The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg

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Overview

The only Major League ballplayer whose baseball card is on display at the headquarters of the CIA, Moe Berg has the singular distinction of having both a 15-year career as a catcher for such teams as the New York Robins and the Chicago White Sox and that of a spy for the OSS during World War II. Here, Dawidoff provides "a careful and sympathetic biography" (Chicago Sun-Times) of this enigmatic man. Photos.

Moe Berg was a baseball player and a spy, and one of the ...

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The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg

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Overview

The only Major League ballplayer whose baseball card is on display at the headquarters of the CIA, Moe Berg has the singular distinction of having both a 15-year career as a catcher for such teams as the New York Robins and the Chicago White Sox and that of a spy for the OSS during World War II. Here, Dawidoff provides "a careful and sympathetic biography" (Chicago Sun-Times) of this enigmatic man. Photos.

Moe Berg was a baseball player and a spy, and one of the most colorful men ever to pursue either line of work. Long the source of speculation and fascination, Berg's life has never before been pieced together so seamlessly and to such riveting effect as it is now in this superb biography. 16 pages of photos.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Dawidoff uncovers the enigmatic life of former major-league catcher Berg, who, following his baseball stint, became a spy for the OSS assigned to find information on Nazi nuclear capabilities. June
Library Journal
Baseball catcher, lawyer, and spy-Moe Berg was all of these, but first and foremost he was an enigma. All the ascertainable facts concerning Berg's life are presented here, including his 19 years as the most famous journeyman catcher in professional baseball; his stint at Columbia University and subsequent abortive legal career; his investigation of Germany's atomic bomb program for the Office of Strategic Services a predecessor of the CIA during World War II; and his postwar years, in which he lived off the kindness of friends. Dawidoff has done a lot of research on a fascinating subject but draws few conclusions, and his overall theme seems to be the impenetrability of his subject. In the end, Berg remains a mystery. A marginal purchase. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/ 94.]-Terry Madden, Boise State Univ. Lib., Id.
From Barnes & Noble
Moe Berg is the only major-league ballplayer whose baseball card is on display in the headquarters of the CIA. After his 15-year baseball career, he went on to become a spy for the OSS during WWII. A work of historical detection. B&W photos.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679762898
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/1/1995
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 134,006
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Nicholas Dawidoff is the author of The Catcher was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg and In the Country of Country: A Journey to the Roots of American Music, and is the editor of the Library of America’s Baseball: A Literary Anthology. He is also a contributor to The New Yorker, The American Scholar, and The New York Times Magazine. A graduate of Harvard University, he has been a Guggenheim Fellow and a Berlin Prize Fellow of the American Academy. He and his wife live in New York.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 11 )
Rating Distribution

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(4)

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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2012

    A great subject... difficult read!

    Moe Berg was a fascinating subject -- quirky, mysterious, and always blazing a new trail. I expected some of that excitement to come through in this book, but that isn't the style chosen by the author. The book is an informative, accurate report of Berg's life and accomplishments, but the little bit of inference about motivations or rationale for behaviors reads more like a psychiatric evaluation. This is a good academic-style study of the man... complete with many complex words/phrases used where simpler more direct terms would have added clarity and readability. To me though, the toughest part of the book was the complete lack of emotion. You never get the impression that the author "liked" or "disliked" Moe Berg and even the stories are included for analysis and not warmth or fullness of the character. Moe deserves a more fully alive, "down home" biography treatment, even if some creative license may be required.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2012

    Excellent. Highly recommended, especially of interest to people from the Newark, NJ area.

    I enjoyed this book so much I gave it as Christmas presents to many people this year.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 2, 2014

    Good read

    It is a fun read about Ray Berg. Ray was a good defensive catcher in the 30's who went onto working for the OSS during WW11. He knew everybody from Joe DiMaggio & Babe Ruth to General Wild Bill Donovan. He was quite a character that never got close to anyone, but was on the edges of everything important during WW11.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2013

    Good read time could have been handled better.

    Moe Berg was a very interesting person.

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  • Posted April 1, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    A baseball player who didn't want to play. An intelligence offic

    A baseball player who didn't want to play. An intelligence officer working for the government, who became even more important in his own mind. And a man who never quite fit in with close friends (or wanted to), preferring a limited relationship he could control. This is Moe Berg.
    A precocious childe gifted by innate intellectual ability , Moe demanded to start school at 3 and 1/2 years old, and went and worked diligently to build a reputation as a scholar. Berg, born into a Jewish family, was more concerned about assimilating with his peer group and being accepted as a model American boy.
    On to Princeton, again excelling at his studies and becoming the best player on the university's baseball team. He became a member of the Brooklyn Robins upon graduation, getting $5000 bonus for signing. He spent the off season studying in France, Switzerland and Italy. And in March 1926, he decided to forgo spring training along with the first two months of the season to complete his first year of law school. Today that might raise few eyebrows but was unheard of back then.
    He came back to baseball which for almost 20 years paid him well enough and allowed him plentiful time to explore his many other interests, including serving his country as a spy during WWII focusing on the Axis' development of atomic weapons.
    If this story hasn't peeked your interest about Moe Berg, I'll be very surprised. Follow him through his life recreated from notebooks and letters that Moe himself kept. This is one of the most unusual life stories you'll ever read. Nicholas Dawidoff, the author probes deeply into the man and the myth. I found myself drawn to each successive chapter as fascinatedly peeled away layer after layer about this most unusual man.
    Not perfect by a long shot, hard to befriend and develop any but the most superficial personal connections, Berg nonetheless lives a life that if not for the evidence seemed too fantastic to be true. A one of a kind biography!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2004

    painful........

    of the three books i've read about moe berg this has to be the most disappointing. I read 60 pages and had to put the book down. Dawidoff does absolutely no justice to this wonderful story...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2003

    Moe Berg Lives!

    Moe Berg was the most interesting character ever to don a baseball uniform - and certainly the most interesting baseball player ever to work as a spy. The story of his life is bizarre and compelling - the education, refinement, scientific and linguistic prowess (Berg was sent to Switzerland to assassinate Heisenberg if he thought he was far enough along on the development of a nuclear bomb - Berg guessed that he wasn't and was right) and his life as a professional 'mooch' after his spying career had come to an end add up to a fascinating story about a fascinating individual. Dawidoff handles the story deftly and the book is a joy to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2002

    great book!!

    if you like reading about baseball and war, this book is for you!! it is a great read!! i would reccommend it to anybody!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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