Red Sox capture a spy for backup catcher
The beginning is a remarkable backup catcher who wandered the MLB landscape for 15 seasons, hitting .241 with just 441 career hits. With the Red Sox, right-hand hitting Moe Berg spent his last five MLB seasons (1935-1939) and hit .262. As backup catchers go, Berg’s career was lengthy, and his primary skill set was his defense. Berg’s contributions, however, go well beyond baseball, since Berg was a spy.
A graduate of Princeton and later Columbia Law School and was an operative for the OSS during World War II. As a player, Berg was the noted intellectual one would suspect. As the baseball pundits said: “Berg could speak seven languages and not hit a curveball in any of them.”
On a baseball excursion to Japan in 1934, Berg’s assigned task was to take photographs of Toyoko. Berg filmed the harbor and the city, and reportedly, the films were used by air command during the war.
Later on, on a mission to Germany, Berg was reportedly assigned to assassinate Werner Heisenberg, the head of Nazi Germany’s atom-bomb project. Berg – fluent in German and a Jew – determined that the German’s progress was minimal, and Heisenberg lived.
Berg’s post-war career was tragic. Shuffled out of the spy business by the CIA, Berg relied on living off of relatives and friends, and both baseball and the government deserted this remarkable spy and backup catcher. For recommended reading, here is the most notable book on Berg.