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

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

by Nicholas Dawidoff


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The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg by Nicholas Dawidoff

Now a major motion picture starring Paul Rudd

“A delightful book that recounts one of the strangest episodes in the history of espionage. . . . . Relentlessly entertaining.”—The New York Times Book Review

Moe Berg is the only major-league baseball player whose baseball card is on display at the headquarters of the CIA. For Berg was much more than a third-string catcher who played on several major league teams between 1923 and 1939. Educated at Princeton and the Sorbonne, he as reputed to speak a dozen languages (although it was also said he couldn't hit in any of them) and went on to become an OSS spy in Europe during World War II. 

As Nicholas Dawidoff follows Berg from his claustrophobic childhood through his glamorous (though equivocal) careers in sports and espionage and into the long, nomadic years during which he lived on the hospitality of such scattered acquaintances as Joe DiMaggio and Albert Einstein, he succeeds not only in establishing where Berg went, but who he was beneath his layers of carefully constructed cover. As engrossing as a novel by John le Carré, The Catcher Was a Spy is a triumphant work of historical and psychological detection.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679762898
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/01/1995
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 44,059
Product dimensions: 5.17(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.95(d)

About the Author

Nicholas Dawidoff is the author of five books. One of them, The Fly Swatter, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and another, In the Country of Country, was named one of the greatest all-time works of travel literature by Conde Nast Traveller. His first book, The Catcher Was A Spy: The Mysterious Life Of Moe Berg was a national bestseller and appeared on many 1994 best book lists. In 2009, Pantheon published The Crowd Sounds Happy: A Story of Love, Madness and Baseball. He is also the editor of the Library of America’s Baseball: A Literary Anthology. A graduate of Harvard University, he has been a Guggenheim, Civitella Ranieri and Berlin Prize Fellow, and is a contributor to The New YorkerThe New York Times Magazine and the American Scholar.

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Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Too much "other" information. Lots of background about personal information, family, and quirks. Yes he was a strange bird, I was hoping for more "spy" intrigue.
jfk1942 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Moe Berg was a very interesting person.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
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...
Smiley on LibraryThing 7 days ago
Interesting as the title sounds. Dawidoff has done his research.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book so much I gave it as Christmas presents to many people this year.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
if you like reading about baseball and war, this book is for you!! it is a great read!! i would reccommend it to anybody!!
iluvvideo More than 1 year ago
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!