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Tuesday February 1, 2011 10:04 pm

Behind the plate with Bill Bergen




Posted by Adrien Griffin Categories: Athletes, MLB,

Bill BergenBill Bergen isn’t a name you would recognize. He was a catcher in the majors from 1901 until 1911. After playing three seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, he moved over to Brooklyn to suit up with the Dodgers for the rest of his career. What makes him notable though is his .170 batting average over 3,228 plate appearances throughout his career. This is a record for players with more than 2,500 plate appearances; one of many records that Bergen unfortunately holds.

Bergen’s claim to fame was his incredible defensive skills; polar opposite of his offensive prowess. His career .972 fielding percentage – with a high of .989 in 1908; a record at the time – is incredible in an era dominated by pitchers. He also threw out six batters in one game, also setting a record. Unfortunately, he also set records in 1909 for the worst average, hitting .139, and for the longest hitless streak for a non-pitcher with 46 consecutive at-bats.

How would Bill Bergen fair in the current era of baseball? You might think somebody would give him a chance, but his complete inability to hit might put off every team in the league. With two career home runs coming eight years apart from one another, you wouldn’t likely see a lot of pop from his bat, and with guys like Joe Mauer, Buster Posey and Victor Martinez running wild, there might not be a lot of room for Bergen.

It’s a fact that today’s MLB is dominated by offense, regardless of defensive skills. Most people love to see a flashy play with the glove, but they’ll trade that for a solo home run any day of the week. First basemen are supposed to be power hitters, even if that means they can’t handle throws in the dirt at first. Bill Bergen was a rare kind of player, one who showed that talent behind the plate could be worth more than talent at the plate; at least until he was finally let go from the Dodgers.

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