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Decades of Tigers benefits Joe Niekro Foundation


May 29, 2014
The Joe Niekro Foundation "Knuckling Up for Aneurysm Research" presents "Decades of the Tigers" Wednesday, June 11.

Proceeds from this event benefit the Joe Niekro Foundation supporting brain aneurysm research, awareness and patient advocacy.

Niekro, a top knuckleballer who played for several teams, including the Detroit Tigers from 1970 to 1972, died suddenly Oct. 27, 2006 from a cerebral brain aneurysm. He was 61 years old.


The fundraising event begins at 6 p.m. with a VIP reception at 5:30 p.m. at MotorCity Casino Hotel, 2901 Grand River, Detroit.

Tickets include a strolling dinner and cocktails, along with the chance to salute three decades of Detroit Tigers greats. A silent and live auction, along with presentations about progress in research will be part of the evening.

Players attending include Mickey Lolich, Mickey Stanley, Al Kaline and Willie Horton from the 1960s; John Wockenfuss, and Steve Kemp from the 1970s and Lou Whitaker and Dave Rozema from the 1980s. Special guests will include former owner Tom Monaghan and others. Master of ceremonies is Eli Zaret.

A panel discussion will give attendees a chance to ask questions of the Tigers greats.

Dave Bergman, a Grosse Pointe resident who played first base for the World Champion Tigers in 1984, is chairman of the board of directors at the Joe Niekro Foundation.

The foundation was created in 2007 by Niekro's daughter, Natalie, who serves as executive director.

"Joe was my best friend," said Bergman, who played professional baseball for 20 years and is an investment counselor for Sigma Investments. "There wasn't anything I couldn't say to Joe or ask from him. If it was time to go fishing, I made a phone call. He was always there."

Bergman's son and Niekro's son were each other's best man in their weddings. So the friendship has been passed along to the next generation.

"They are best friends," Bergman said. "They never went to school together or lived in the same town. They grew up together."

Bergman said he spent many hours over 30 years learning to fish the Everglades with Niekro. He also spent plenty of time learning how to the hit the pitch Joe was famous for - a knuckleball only rivaled by his older brother Phil. Combined, the Niekros had 539 wins in the majors.

"It's one of the things we all had in common, was figuring out how to hit the knuckleball," Bergman said. "At times, you just close your eyes and swing. I had my first major league home run off Phil Niekro, but I had my share of outs from them too."

The Foundation's event will raise money for a good cause and provide some fun for attendees.

"It's a good cast of characters coming out to support it," Bergman said. "All of these guys have a connection to Joe. It will be a wonderful time."

Tickets for the event start at $250 and sponsorships are available. For more information about the event, visit joeniekrofoundation.com or contact Suzanne Antonelli at santonelli@sigmainvestments.com.


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