#Shortstops: Pitcher and Policewoman Erma Bergmann

Written by: Meaghann Campbell

Erma Bergmann was one of three children born to Otto and Sophie Bergmann. Her father was a packinghouse butcher, while her mother, a ragtime pianist, wanted her only daughter to take piano lessons. However, Erma declined, preferring to play sandlot ball on the empty lot on the 1800 block of South Broadway, in the Soulard neighborhood of St. Louis with her two brothers and other neighborhood kids.

At 14 years old, Bergmann began playing third base in the St. Louis Amateur Softball League since other opportunities at school were limited. At 15, she played shortstop for the Melbas, a girls’ softball team at St. Louis Park, and pitched for the Phantoms, a boy's baseball team, recording 10 straight victories. She became a teenage standout and her talent drew notice from the scouts of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

In an interview in 1992, Bergmann said her mother and some of her local teammates tried to talk her out of joining the league, saying that she would lose her amateur standing. She told her mother that she would try it and if she didn’t like it that she would come home. Instead, she played for six seasons on four teams.

In her rookie season in 1946, Bergmann posted a 15–16 record and a 2.05 ERA in 35 pitching appearances, top numbers for the sixth-place Muskegon Lassies.

She also spent time at outfield, hitting a .255 average in 50 games.

Her biggest thrill in her season debut came when she belted her only career home run in the top of the ninth inning of a game against the Rockford Peaches. She then shut down the Peaches in the bottom of the inning for a victory with her parents in attendance.

The next season, she pitched a no-hitter for the Lassies against the Grand Rapids Chicks on May 22, with her brothers in attendance.

Following her baseball career, Bergmann became one of the first commissioned police women in the city of St. Louis. At the time, the city department had few female officers, having granted them full arrest powers only five years before. In 1961, she was assigned to the Deployment Squad and frequently walked alone on sidewalks in rough neighborhoods in civilian clothing as a decoy for the unit.

She was responding to a fellow officer’s aid call when she shot and wounded a suspect just west of downtown. Her sergeant praised her quick response and accurate shooting.

Bergmann’s last assignment was in prisoner processing, and she retired in September of 1981 after 25 years of service.

In 1988, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., included her picture, ball glove and one of her team contracts in an exhibit on women in baseball. She was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.

Bergmann passed away on Sept. 13, 2015.

Meaghann Campbell was the 2018 library-technical services intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development

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