Former Astro Bergman dies at 61
DETROIT -- Longtime first baseman Dave Bergman, who played in parts of 17 Major League seasons, including a stint with the Astros, died Monday morning at age 61.
"We are saddened to learn of the passing of Dave Bergman," the Astros said in a statement. "To those that played with him, Dave was known as a leader and great teammate, and for his charitable efforts. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Dave's family and many friends throughout the game and beyond."
Enos Cabell, a special assistant to the general manager for the Astros, played with Bergman on three different teams.
"Everybody loved Dave," Cabell said in the Astros' statement. "He was a longtime friend and a great, great guy. We served together on the Board of the Joe Niekro Foundation. He cared about people. You won't find anyone with anything bad to say about Dave. He was that type of person."
Bergman was a key player on the Tigers' 1984 World Series championship team and went on to become a key contributor to the Detroit community. The Tigers confirmed Bergman's death, reported to have followed a long battle with bile duct cancer.
"It is with heavy hearts we extend our condolences to the family of Dave Bergman," the Tigers said in a statement. "Dave was as spirited 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."
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 June 4, 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 with the club, 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.
"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.
His contribution in the clubhouse, according to Trammell, was just as important.
"I think all of us consider him one of our best teammates," Jack Morris said. "Bergman was a guy who knew his role. He was a competitor and just a good person too. He could laugh at himself. Therefore it was easy, when he was joking with you, you knew that he could take it too."
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 World Series 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."
Saddened to hear about the loss of Dave Bergman. A great friend who took his success and used it time and again to give back to others.- Jeff Daniels (@Jeff_Daniels) February 2, 2015
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."
Bergman was also a board member of the Joe Niekro Foundation to support patients and families, research, treatment and awareness of brain aneurysms.
"He just had one of those personalities that he always had time for you," Brookens said. "Bergie's the kind of guy, if you needed something, he was there."
Bergman appeared at Comerica Park last summer for the 30-year reunion of the 1984 club, and he took part in Tigers fantasy camp for several years.
Trammell kept in touch with Bergman regularly. He said he last saw Bergman a week and a half ago, stopping at Bergman's house on his way back 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."