The Oakland A's family lost a member last May when longtime sportswriter Ron Bergman passed away at the age of 80. At the time, Athletics Nation member "nativetexanasfan" wrote a wonderful tribute, from the perspective of both a fan and also a co-worker.
It has been nearly a year since Bergman passed. However, for one person, the approach of Opening Day makes things hit home like it was just yesterday. Bergman's daughter, Anne, contacted me to share some memories of her time at the ballpark with "Pops," and I'm excited to share her story with you. Thank you so much to Anne for passing along these wonderful memories, and I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did. And Anne, if you find yourself feeling blue anytime during the season, don't hesitate to drop by Athletics Nation and talk some ball with the folks in our community -- we'll have you feeling green & gold again in no time!
By Anne Bergman
"It's Bergie...and Little Bergie!" And with that greeting from Oakland A's centerfielder Billy North, I had my very own nickname.
Like most weekends when the A's were playing a day game at the Oakland Coliseum, I had tagged along with my Pops, Ron Bergman, a sportswriter who was the original Oakland A's beat writer. He covered the team during the 1970s and into the 80s for the Oakland Tribune and chronicled their legendary antics in a book "The Mustache Gang."
Here's what I would bring to the ballpark: My mitt, Kelly green and gold felt A's cap, some homework or a paperback to keep me occupied after the game when Pops would bang out his story on his blue portable Underwood typewriter. And by bang out, I mean bang out. He was so forceful on the keys that a few of them had melted.
"Little Bergie!" My nine-year-old heart was full of joy! Pops was Bergie at the ballpark and now I had my very own nickname, even if it was just an offshoot of his.
Pre-game, I could observe Bergie as he interviewed players and coaches, on the field, hip jutted out at an angle, so his "good" ear was facing them, taking notes in his narrow reporter's notebook with a black Flair pen. He had taught himself shorthand, and his scribbles were indecipherable to anyone but him.
I'd wait in the dugout shade. If I were lucky, the equipment manager would slip me some bubble gum and baseball cards. I used to sell the gum to neighborhood kids, but I kept the cards for myself.
Post-game, I waited on a metal folding chair in the tunnel outside the locker room, as girls were forbidden inside. One time Reggie Jackson jogged by in his skivvies. "I didn't know there were ladies present," he intoned apologetically.
Sometimes the players would stop to chat. Cy Young winner Vida Blue would crouch down to my level to ask me how I was doing in school. Eventual Hall-of-Famer Catfish Hunter fed me the load-of-bull story that A's owner Charlie Finley had crafted on how he'd received his nickname. Veteran reliever Mudcat Grant gave me a 45 single of himself reading poetry. When he was a New York Yankee, Jackson bestowed upon us a case of Reggie candy bars that we kept in our freezer.
I realized what a charmed life I was leading one afternoon during spring training. I was on the field interviewing Hank Aaron, Billy Williams and Jackson (then an Athletic) for a third grade school project (my teachers always gave me assignments to complete during spring training that involved asking the players questions. One year it was "Who Was Your Hero When You Were a Kid?" another, it was "What Do You Eat for Breakfast?").
As I turned around to head back to my spot in the stands behind the dugout, I saw a girl about my age. She had her face smashed against the chain link fence. She was sticking her tongue out and scowling at me with incredible rage. I'm sure if she could have, she would have flipped me off too. Wow, she sure hates me, I remember thinking.
Everyone else was always gracious about me being at the park. No one ever made me, a freckle-faced red-haired girl in pigtails, ever feel like I didn't belong, even in the press box, where there were strict rules. I had to stay in my spot in the uppermost corner. And I was not allowed to cheer.
Even when they were a championship team, the A's had trouble filling the seats at the Coliseum. So on sunny days, Bergie would lead me from my dark corner down into the stands to "follow the sun." The ushers all knew Bergie, so we knew it was kosher to hang out for a few innings in unoccupied seats. That's where he taught me how to keep a box score. To this day when a batter strikes out looking, I think "backwards K."
This will be my first baseball season without Pops. He passed away last year on May 28. That evening, the A's paid tribute to him at the Oakland Coliseum with a moment of silence and a billboard display. I live in L.A., so I couldn't be there. But one of Bergie's sportswriter friends phoned me from that familiar press box. As I listened in, I felt like I'd never left my spot in the uppermost corner.