deck, '91 Donruss, and '92 Score.  Although he'd go on to play 87 games during the '92 season he never got a farewell card in any of the 1993 products.

Rest in peace, Dave, and thanks for everything you did for this team and the game, from a Tigers fan who will always remember you well.

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