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Thread: Marty Bergen, Murder/Suicide

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    Marty Bergen, Murder/Suicide

    Marty Bergen, Murder/Suicide

    FAMILY

    Martin Bergen was born on October 25, 1871 in North Brookfield, Massachusetts to Michael and Ann (nee Delaney) Bergen. Michael and Ann were both born in Ireland, immigrating to the United States (all the children were born in Massachusetts) in 1865 at the end of the Civil War. Michael worked in a shoe factory.

    The family consisted of:
    Michael, born in April 1840
    Ann, born circa 1844
    Mary, born circa 1867
    Margaret, born circa 1870
    Martin
    Ann, born circa 1874
    Catherine (Katie), born circa 1876
    William, born on June 13, 1878

    William (Bill) would also play in the majors from 1901-11 for Cincinnati and Brooklyn. Bill, a catcher, learned the trade from his brother Marty, nearly seven years older. Both Bergen brothers would be hailed as one of the finest catchers of their time. In Bill’s case this might be especially so since he was one of the poorest hitters in major league history.

    The Bergen family remained in and around North Brookfield. Ann, Marty’s mother, passed away in 1884. At the time of Marty’s death:
    -Michael was living near Marty’s farm in North Brookfield
    -William was living with his sister Margaret and her family in North Brookfield. He had recently played for Fort Wayne in the Interstate League.
    -Mary Mulvey was living with her family in Brookfield
    -Margaret McEvoy was living with her family in North Brookfield
    -Ann Meaney was living with her family in Worcester
    -Katie Bergen was living in East Brookfield

    BASEBALL

    In 1892 at age 20 Bergen (5’10”, 170 lbs.) joined Salem in the local New England League, his first professional club. During the off-season before and after 1892, Bergen played on his local club, known as the Brookfields. Connie Mack, also a North Brookfield resident, was at times his teammate. In 1893 Bergen joined Northampton (MA), an independent club and played for Wilkes-Barre in the Eastern League. At the end of that season he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates, managed by Connie Mack.

    The Pirates assigned Bergen to Lewiston in the New England League for seasoning in 1894. Unfortunately, the practice of farming wasn’t legal at this time in baseball history, so Bergen’s contract was void. At the end of the year he was drafted by both Washington of the National League and the Kansas City Cowboys of the Western League. Baseball officials assigned Bergen to Kansas City.

    Kansas City president and field manager Jimmy Manning became exasperated with Bergen. He was moody and a malcontent player. In mid-season Bergen walked away from the club for a week while it was in Minneapolis over some supposed slight. Manning was relieved at the end of the year when his catcher was drafted by the Boston Beaneaters of the National League. Before Bergen would join Boston, team owner Arthur Soden had to make a trip to North Brookfield to convince the player that he was valued and would be treated well.

    Bergen played for Boston from 1896-99. He gained a reputation as one of the best catchers in the league. One Sporting News article described him as “the greatest throwing catcher that the game ever produced.” Connie Mack stated that Bergen was the only catcher he’d seen gun down a base stealer at second from his knees.

    From 1896-99 Bergen caught 65, 87, 120 and 72 games, respectively, for Boston. Each year he led the team in games caught. Boston finished fourth during Bergen’s rookie season. In both 1897 and ’98 they copped the pennant, before finishing second by eight games in 1899. In 1897 Boston lost the Temple Cup series (which ran from 1894-97) to Baltimore, 4-1.

    Despite his catching abilities, Bergen was often the topic of trade rumors because of his moodiness, melancholy, inability to mesh with teammates and penchant for sulking and leaving the club. However, not all the trade rumors started that way. New York Giants’ owner Andrew Freedman coveted Bergen, trying to work a trade for the catcher on more than a few occasions. At the time of Bergen’s death, most within the game assumed that Bergen would be playing for the Giants in 1901.

    TROUBLES WITH TEAMMATES

    Even as a teenager, Bergen showed signs of anxiety and stress. He would become moody, pout and storm off if he felt that he wasn’t getting his fair share of applause. In 1891, his first professional season, he engaged in a brutal fist fight with one of his teammates. As will be common throughout Bergen’s career, his teammate’s slight was merely imagined on Bergen’s end.

    During his time in Boston, Bergen would have several run-ins with teammates and opponents. These external conflicts were merely manifestations of his internal struggles. (Bergen’s thoughts here will be discussed in a later section.) Newspapers commonly referred to Bergen in terms of his erratic behavior. They would describe him as “sullen and silent” and highlight his moodiness, aloofness and inaccessibility.

    Near the end of the 1898 season Bergen threatened his teammates after an altercation on the bench. He declared that he would “club them to death” at the end of the season. On July 20 or 21, 1899 the Boston team was traveling with the New York Giants by train headed to Cincinnati (The Giants were headed to St. Louis.) The men were having a good time playing cards and such. Bergen sat quiet and withdrawn away from the players. The train stopped for a layover in Washington D.C. After the train restarted, Bergen wasn’t aboard. The men looked outside to see him walking away from the terminal. He had jumped the club, returning home to North Brookfield.

    To reporters, Bergen made the following claims:
    -that his teammates were hounding him
    -that at least four of his teammates shouted, “Strike him out!” when he was at bat
    -that his teammates and team owner Soden were avoiding him
    -that he was upset because manager Frank Selee wouldn’t give him a day off to visit with his family
    -that he was upset that he was fined $300 for jumping the club
    -that he did not like the tone of a telegram that he received from Soden during his absence
    -that he was injured and could only be cared for by his lifelong, local doctor and friend (Dr. Louis Dionne).

    In addition to the above Bergen registered numerous complaints about his teammates. On the other end it should be noted that Bergen’s bizarre reactions took a toll on his teammates. By the end of 1899, most did not want him to return to the club. Some were seriously concerned about their safety around the disgruntled player.

    During this time Freedman made one of his many bids for Bergen; however, Soden took the catcher back for the pennant stretch. Bergen rejoined the club on August 4 when the men returned to Boston.

    When the team was at home in Boston, Bergen always spent the night at his farm. There, the neighbors said he would play with his children all day, rarely associating with the neighbors. Throughout the 1899 season, Bergen pestered Selee for time off to return to his family. He would play a few games and then ask for time off to return home. The cycle repeated itself throughout the season. For his part, Bergen was probably trying to grasp onto the one thing that made him peace and happiness – his children. From the other perspective, Selee must have been at the end of his rope with the player.

    BROKEN HIP

    It has been written and rewritten numerous times that Bergen suffered a broken hip at the end of the 1899 season. The story goes that this sent him into a depression (as it threatened the survival of his career) which spiraled into the tragedy of January 1900. However, this doesn’t seem to match my research:

    1) Bergen did have an operation for an unknown ailment in January 1899; even if that was a hip problem, it didn’t stop him from playing the entire year with the club. Nor were there stories evident about any such injury during the 1899 season.
    2) Bergen played the entire game on October 13, the next to last day of the season. He hit a double in the sixth inning and scored the game’s only run in a 1-0 defeat of Philadelphia. Boston was the home team, so Bergen caught in the ninth but the team did not bat. He was not hurt in the game.
    3) Bergen did not play in the final game of the year on October 14. Bill Merritt caught the final game of his career.
    4) Bergen went home at the end of the season and had a discussion with his doctor at some point shortly after the season. In an extensive interview about Bergen’s health in the January 27, 1900 issue of the Sporting News, Dr. Dionne did not mention Bergen’s hip.
    5) Bergen was the subject of trade rumors during the off-season. He was mentioned several times in the major newspapers. He was expected to go to Cincinnati, Chicago or New York. The Giants seemed to have the inside track, as Freedman had at some point secured a promise from Soden for a first crack at the player. None of the articles mentioned any problem with Bergen’s hip.
    6) In January 1900 a sportswriter visited Bergen at his farm. The resulting article made comments about the farm and the fact that Bergen preferred reading farm catalogues in his leisure instead of sporting periodicals. No mention was made of the catcher’s hip.
    7) A healthy hip is essential to a catcher. One would be fairly certain that a major injury to such would have been mentioned in any of the above.

    FAMILY

    In 1892 Harriet (Hattie) Gaines, three to four years older than Bergen, moved to North Brookfield from New York State (The name of the town is illegible from the Sporting News article. All I can discern is that the name ends in “field.”) She had secured a position at the local shoe factory and became a boarder at the home of Rufus and Maria Ingraham on Central Street.

    Hattie met and then married Bergen in Worcester in 1893. After their marriage the moved into the Ingraham home. A few years later, the Bergens purchased a small farm (called Snowball Farm) on Boynton Street from a John Smith, not far from the Ingrham residence. The property included a small 1.5 story house which became the family’s home. (Drawings of the home, inside and out, can be seen on page 3 of the Sporting News issue of January 27, 1900)

    The couple had three children: Martin born circa 1894, Florence born in either 1894 or ’95 and Joseph born in either 1896 or 1897. (The age of the children is contradicted in the many articles following their deaths. They died before a Census could be taken, establishing an accessible record.)

    Mrs. Ingraham stated that Hattie was a very nice lady but that Bergen was “fussy and continually finding fault” with his wife; however, Hattie rarely seemed to confide any displease within her marriage.

    A TROUBLED MIND

    Bergen had always seemed to be a moody guy. He was frequently described as sullen, quiet, morose, melancholy and depressed or any number of similar descriptive phrases. The ballplayers was also said to be paranoid and suffering from hallucinations and feelings of persecution.

    In January 1899 he underwent an operation which required him to be under anesthesia (ether) for four hours. His doctor and family noted that he never seemed to recover mentally from the operation.

    Most important to Bergen’s frail state was the death of his 5-year-old boy Martin during the summer of 1899. Naturally, Bergen was distraught over this. However, this was compounded by guilt and further melancholy over the fact that he was away from home at the time, on the road with the ball club.

    Immediately after the 1899 season, Bergen talked with his physician. Dr. Dionne said all seemed fine but he was soon hearing from family, friends and neighbors that Bergen was acting “wild.” The doctor paid him a visit, finding Bergen pacing in front of his house. It didn’t take much prodding for the ballplayer to “open his heart” in a tearful rant. He made the following statements:

    -He confessed to having “strange ideas.”
    -He was afraid that he was “not right in the head.”
    -He couldn’t remember much about the past baseball season. All he remembered was that a man came up to him after his last game and congratulated him on a fine performance and gave him a cigar. Bergen was afraid to smoke the cigar because he believed it was poisoned.
    -He was also concerned that Dionne and his wife were trying to poison him. He would not and had never taken the medicine they gave him if he didn’t first mix it himself.
    - Bergen was concerned that the National league had found out that Dionne was his doctor and had paid Dionne to kill him.
    -He described being frightened of his teammates, feeling that they were out to kill him. Bergen would typically sit sideways on the bench, in the clubhouse and on trains in an effort to be in a ready position in case his teammates decided to attack him.
    -He wished that he had quit baseball so that he could find some peace.
    -He believed that people were plotting against him – including the Boston team and other National League players.

    The doctor in all his wisdom of mental diseases gave Bergen a bromide and told him to repeat the dosage in three hours. However, the doctor did give him some advice which seemed to work. Bergen chewed and sucked on tobacco constantly. The doctor suggested that he quit the habit as it was contributing to his nervousness and anxiety. Bergen did so and felt better for a time.

    Some time later, Dionne had what he described as a nice, pleasant conversation with Bergen. Marty then got up to leave his office and said, “This has been a pleasant talk, and it is strange how it has rattle me.”

    Bergen also confided in his pastor Reverend Humphrey J. Wrenn that he believed himself to be insane and feared his own actions. He even asked for help. None was forthcoming from his doctor, priest, family or community. After Bergen’s deed of January 19, 1900, his doctor repeated made comments that Bergen was “insane” and a “maniac.” Thus, he believed that the situation was out of his control. In the wake of the tragedy a call would be made in the town to better educate the professionals and the community on mental health issues.

    JANUARY 19, 1900

    On the night of January 18, 1900, a Thursday, the Bergen family ate a hearty meal. (The sink was full of dishes in the morning.) The farm was well stocked but the cupboards were rather bare. The family went to bed, as the beds were slept in. Some time in the early morning it is assumed that Bergen arose and started preparing for the day. He first removed the ashes from the stove, the home’s primary heat source, indicating that the stove had cooled overnight. Bergen then placed paper in the stove for lighting. He hadn’t yet though retrieved wood from outside, as the inside pile was depleted. (This is how the house was found after the murders.)

    Then, all hell broke loose (We know the assault occurred in the early morning because the bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Bergen were still warm when found). Stressed and delusional, Bergen began slaughtering his family. First (per the medical examiner’s opinion), he attacked his wife in the bedroom (a bedroom with two twin beds – probably the children’s room). He hit her multiple times in the head with the blunt side of an axe. She fell, dying on one of the beds.

    Bergen then whacked his son once with the sharp side of the axe. He died on the bed as well. In the kitchen Bergen killed his daughter, hitting her multiple times in the head with the blunt end of the axe. Bergen then retrieved a razor and stood in front of a mirror in the kitchen (I guess the medical examiner assumed this because of the blood splatter). He then sliced his own throat nearly severing his head. Bergen fell beside his daughter.

    At about 9 a.m. on January 19 Michael Bergen, Marty’s father, arrived at the house from his residence not far away looking for some milk. He discovered the bloody mess, finding the bodies as described. After composing himself, he told his daughter Margaret and son William (They lived in the same household, neighbors with the soon to be mentioned Arnold Wallace) of the incident on his way to retrieving the police. Constable Arnold F. Wallace, 57, took charge of the scene. Medical Examiner E.W. Norwood was called in.

    The house was cleaned that day. On the 20th the bodies were placed in coffins and laid out in the Bergen home for family and friends to view. They were then transported to St. Joseph’s Church for the funeral ceremonies. Afterwards, they were interred in the adjoining Catholic cemetery. Marty was not given the last rites of the Catholic faith.)

    From major league baseball, only Connie Mack and Billy Hamilton, a teammate, attended the funeral. Arthur Soden, Frank Selee, team captain Hugh Duffy and the rest of the Beaneaters were confused to the date of the funeral, believing it was scheduled for the following day, January 21.

    Bergen’s pallbearers were a mix of local ballplayers, friends and former teammates:
    William B. Conroy, a ballplayer
    John Hinse (spelling?), a ballplayer
    William McNamara, former teammate
    Thomas Boyle
    Timothy Murphy
    Leonard L. Raymond, local ballplayer

    Amazingly, the estate auction was conducted within a week of the deaths. Bergen had only paid a total of $300 on the farm, owing $1,650. He carried no life insurance, though he did have $2,600 in cash.
    Last edited by Brian McKenna; 05-01-2008 at 10:15 AM.

  2. #2
    Here's a fantastic article on Bergen that was in SI:

    http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.c...2658/index.htm
    "It's good to be young and a Giant." - Larry Doyle

  3. #3
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    Here's my usual, standard Marty Bergen piece.

    Introducing Martin Bergen,---BB Reference
    Born: October 25, 1871, North Brookfield, Mass
    Died: January 19, 1900, North Brookfield, Mass., age 28
    Red Sox catcher, 1896 - 1899, 5'10", 170, BL/TL

    William B. Hanna, Oct., 1956? - Nov. 20, 1930; NY sportswriter, 1888-1930
    Bennett was great as a backstop. So were Johnny Kling, Lou Criger, Martin Bergen, Jimmy Archer, Billy Sullivan and Bill Killefer, and Doe Bushong. So are Schalk, O'Neill, Severeid, Bassler and O'Farrell, the last named one of the best of the day for all around excellence.

    None has made the intaglio-like impress of Ewing. (Baseball Magazine, June, 1924, pp. 300)

    Marty was listed on the All-Time All-Star Teams of Roger Bresnahan in 1936 and Hugh Duffy's in 1936, along with Mike "King" Kelly.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Tonight, I'd like to tell the story of Martin Bergen. It's a very interesting tale, but I warn you, it's a very sad story. A very good man, who killed. It's a story long forgotten, yet one I feel is worth remembering. A good man who fought the scourge of mental illness. May I present:

    The Sad Story of Marty Bergen.
    Chicago Daily Tribune, January 20, 1900, pp. 5
    CRIME OF A BALLPLAYER

    Martin Bergen of Boston Team Kills Self and Family

    Slays Wife and Two Children at North Brookfield, Mass., While Insane--Uses Ax and Razor--Was A Great Catcher in National League--His Strange Actions During Last Season Caused Comment Among His Fellows.


    Boston, Mass., Jan. 19.--[Special.]--Martin Bergen, the famous catcher of the Boston Baseball club, murdered his entire family, consisting of his wife and two children, and then killed himself, at their residence, two miles from the village of North Brookfield, Mass., some time during last night.
    Bergen's father, who lived with him for a long time, had been away for several days. This morning he returned to the farm, and on entering the house found his son Martin stretched on the floor with the little daughter, Florence, by his side, with their throats cut. On the table was a razor, which explained the implement with which the father and child had met their deaths. For a few minutes the old man was so overcome he could only sink down in his weakness. After a little, however, he recovered strength to make further investigation, and on entering the bedroom of the mother he found her lifeless body across the bed, with her little son Martin almost in her arms. The life had long before left them.

    The aged man hurried to the house of a neighbor and the alarm was spread. No one knows exactly just how it all happened, but it is evident from the way things were found at the Bergen residence the ball player was suddenly seized during the night with an insane frenzy, and jumping from the sofa on which he had been sleeping he rushed into his wife's bedroom, where he killed her and their son with the blunt back of an ax.

    He evidently cut the throat of the little girl, Florence, and completed the tragedy by taking his own life with the razor, which he threw on the table as he fell to die on the kitchen floor. All four bodies were in their night clothes, showing that the deed had been committed some time after the family retired last evening and before breakfast this morning.

    Acts Indicated Insanity

    For a long time Bergen has been acting in a strange manner, but many attributed his actions during the last season as simply due to his eccentricity. These who knew him best, however, always said that there was something wrong with Martin's head.

    He had been especially despondent at times since the death of his little son George, which took place during the summer. Since then he has not been like himself, but never showed the slightest tendency to violence. His insanity was shown by his great despondency at times and his difficulty to get along with people with whom he had daily business.

    His one dream of life was to make a home for his family they might be proud of, and that after he had retired from the ball field and the cheers of the thousands he could live there in contentment.

    Well Liked in Village

    His first idea of a farm in the country was to secure a home for his aged father, who understood the work of a farm. The father had quite an influence over Martin, and the son held his father in high esteem. Among the people of the village he was considered an ideal citizen. Everybody had a good word and a kind tribute to pay to his energies. He was known by everybody and everybody liked to stop him on the village street and have a chat with him. It was when he got among ball players he seemed to lose the gentle nature which pervaded him when he was among the people of his own village.

    The tragedy of today ends the life of one of the best ball players who ever stood behind the plate.

    Strange Acts In Boston

    President Soden of the Boston club tonight said he was well aware Bergen had absolutely no control of himself at times, for Bergen himself told him that when asked to explain his absences from the team. Bergen told Mr. Soden that at times he would be seized with an uncontrollable impulse to go home, and when the impulse came on him he would not say a work to any one, but just go. When the club was to go away on a trip. It was on account of the belief the player could not control himself every allowance was made for him.

    Bergen was such a superb player that his shortcomings were overlooked, as they would not be in any other case. When the difference arose last season between Bergen and his fellow players, and the players said they would not play under him, the directors stood by Bergen, well knowing that he was wholly irresponsible and unable to control his actions.

    Manager Selee was astonished when he heard of the tragedy. He said he had no serious trouble with Bergen, and considered him a tractable man. Even when the player absented himself from the team, which was as often as to cause comment, there were no words when he returned, and the relations with the players would be resumed exactly where they left off.

    The winter baseball colony in Chicago was shocked at the news of Martin Bergen's act. Yet the impression was general among National league players that he Boston catcher was not quite "right." His peculiar actions during the last playing season had been extensively commented on in the newspapers, and it then had been charged that Bergen was slightly insane.

    Players of other clubs had noted the morose disposition of the man. In 1898 Bergen was the best catcher in the National league, and his gingery work behind the bat did a great deal to win the pennant for the Boston team that season. Last year there was a slight falling off in Bergen's play ; he was unlucky at times, and had a bad season. He frequently told visiting players he did not have a friend on the Boston team, and his refusal to associate with his fellow-players was the subject of comment.

    "It's too bad," said Catcher Donahue of the Chicago Club. "Bergen was a good fellow at heart, but he was a victim of imagination, and while I never expected anything of this kind I am not surprised at it after all." (Chicago Daily Tribune, January 20, 1900, pp. 5)

    Afternotes: His Career on the Diamond:
    Bergen's professional career was begun with the Wilkes-Barre Club of the Eastern League in 1893, but later on he was sold to the Pittsburgh Club, of the National League. In 1894 he was with the Lewiston Club, of the New England League. At the close of that season the Washington Club, of the National League, and the Kansas City Club, of the Western League, laid claim to him, but the national board decided in favor of the latter, and Bergen remained with Manager Manning's team until his release was secured by the Boston Club in September, 1895, in exchange for Shortstop Connaughton and a bonus of $4,000. He was not in good shape in 1896 to do himself justice, but in 1897 he caught in nearly all the championship games in first-class style.

    Bergen was one of the greatest catchers that ever donned a mask. Possessed of an arm of steel, he snapped the ball around the infield like a shot, and was regarded as the equal of Buck Ewing in point of throwing ability. He was well-nigh perfect on foul flies, and a timely, reliable batsman. He has a younger brother, Bill, also a backstop, and a promising young player. Bergen was a strict Roman Catholic, temperate and frugal, and managed to save quite a snug income from his earnings as a catcher. (Washington Post, January 20, 1900, pp. 1)
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    Marty Bergen's Gold Glove Estimates, According to Mathew Souder's PCA stat system:

    1896 - 1
    1897 - 2 (Warner)
    1898 - 3 (Criger)
    1899 - 6 (Bowerman)
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    AstrosFan has contributed this wonderful hitting chart of relative stats for catchers.
    Code:
           FN               PA	AB	AVG+	OBP+	SLG+	ISO+	OPS+
    King	Kelly		6455	5894	119	116.5	125.4	143.4	141.9
    Mike	Piazza		7416	6602	114.7	111.3	128.9	153.1	140.2
    Mickey	Cochrane	6055	5169	110.1	116.3	114.3	123.7	130.6
    Buck	Ewing		5764	5363	111.7	106.3	123.6	157	129.9
    Roy	Campanella	4786	4205	102.9	106	121.3	155.8	127.3
    Johnny	Bench		8658	7658	101.8	103.6	123.4	169.5	127
    Gabby	Hartnett        7170	6432	103.6	106.6	120.2	160.2	126.8
    Bill	Dickey		7009	6300	110.5	107.6	118.2	135.3	125.8
    Ernie	Lombardi        6331	5855	111.3	105.7	118.5	135.8	124.2
    Roger	Bresnahan	5262	4481	104.6	116.7	107.2	115.3	123.9
    Yogi	Berra		8355	7555	107.6	102	121.7	150	123.7
    Carlton	Fisk		9827	8756	103	103.9	116.6	143.6	120.5
    Charlie	Bennett		4310	3821	 99.5	109	111.2	144.4	120.2
    Gary	Carter		8986	7971	 99.9	101.5	113	140.5	114.5
    Ivan	Rodriguez  	8298	7745	112.7	101	113.3	114.4	114.3
    Thurman	Munson		5882	5344	112.6	105.9	107	 95.2	112.9
    Johnny	Bassler		2766	2319	105.7	116.8	 91.2	 53.1	108
    Johnny	Kling		4534	4241	102.3	 96.4	102.4	102.5	 98.8
    Jimmy	Archer		2787	2644	 95.7	 88.7	 96.9	100.5	 85.6
    Ray	Schalk		6003	5306	 90.4	 97.3	 82.5	 60.7	 79.8
    Marty	Bergen		1340	1278	 92.1	 85.2	 91.8	 90.9	 77
    Attachment 23275
    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 08-03-2008 at 10:35 AM.

  4. #4
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    This episode is just so sad. But one part of it puzzles me.

    The part that made them all think that Marty must have been responsible. Here is the sentence from the piece I posted.

    "and completed the tragedy by taking his own life with the razor, which he threw on the table as he fell to die on the kitchen floor.

    When one is dying, is it a natural thing to make sure you 'throw' the knife on the table? Or is it more normal to just fall down and die and let the knife fall where it will?

    And then another sentence from the piece that Brian posted is similarly odd.

    "He then sliced his own throat nearly severing his head. Bergen fell beside his daughter."

    How is is natural to almost cut one's own head off, and still be able to toss a knife anywhere? That strikes me as more than a little peculiar.

    Is it possible that the Bergen family were all murdered by a homicidal maniac, and the entire scenario was mistaken for a murder/suicide?

    What would have been so strange to assume that the family was murdered by an intruder? If I had been the investigating detective, that would have made a lot more sense than to assume a man would take out his own family.

    I just don't buy that it is possible to virtually cut off your head and then throw a knife onto a table. Much less shocking that a vicious, sadistic killer would slaughter your kids and yourself.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Burgess View Post
    This episode is just so sad. But one part of it puzzles me.

    The part that made them all think that Marty must have been responsible. Here is the sentence from the piece I posted.

    "and completed the tragedy by taking his own life with the razor, which he threw on the table as he fell to die on the kitchen floor.

    When one is dying, is it a natural thing to make sure you 'throw' the knife on the table? Or is it more normal to just fall down and die and let the knife fall where it will?

    And then another sentence from the piece that Brian posted is similarly odd.

    "He then sliced his own throat nearly severing his head. Bergen fell beside his daughter."

    How is is natural to almost cut one's own head off, and still be able to toss a knife anywhere? That strikes me as more than a little peculiar.

    Is it possible that the Bergen family were all murdered by a homicidal maniac, and the entire scenario was mistaken for a murder/suicide?

    What would have been so strange to assume that the family was murdered by an intruder? If I had been the investigating detective, that would have made a lot more sense than to assume a man would take out his own family.

    I just don't buy that it is possible to virtually cut off your head and then throw a knife onto a table. Much less shocking that a vicious, sadistic killer would slaughter your kids and yourself.
    Great pieces, guys!!

    Bill, I agree with much of what you say here. It isn't feasible that someone should 'throw the knife' onto a table after nearly slicing his own head off! That is, if the source which said the knife that killed Bergen was on the table is reliable and accurate. A murderer can certainly not be ruled out, as I would hope it wasn't back in 1900. Bergen would certainly seem to have made enough people angry or afraid of him. It is probably safe to assume that at least a couple of them can even be called enemies. Interesting. Very, very sad, yet interesting.
    Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't come to yours. - Yogi Berra

  6. #6
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    Originally, I had assumed that Marty had been having a nightmare, and awoke in a delusional state, not being able to distinguish from reality/dream state.

    But now that I read what Brian posted, it appears that my original assumptions are not supported by the evidence.

    "He first removed the ashes from the stove, the home’s primary heat source, indicating that the stove had cooled overnight. Bergen then placed paper in the stove for lighting. He hadn’t yet though retrieved wood from outside, as the inside pile was depleted."
    Apparently, he did not abruptly awaken, in a half-sleep state, mistaking a nightmare for reality. He was starting his day in a routine manner, when the mayhem occurred.

    So, my original assumptions are unsupported by any evidence. What if an intruder who had a grudge against Marty committed the heinous crime & took out the rest of the family, so as not to leave witnesses.

    Anyway, I am now not believing it was a suicide at all. That particular scenario is just not the most logical assumption. When in doubt, go with the most logical possibilities before one assumes the less logical.

    An ambush killing which turned into a mass murder is the more likely possibility, than what was assumed. The only reason they assumed it was a murder/suicide is because he had had mental issues, which were aggravated by the earlier death of his young son, Martin, the previous summer.
    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 05-01-2008 at 06:30 AM.

  7. #7
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    Tht Chicago Tribune piece is filled with so many inaccuracies that I didn't even consider using any part of it.

    Boston, Mass., Jan. 19.--[Special.]--Martin Bergen, the famous catcher of the Boston Baseball club, murdered his entire family, consisting of his wife and two children, and then killed himself, at their residence, two miles from the village of North Brookfield, Mass., some time during last night.
    Bergen's father, who lived with him for a long time, had been away for several days. This morning he returned to the farm, and on entering the house found his son Martin stretched on the floor with the little daughter, Florence, by his side, with their throats cut. On the table was a razor, which explained the implement with which the father and child had met their deaths.

    The girl was beaten about the head several times with the blunt end of an axe.

    For a few minutes the old man was so overcome he could only sink down in his weakness. After a little, however, he recovered strength to make further investigation, and on entering the bedroom of the mother he found her lifeless body across the bed, with her little son Martin almost in her arms. The life had long before left them.

    The aged man hurried to the house of a neighbor and the alarm was spread. No one knows exactly just how it all happened, but it is evident from the way things were found at the Bergen residence the ball player was suddenly seized during the night with an insane frenzy, and jumping from the sofa on which he had been sleeping he rushed into his wife's bedroom, where he killed her and their son with the blunt back of an ax.

    He evidently cut the throat of the little girl, Florence,

    The girl's throat was not cut

    and completed the tragedy by taking his own life with the razor, which he threw on the table

    How could this possibly be known? Throwing a knife after cutting your throat. Doesn't even make sense. This article was written within hours of the deaths. How did anyone even know he threw a knife so it would land on a table.

    as he fell to die on the kitchen floor. All four bodies were in their night clothes, showing that the deed had been committed some time after the family retired last evening and before breakfast this morning.

    Acts Indicated Insanity

    For a long time Bergen has been acting in a strange manner, but many attributed his actions during the last season as simply due to his eccentricity. These who knew him best, however, always said that there was something wrong with Martin's head.

    He had been especially despondent at times since the death of his little son George,

    Son's name was Martin

    which took place during the summer. Since then he has not been like himself, but never showed the slightest tendency to violence.

    He had been in fights. He had verbal blowups which others could certainly view as a tendency to violence. He even told people he feared what actions he might take.

    His insanity was shown by his great despondency at times and his difficulty to get along with people with whom he had daily business.

    His one dream of life was to make a home for his family they might be proud of, and that after he had retired from the ball field and the cheers of the thousands he could live there in contentment.

    Well Liked in Village

    His first idea of a farm in the country was to secure a home for his aged father, who understood the work of a farm. The father had quite an influence over Martin, and the son held his father in high esteem. Among the people of the village he was considered an ideal citizen. Everybody had a good word and a kind tribute to pay to his energies. He was known by everybody and everybody liked to stop him on the village street and have a chat with him.

    The neighbor with whom the Bergens first lived as husband and wife stated very clearly that Bergen had little to do with his neighbors. That is, he wasn't outgoing to the point of initiating a great deal of conversations.

    It was when he got among ball players he seemed to lose the gentle nature which pervaded him when he was among the people of his own village.

    The tragedy of today ends the life of one of the best ball players who ever stood behind the plate.

    Strange Acts In Boston

    President Soden of the Boston club tonight said he was well aware Bergen had absolutely no control of himself at times, for Bergen himself told him that when asked to explain his absences from the team. Bergen told Mr. Soden that at times he would be seized with an uncontrollable impulse to go home, and when the impulse came on him he would not say a work to any one, but just go. When the club was to go away on a trip. It was on account of the belief the player could not control himself every allowance was made for him.

    Bergen was such a superb player that his shortcomings were overlooked, as they would not be in any other case. When the difference arose last season between Bergen and his fellow players, and the players said they would not play under him, the directors stood by Bergen, well knowing that he was wholly irresponsible and unable to control his actions.

    "Play under him" - he was not team captain or manager

    Manager Selee was astonished when he heard of the tragedy. He said he had no serious trouble with Bergen, and considered him a tractable man. Even when the player absented himself from the team, which was as often as to cause comment, there were no words when he returned, and the relations with the players would be resumed exactly where they left off.

    The winter baseball colony in Chicago was shocked at the news of Martin Bergen's act. Yet the impression was general among National league players that he Boston catcher was not quite "right." His peculiar actions during the last playing season had been extensively commented on in the newspapers, and it then had been charged that Bergen was slightly insane.

    Players of other clubs had noted the morose disposition of the man. In 1898 Bergen was the best catcher in the National league, and his gingery work behind the bat did a great deal to win the pennant for the Boston team that season. Last year there was a slight falling off in Bergen's play ; he was unlucky at times, and had a bad season. He frequently told visiting players he did not have a friend on the Boston team, and his refusal to associate with his fellow-players was the subject of comment.

    "It's too bad," said Catcher Donahue of the Chicago Club. "Bergen was a good fellow at heart, but he was a victim of imagination, and while I never expected anything of this kind I am not surprised at it after all." (Chicago Daily Tribune, January 20, 1900, pp. 5)
    Last edited by Brian McKenna; 05-01-2008 at 06:28 AM.

  8. #8
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    There is zero evidence to support any other theory than murder/suicide.

    With the amount of blood that must have been present, even a five-year-old would have figured out if an intruder's shoe prints were present.

    I'm not a fan of making up elaborate schemes (many years later) out of historical events.

    1) This presupposes that everyone involved at the time was dumb (or crooked) as a stick and that somehow we have greater insight years later.
    2) Baseball history as commonly relayed is full of so much b.s. that it's embarassing to read more of it.
    3) Today's theories about elaborate schemes from the past are almost always based on some sort of crazy idea or little piece of information that is supposed to carry some great weight and thus skew an argument. The mere fact that a knife was supposedly purposefully thrown onto a table as leading to a possible mass murder suspect is in and of itself sloppy investigation and poor journalism.
    4) A duck is a duck is a duck. Elaborate conspiracy theories about events from the past are more an exercise for the author than a valuable resource for a reader. Does it mean anything when someone says in 2008 that "Oh, I think Harry Pulliam or Chick Stahl was gay?" To me, it does not - again more for the author than the reader.

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    All I was saying was this.

    Since the bloody knife was found on the table, and his body was found nearly decapitated on the floor, the only way that I can make sense of that is if he cut his throat, while leaning on the table.

    Then, it would seem plausible for the knife to have been found there. That is all I was saying, from the newspaper stories that I've read.

    No need to get testy or over-react to others when they participate in a discussion.

    The New York Times report says that the head was "nearly severed from the body". I'm not even sure if it is possible for a person to do that to themselves. Seems like one would be dead before one got that far. But I'm not a forensics expert either.
    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 05-01-2008 at 07:07 AM.

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    Great SI article, thanks. The author is a good story teller.

    The Bostons gave the Blues $1,000 and shortstop Frank Connaughton
    Connaughton was already Bergen's teammate in 1895. They were both drafted at the end of the year - Bergen to Boston, Connaughton to NY. The draft fee in 1893 was $500.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Burgess View Post
    The New York Times report says that the head was "nearly severed from the body". I'm not even sure if it is possible for a person to do that to themselves. Seems like one would be dead before one got that far. But I'm not a forensics expert either.
    That is a hard one to invision. I guess a timid hand couldn't do that. He was surely hyped up and intent.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Burgess View Post
    Since the bloody knife was found on the table, and his body was found nearly decapitated on the floor, the only way that I can make sense of that is if he cut his throat, while leaning on the table.

    Then, it would seem plausible for the knife to have been found there. That is all I was saying, from the newspaper stories that I've read.

    The New York Times report says that the head was "nearly severed from the body". I'm not even sure if it is possible for a person to do that to themselves. Seems like one would be dead before one got that far. But I'm not a forensics expert either.
    I wouldn't put too much weight on "small" details like these. Journalism in 1900 didn't have the same standards journalism does now (or perhaps I should just say it was a different art back then). Just because the author reports details, it doesn't make them facts.
    Example : even if the knife was on the table, I'm not sure the article author really asked who put it there, Marty or his father. And I doubt anybody could really tell for sure if Marty (or anyone) actually "threw" the knife.
    Also, "nearly severed from the body" could be either a hyperbole or an alternative benchmark for the definition of "nearly".

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    I was not there, and I'm not trying to pretend I know anything. I don't. I'm just going on what I read. I watch an absolute ton of murder cases on TV, and the forensics fascinate me. The last thing I am trying to do is be argumentative. I'm just tying to have a great exchange of ideas.

    One of the things I notice is that the investigating detectives always keep some details out of the papers, so they can use that as a way of knowing if someone knows those details, then they can separate them from false confessors, etc.

    So, maybe there were things that proved it was the murder/suicide that was announced. They would know more than anyone today.

    But there is also a philosophy in law/medicine that says, "If you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras." That means assume the simplest, most common, most logical, most natural assumption before you jump to an exotic thought.

    The percentages of cases where one murders their own kids is not high. But it does happen. John List, that woman who drowned his kids in the south, etc.

    But it is pretty rare. And the killers didn't kill themselves afterward. And I've never heard where the killer cut their own head off. Never heard of that one.

    Is it possible? I have no idea. I've learned to not say never. So, I guess maybe it is theoretically possible for someone to do that. And I do agree, Brian, that whoever committed this atrocity was nowhere near in their right state of mind.

    But we should also remember that the reason that we today consider Martin Bergen to have been insane, is precisely due to this act. Without this one act, I doubt that it could be reasonably argued that Marty was, in fact, insane.

    Whoever did this crime was either in a state of hatred/rage, or insanity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dgarza View Post
    I wouldn't put too much weight on "small" details like these. Journalism in 1900 didn't have the same standards journalism does now (or perhaps I should just say it was a different art back then).
    I personally find the 'standards' of today's journalism questionable. Far too much tabloid-type yellow journalism and papers are far too quick to print a story before checking all the facts. I know it happened back then, too, and it was just as wrong back then as it is today. The Paparazzi aren't the only thing bad about modern journalism, IMO.
    Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't come to yours. - Yogi Berra

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    If one watches a lot of Cold Case Files one gets the idea that police dept. are all top-notch forensic folks. Not so.

    Many coroners are not trained to high standards. Many cases were originally files under suicides, and later had to be re-assigned to homicides.

    I see no reason to assume that that same scenario was true in 1900. Police are under pressure to solve cases, and sometimes are too quick to assume easy solutions. I doubt if the Marty Bergen case had any forensics at all.

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