For his career, Bergman had the distinction of finishing with more walks (380) than strikeouts (347). His best season arguably came in 1984, where he hit .273, 7, 44 in 120 games for the Tigers. In 1989, Anderson once again gave him the starting job at 1B, where he hit.268, 7, 37 in 137 games at age 36. For a man known as an excellent utility player, I find it amazing that the total amount of pinch hits accumulated during his career is not readily available. As always, if anybody can successfully look this up for me, I would really appreciate it. Either comment in the section below or send me a tweet @john_pielli.
Bergman was originally drafted by the Chicago Cubs out of high school, deciding not to sign to attend Illinois State University. After three years of college, he was drafted in the 2nd round by the New York Yankees. In spring training of 1976, manager Billy Martin called Bergman "the worst player to ever put on a uniform." Martin would later gain respect for the first baseman after trying to pull Bergman off a pile during a bench clearing fight. But ultimately, Bergman's fortunes would change for the better when he was traded to the Houston Astros, the first of three major trades that would benefit the team he was traded to, or simply not benefit the team he was being traded from.
It was June of 1977 that the Yankees and Astros agreed on a trade that sent 1B Cliff Johnson to the Yankees for infielder Mike Fischin and LHP Randy Niemann. Bergman was supposed to be the player to be named later in the deal. Bergman would finish the 1977 season as property of the Yankees, getting 4 ABs as a September callup. The Yankees claimed that Johnson was damaged goods and owner George Steinbrenner felt Johnson's value was not the same. Therefore, he felt Bergman should stay with the Yankees. After the season, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn awarded Bergman to the Astros, where he would remain for 3 and a half seasons. Bergman was still technically part of the 1977 World Series Champion team though he was not on the postseason roster. Johnson would be part of both the 1977 and 1978 WS Championship teams but was traded in 1979 after a locker room fight with Goose Goosage resulted in the star reliever being shelved for two months. It was this time that the Astros started to gain prominence. Bergman started to settle in his role as a reserve player.
Bergman was involved in a very underrated trade in April of 1981. He was dealt to the Giants, along with OF Jeffrey Leonard, for infielder Mike Ivie, the number one overall pick in the 1970 draft by the Padres. Ivie never reached his potential and of course, Leonard became one of the top offensive players for the Giants over the next several season. Bergman continued his success as a reserve player for the Giants, with a couple very good seasons in 1982 and 1983.
Towards the end of spring training in 1984, it seemed Bergman was one of the odd men out, leaving him on the outside of the roster looking in. The Giants agreed to trade him to the Philadelphia Phillies, for Alejandro Sanchez, an OF with minor league options. The Phillies traded Bergman the same day to the Detroit Tigers, along with a LHP by the name of Willie Hernandez, who would of course win the 1984 AL Cy Young and MVP Awards, for OF Glenn Wilson (guest on Passed Ball Show) and veteran infielder John Wockenfuss. Wilson would emerge as an All Star for the Phillies, but Wockenfuss was at the end of his career. Bergman, himself, would play a huge role for the Tigers in the 1984 World Series Championship season. In addition, he would remain a Tigers role player (and part time starting 1B) for the next 9 seasons. Ironically, Sanchez, the OF traded from the Phillies to the Giants, had his biggest cup of major league coffee in 1985... for the Tigers.
It is a fact that the three teams that traded for Bergman benefited from each deal. However, only the Tigers reaped the noticeable benefits from gaining Bergman in the deal. It is not to say that Bergman did not help the Astros or Giants. It was with the Astros and manager Bill Virdon that Bergman first accepted his role as a utility player. Ironically, Johnson himself became a good pinch hitter, clubbing 20 PH HR over the course of his career. Being part of a deal with the Giants that got them Jeffrey Leonard became a big deal, because Leonard would be a legitimate power threat in the Giants lineup from 1983-1987 (he was traded during the 1988 season). And he was also part of the deal that netted the Tigers Hernandez, especially for what Willie did for them.
Over the course of his 17 year career, Bergman hit .258 with 54 HR, 289 RBI and 690 career hits. He won a World Series in 1984 with the Tigers, appearing as a pinch hitter in all 5 WS games. He was one of 36 players to appear in a game for the 1977 Yankees team that won the WS. Though he may have never been awarded a share and never got a ring in NY, he still appeared for that team. His impact was felt on the 1984 Tigers team; he was the starting 1B for the majority of the season while Darrell Evans DHed and played 3B. In the postseason, Evans played 1B, with Marty Castillo at 3B and Barbaro Garbey and Johnny Grubb (guest on the Passed Ball Show) DHed. Bergman would remain in this role for the majority of his 9 seasons in Detroit. He retired before the 1993 season and stayed close to Anderson as well as former MLB RHP Joe Niekro prior to both of their passings. RIP Dave Bergman, a man who will be missed in the eyes of the Detroit Tigers, their fans and throughout all of Major League Baseball.