|Died||May 10, 2011 (aged 89)|
Louis William Bergesch (June 17, 1921 – May 10, 2011) was an American Major League Baseball executive. He was a front office executive for several teams.
He was a native of St. Louis, Missouri. He attended Washington University prior to Pearl Harbor, but joined the US Army in 1942. He graduated from Washington University in 1946, after having served in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy, where he landed at Salerno. He was wounded after crossing the Rapido River in January, 1944, during what became known as the Battle of Monte Cassino. He was returned to the US and discharged from service 15 June 1944. In his career at Washington University, both before and after World War II, he played varsity football (pre-war,) basketball, and track, and graduated with a degree in Business Administration. He married Virginia Kammerer, another graduate of Washington University and St. Louis native, in 1947.
In 1947, Bergesch joined the St. Louis Cardinals organization. He was sent to Albany, Georgia to serve as general manager of a local franchise team owned by the Cardinals. For the next decade, he served in similar roles with other St. Louis Cardinal minor league teams, including the Omaha Cardinals, one of two AAA teams in the Cardinals minor league system. While at Omaha, Bergesch signed future Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson, from Creighton University
Bergesch was called to the St Louis head office in 1960. In 1961 he joined the joining the Kansas City Athletics, which had recently been purchased by Charles O. Finley, as Assistant General Manager to Frank Lane. In 1962 Bergesch joined the New York Mets prior to their first season, as Assistant General Manager and Director of Minor League Operations; where he was largely responsible for building a farm system for the new team.
In 1964, Bergesch joined the New York Yankees as Stadium Manager. Prior to the beginning of the season, the Yankees' Traveling Secretary Bruce Henry was stricken with a serious illness; as a result, Bergesch was given the additional responsibilities until Henry's return late in the season. He remained with the Yankees during the CBS era through 1968.
He became President of the New York Generals, the New York franchise of the first professional soccer league in the US, in 1968. The soccer league played for two seasons, then was disbanded in favor of the North American Soccer League (NASL). Bergesch at this point moved to the New York Cosmos soccer team where his greatest accomplishment was to be the successful signing of Brazilian soccer legend Pelé out of semi-retirement to play in America for the New York Cosmos.
Bergesch rejoined the Yankees in 1977 as Director of Scouting. He was promoted to Vice President of Baseball Operations – and served in actuality as General Manager in 1983, although he retain the previous title.
He left the Yankees in 1984, moving to Cincinnati as Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Cincinnati Reds. In 1984 the Reds finished 5th in the NL west, but finished 2nd in 1985, 1986, and 1987. During his tenure, Pete Rose was the field Manager, but was also a listed as a player on the Reds roster through the 1986 season, when he set the all-time MLB record for base hits. Bergesch attempted to build the team around a core of highly regarded young players, in addition to veterans like Dave Parker and Terry Francona. However, he was unable to capitalize on an excess of young and highly touted position players including Kurt Stillwell, Tracy Jones, and Kal Daniels by trading them for pitching. Despite the emergence of Tom Browning as Rookie of the Year in 1985, winning 20 games, the rotation was devastated by the early demise of Mario Soto's career to arm injury. Bergesch was fired just prior to Spring training in 1988.
Bergesch rejoined the Yankees in 1991, first on a consulting basis, and then more formally, although his responsibilities were only loosely defined. Bill Madden in his book "Steinbrenner" depicts Bergesch as having a backroom advisory presence during this period, which set the stage for the Yankees' periods of dominance later in the decade. Bergesch formally retired in early 1997.
While his health permitted, he enjoyed attending Spring training and regular season games. After the death of his wife Virginia, he moved to Stamford, Connecticut in 2006. Bergesch died on May 10, 2011, a month before his 90th birthday.