Yankee Catcher Moe Berg
This is a helluva story…
When baseball greats Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig went on tour in baseball-crazy Japan, in 1934, some fans wondered why a third-string catcher named Moe Berg was included. Although he played with five major-league teams, from 1923 to 1939, he was a very mediocre ball player. But Moe was regarded as the brainiest ballplayer of all time. In fact, Casey Stengel once said: “That is the strangest man ever to play baseball”.
> all the baseball stars went to Japan,
> Moe Berg
> went with them and many people wondered why he went with
> “the team”
> Lou Gehrig and Babe Rut
> answer was simple: Moe Berg was a United
> States spy,
> working undercover with the Office of Strategic Services
> (predecessor of today’s CIA).
> > Moe
> spoke 15 languages – including Japanese. And he had
> two loves:
> baseball and spying.
> Tokyo, garbed in a kimono, Berg took flowers to the
> daughter of an American diplomat being treated in St.
> Luke’s Hospital – the tallest building in the Japanese
> never delivered the flowers. The
> ball-player ascended
> to the hospital roof and filmed key features: the harbor,
> military installations, railway yards,
> years later, General Jimmy Doolittle studied Berg’s
> films in planning his spectacular raid on
> father disapproved and never once watched his
> son play.
> In Barringer High School, Moe learned Latin, Greek
> and French. Moe read at least 10 newspapers
> graduated magna cum laude from Princeton – having
> added Spanish,
> Italian, German and Sanskrit to his linguistic quiver.
> During further studies at the Sorbonne,
> in Paris , and Columbia Law School, he picked up Japanese,
> Chinese, Korean, Indian, Arabic, Portuguese and Hungarian –
> 15 languages in all, plus some regional
> playing baseball for Princeton University, Moe Berg would
> describe plays in Latin or Sanskrit.
> > Tito’s partisans
> World War II, Moe was parachuted into Yugoslavia
> to assess
> the value to the war effort of the two groups of partisans
> there. He reported back that Marshall
> Tito’s forces were widely supported by the people and
> Winston Churchill ordered all-out support for
> the Yugoslav underground fighter, rather than
> Mihajlovic’s Serbians.
> > The
> parachute jump at age 41 undoubtedly was a challenge.
> But there
> was more to come in that same year. Berg penetrated
> German-held Norway, met with members of
> the underground,
> and located a secret heavy-water plant – part of the
> Nazis’ effort to build an atomic
> > His
> information guided the Royal Air Force in a bombing
> raid to
> destroy that plant.
> The R.A.F.
> destroys the Norwegian heavy water plant targeted by Moe
> still remained the question of how far had the Nazis
> progressed in
> the race to build the first Atomic bomb. If the Nazis
> were successful, they would win the war.
> Berg (under
> the code name “Remus”) was sent to Switzerland to
> hear leading German physicist Werner Heisenberg, a
> Nobel Laureate,
> lecture and determine if the Nazis were close to building
> an A-bomb. Moe managed to slip past the SS
> guards at
> the auditorium, posing as a Swiss graduate student.
> The spy carried in his pocket a pistol and a cyanide
> > If
> the German physicist indicated the Nazis were close to
> building a weapon,
> Berg was to shoot him – and then swallow the cyanide
> sitting in the front row, determined that
> the Germans were nowhere near their goal, so he
> complimented Heisenberg on his speech and walked
> him back
> to his hotel.
> > Werner Heisenberg -he blocked
> the Nazis
> from acquiring an
> Berg’s report was distributed to Britain’s Prime
> Minister Winston
> Churchill, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and key figures
> in the team developing the Atomic Bomb. Roosevelt responded:
> “Give my regards to the catcher.”
> of Germany’s leading physicists had been Jewish and had
> fled the Nazis mainly to Britain and the United
> States. After the war, Moe Berg was awarded the Medal
> of Freedom – America ‘s highest
> honor for a civilian in wartime. But Berg refused to accept
> it because
> he couldn’t tell people
> about his exploits.
> his death, his sister accepted the Medal. It now
> hangs in
> the Baseball Hall of Fame, in
> > Presidential Medal of Freedom:
> the highest award
> given to
> civilians during wartime.
> Berg’s baseball card is the only card on display at
> the CIA
> in Washington, DC.