Dave Bergman spent nine seasons in Detroit and is a part of Tiger lore. He had the single greatest at bat Sparky Anderson ever witnessed. However, Bergman’s dramatic game winning home run on a June night in 1984 represents only a single moment in his Tiger career. Over nine Tiger seasons, Bergman was both a full time and part time player and valuable cog on the bench and in the clubhouse.
The Cubs drafted Dave Bergman out of high school, but he decided to attend college. He worked to become an All American at Illinois State leading the Yankees to draft the prospect. The 22-year-old debuted with New York in 1975 and played 12 games over two seasons. The Yankees traded him to Houston in 1977 and the Astros shipped him to San Francisco in 1981.
In 1984, Bergman landed in Detroit. The Giants traded him to Philadelphia where he was packaged with Willie Hernandez for Glenn Wilson. Bergman played solid first base and emerged a valuable pinch and clutch hitter. On June 4, 1984, the first baseman fouled off seven pitches in a 13-pitch at bat before launching a three-run walk off home run against Toronto. At that point, some worried the Blue Jays might overtake Detroit. However, Bergman’s blast helped soothe fan concerns. The Tigers cruised to the world championship.
Bergman hit .273 with seven home runs and a career best 44 RBI in 1984. Injuries limited Bergman the next couple of seasons and many noted the void in the clubhouse and on the field when he was away. For example, the sly infielder fooled Alan Wiggins with the hidden ball trick in 1986.
The first baseman returned to play 91 games in 1987 helping the Tigers to the AL East title. In 1988, Bergman hit a career high .294 with 35 RBI. The next season, the Tiger played in a career best 137 games and hit .268. The highlight of his season came when he broke up Nolan Ryan’s no-hit bid in August.
Bergman’s time as the starting first baseman proved short. Detroit signed Cecil Fielder and “Bergie” returned to the bench. He appeared in 100 games, 86 games, and 87 games in his final three seasons. Over that period, his production fell off with age. He hit .278, .237, and .232. He retired at age 39.
Dave Bergman had his fill of highlights as a Tiger. He joined the squad in 1984 and had the key hit of the 1984 regular season. Additionally, Bergman broke up a Nolan Ryan no-hit bid and pulled the hidden ball trick on Alan Wiggins. Reporters and teammates lauded Bergman’s clubhouse presence and noted his absences when he was recuperating from injuries. Overall, Bergman’s nine years in Detroit made him a fixture at Tiger Stadium and in the community.