10.20.2009

Cardboard characters: Moe Berg.

Chef Julia Child and Chicago White Sox catcher Moe Berg, along with thousands of other American citizens, served in an early version of the CIA, an international spy ring managed by the Office of Strategic Services created in World War II by President Franklin Roosevelt. He was a graduate of Princeton University and Columbia Law School.

He had an encylopedic knowledge of word origins; he was rumored to speak Sanskrit although that's pretty much been debunked. He was never married. He was said to have charmed Albert Einstein, who thought baseball was pretty complex and asked Berg to explain the rules to him. Moe Berg is known to have become angry when an editor assigned to work with him on his autobiography thought he was Moe Howard of the Three Stooges. The first team he played for was the Brooklyn Robins (the team that became the Dodgers). Moe Berg was a member of the New York bar, and worked for a law firm even when he was a baseball player. In 1938, Berg appeared on the radio quiz show "Information, Please!" and turned in several dazzling performances. Casey Stengel is reported to have said,“Berg could speak in eight languages, but couldn’t hit in any of them.” He played for 15 years in the majors. He is said to be the only baseball card on display at the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency. A nurse at the Newark, NJ hospital where he died recalled his final words as, "How did the Mets do today?" There is a thorough biographyabout him called The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg, by Nicholas Dawidoff.








Are there any Bergian characters playing baseball now? Well, Brad Ausmus fulfills at least two categories: he is a catcher and an Ivy League graduate. Perhaps he is also a spy.

We were wondering if there are other cards of Berg out there besides the Goudey...and does anyone own that Goudey? The baseball Moes are certainly an interesting lot.

2 comments:

Matthew Glidden said...

The easiest-to-find (but still expensive) Berg cards are the 1933 Goudey, 1934 Batter-Up #149, 1939 Play Ball #103, and 1940 Play Ball #30. Other rarer issues exist, but good luck outbidding Americana collectors with deep pockets! (I've got a low-grade 1933 Goudey, which probably cost $75.)

This Beckett.com link should list all of the Moe Bergs out there:

http://beta.beckett.com/NavView/Nav.aspx?Ntk=Default&Ntx=mode+matchall&N=0&Ntt=moe%20berg

skoormit said...

Brad Ausmus also can't hit in any language.

Zing!