September 05, 2012

Bless You, Bergie

Dave Bergman, 1986 Topps

When I was a kid and daydreamed about the time when I would be a big leaguer, this is pretty much exactly how I pictured myself—waiting patiently for BP, wearing a sweet wristband and rocking the Blue Blockers, a sliver of my well-groomed yet unkempt mustache glistening in the sunshine, staring off into the distance, hero-like, with a “What? You want to mess with this?” attitude. When I was a kid, I was Dave Bergman. When I was a kid, I was a man.

There are a few cool anecdotes re: Bergman. Born in Illinois, he was drafted by his hometown Cubs out of high school but instead chose to get an education. As someone who maintains a great respect for education and learning about stuff, allow me to say, NEEEEEEERD! If I had been drafted by the Yankees out of high school, I would not have been able to sign fast enough. As it is I cannot remember anything I supposedly learned during high school or college. Besides, doesn't society just open its doors for former athletes anyway? But seriously kids, stay in school.

Bergman later would fulfill my own pipe dream by getting drafted by the Yankees, at which point he killed it in the minors, so obviously the Yankees traded him. He got traded again--twice in one day, in fact--landing with the eventual WS champion '84 Tigers. During that season Bergman had, according to manager Sparky Anderson, the greatest at-bat ever. Wiki:

On June 4, 1984, Bergman came to bat in the 11th inning with two men on base and two outs in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Bergman fouled off seven pitches, and on a full count hit the 13th pitch of the at bat into the upper deck at Tiger Stadium for a walk-off, three-run home run. In his book, Bless You Boys, Detroit manager, Sparky Anderson, wrote, "Tonight I saw the greatest at bat in my life...Bergie fouled off seven pitches and then picked one practically off the ground and drilled it into the upper deck in right. What a battle! Bergie was up there a full seven minutes.

I love baseball anecdotes like that. I haven't read Bless You Boys, but does the whole thing read like a diary?

Chapter 6
Tonight I saw the greatest at-bat of my life ...

Chapter 8
Today I ate three bananas and then became constipated ...

Chapter 17
Sorry I didn't write yesterday. I was busy. Anyway, yesterday Bergie said something funny that I can't write down or else I'll get in trouble. It was about Polish people. Gibby and Louie were cracking up.


He hit a career high .294 for the Tigers in 1988, and in August 1989, he broke up a Nolan Ryan no-hitter with a one-out single in the 9th inning.

A memorable walk-off home run, a World Series title, and breaking up a Nolan Ryan no-no would be more than enough for me live off of. Actually, a walk-off home run would be enough. I would never want to be responsible for breaking up a Nolan Ryan no-hitter because I would fear for my life the rest of my life. That is the kind of man I actually grew up to be.

In 2001 Bergman took part in an online interview with Ray Kerby in which either Kerby, while editing, or Bergman, while communicating, used a ton of exclamation points. Sampler:

I just enjoyed playing all sports!
I liked them because they were playing for the Cubs!
College allowed me to grow up in a controlled environment!
It took hard work and perserverance!
Joe Niekro is today my best friend!
I had no idea, but I was glad to be traded to Detroit!
I looked for a breaking ball and I got it!
I love working with kids!

Bergie seems like a happy dude. And who can blame him? He lived the dream.

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