I have been a fan of the Detroit Tigers since the Summer of 1984. That means I am lucky enough to vividly remember my baseball team winning a World Series title, and waiting for them to win another. Since every year the team itself asks me who my Tiger is I decided to write about my favorite 25 Tigers since I became a fan…at eight years old…This has less to do with performance as it does with whatever intangible qualities Tigers’ players have…I mean this is the town that loved Brandon Inge and Don Kelly…and no neither one of those players will make my list…With all of that being said…
#20 First Baseman/Designated Hitter Dave Bergman
Dave Bergman was never the star. He was a piece…and he makes my list of 25 favorite Tigers for two very different reasons. The first is the absolute fleecing of the Philadelphia Phillies that occurred before the 1984 season. The Tigers sent Glenn Wilson and Johnny Wockenfuss to Philly for Willie Hernandez and Bergman. All Willie would do was win the American League MVP and Cy Young awards…and Bergman became a key piece on the bench and as a DH for the team.
Every one of my teams that has won a National Title has had a moment like this. The Bad Boy Detroit Pistons were home grown for the most part and then they traded for Mark Aguirre and that move put them over the top. The 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings were largely home grown and then they traded for Brendan Shanahan and that put them over the top. This is the deal that took a very good Tigers club and put them over the top…so far over the top they were the best team in baseball by a very wide margin.
This is how I see championship teams being built…and although we are in a different era of baseball now I still believe that a good percentage of your core team has to be home grown…then a wise General Manager has to make a deal or sign a key free agent to get that core over the top.
Bergman’s role on the team was utility guy. He was a part of one of the deepest benches in recent baseball history. He would spell Darrell Evans at first, and Kirk Gibson in right. He would also serve as the DH. He never put up huge stats but he performed when needed and would be with the Tigers through the end of his career in 1992.
The other reason I love this guy so much is for one at bat…and I cannot even remember what season it was from…however when I talk about this one particular at bat old time Tigers fans know exactly what I am talking about. Bergman had worked a full count…and then fouled off something like 15 pitched before finally getting a big hit. He just battled the pitcher…till his will and skill at the plate got him his desired result. As a young sports fan it was a very important lesson to learn.
Dave was not the star, but he had a role and he did what was expected of him. That was a very important lesson I learned when I began to play sports and much later when I started coaching sports. Numbers aside Dave Bergman taught me those lessons and I remember his time here in Detroit with a great fondness.