Bill Bergen

From BR Bullpen


William Aloysius Bergen

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 6' 0", Weight 184 lb.

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Biographical Information[edit]

Bill Bergen only once got off the Interstate in eleven major league seasons. He earned his keep by being a terrific defensive catcher.

His best hitting season came in 1903, when he hit .227 in 58 games for the Cincinnati Reds. However, the season came to an abrupt end on July 30th when he had a finger knocked out of its joint by a foul tip off the bat of Frank Chance and his tendons were damaged. Umpire Augie Moran managed to pop the finger back in place and bandaged the wound, but he was done for the season. He never came close to hitting as well after that, but still managed to play another 8 seasons thanks to his defensive skills.

He holds a number of records for bad hitting, such as an 0 for 44 streak with the Brooklyn Superbas in 1909. This was the longest hitless streak by a non-pitcher for over 100 years; pitcher Bob Buhl holds the overall record at 0 for 87, including 0 for 70 in one season. When Craig Counsell went 0 for 44 with the Milwaukee Brewers in early August 2011, it brought new attention to Bergen's streak, which was then thought to have been 45 at-bats. SABR researcher Joe Dittmar reviewed the play-by-play data for that season and confirmed that Bergen's streak was in fact 44 at-bats, meaning Counsell tied him. The record was broken by another player, Eugenio Velez, that season and is currently held by Chris Davis. Bergen also has the lowest career batting average (.170) of any position player (non-pitcher) with 1,000+ at bats, and the lowest average of anyone with more than 2,000 plate appearances (pitchers included). He kept his "best" for last, as his final three seasons are the worst of his career in terms of OPS and in fact the worst three seasons by any position player with 250 or more plate appearances since 1893. He dominates that leaderboard, being single-handedly responsible for 6 of the worst 10 seasons of all-time.

Bill's glove kept him in business. Despite never being a "full-time" player, he ranks ninth all-time in assists by a catcher. In a game on August 23, 1909, against the St. Louis Cardinals, he set a record that still stands by throwing out six base runners attempting to steal. That season, he threw out 138 baserunners trying to steal while playing in only 112 games. Total Baseball ranks him the fifth-best defensive catcher of all-time. By the measure of win shares, Bergen was the second best catcher of his time, trailing only Ossee Schreckengost.

Bill's minor league career stretched from 1898 to 1917 and afterwards he managed semi-pro teams. He was the brother of catcher Marty Bergen.

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