BERG, MOE


BERG, MOE
BERG, MOE (Morris; 1902–1972), U.S. baseball player, spy, scholar, linguist. Once called "the strangest fellah who ever put on a uniform" by Casey Stengel, Berg was an anomaly in the world of baseball, where few players had any formal education and where he was recognized as the best-educated man ever to play the game. He was born in a cold-water tenement in East Harlem in New York City, the third child of Bernard and Rose (Tashker). Bernard was himself of keen intellect and attended public school, which was rare for a Russian Jew in that era. He fled the pogroms of Russia in 1894 at the age of 24, arriving in New York with $10 dollars in his pocket, and two years later sent for Rose, from the Kamenets-Podolski region of the Ukraine, to join him. When Berg was nine months old, the family moved to Newark, New Jersey, where Bernard opened a pharmacy. The family was not religious, never went to synagogue, and the children never celebrated their bar mitzvah, though Bernard did teach Hebrew and Yiddish to his son, whose photographic memory retained everything. Berg became a star player at Barringer High School, where he began learning languages, excelling in Latin, Greek and French. Graduating at 16, he spent a year at New York University before transferring to Princeton. He was the star there as well, playing shortstop for three years and becoming captain his senior year, when he hit .337 and the team won 18 straight games. He majored in languages, adding Spanish, Italian, German, and Sanskrit to his growing list, and graduated in 1923 magna cum laude and 24th in his class of 211. Berg began his baseball career with the Brooklyn Dodgers the day after his last game for Princeton, playing 15 years with the White Sox, Indians, Senators, and Red Sox, first as a shortstop and third baseman before settling in as a third-string catcher. With his lifetime average of only .243 and six home runs, it was to Berg that the classic expression "good field, no hit" was first applied. Berg pursued his scholarly interests while he continued playing baseball, attending the Sorbonne in Paris, graduating from Columbia Law School second in his class, and adding Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Arabic, Portuguese, Hungarian, and a few regional dialects to his linguistic arsenal. While it was never established exactly how many languages Berg spoke, they were of no use to him in baseball. Said one player, "He can speak twelve languages, but he can't hit in any of 'em." Berg's life changed in 1934, when he accompanied a team of baseball all-stars to Japan on a baseball barnstorming tour. While there, he went to the roof of the tallest building, a hospital,   and photographed the Tokyo skyline, the harbor, and munitions facilities, which may have helped U.S. General Jimmy Doolittle in his bombing raids over Tokyo in 1942. Moe's celebrated academic knowledge received national attention in February 1938, when he appeared on Information, Please, the intellectual's radio quiz show. Moe amazed all of America when he answered questions about the derivation of words and names in Greek and Latin, historical events in Europe and the Far East, and current international conferences. After his career was over in 1939, Berg spent two years as a coach with the Red Sox. In 1942 he was named Goodwill Ambassador to Latin America by Nelson Rockefeller, head of the Office of Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, and subsequently worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the CIA. His first assignment was to assess the political and military situation in embattled Yugoslavia. He spoke to the forces under Tito and to the Serbian camp of Mihajlovic, reporting back – correctly – that the Yugoslav people supported Tito. His most notable mission was to Switzerland, with instructions to kill top German scientist Werner Heisenberg, who was lecturing there and suspected of working on the A-bomb. Questioning Heisenberg with a loaded gun in his pocket, Berg determined that the Germans were not building the bomb, and his invaluable report was read by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, and the scientists working on America's Manhattan project to develop the nuclear bomb. Berg was also a loner and an eccentric, known among other things for always wearing a black suit and not letting people touch his newspapers until he had finished reading them. "Berg's was a life of abiding strangeness," wrote Nicholas Dawidoff in his definitive biography of Berg, The Catcher Was a Spy. Berg died seconds after asking a bedside nurse: "How are the Mets doing today?" (Elli Wohlgelernter (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Moe Berg (musician) — Moe Berg Born March 1959 (age 52) Edmonton, Alberta Genres Rock Occupations musician, record producer, writer Instruments …   Wikipedia

  • Moe Berg — This article is about the American baseball player. For the Canadian singer/songwriter, see Moe Berg (musician). Moe Berg Catcher Born: March …   Wikipedia

  • Berg (Limbourg néerlandais) — Berg Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Berg est un patronyme germanophone. Dans plusieurs langues germaniques, le mot berg indique une montagne ou un mont. Sommaire 1 Aviculture …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Berg (surname) — Berg, as a surname, may refer to:In music: *Alban Berg (1885 1935), Austrian composer *Cia Berg (born 1963), Swedish singer and television presenter *Elizabeth Berg (born 1986), American singer with The Like , daughter of Tony Berg *Gunnar Berg… …   Wikipedia

  • Berg (Familienname) — Berg ist ein Familienname. Herkunft und Bedeutung Berg als Name kann ein Toponym sein. Die Grafen von Berg von der Burg Berge im heutigen Nordrhein Westfalen gehören zu den ersten Namensträgern seit dem 11. Jahrhundert Als van den Berg kommt der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Moe Berg — Morris „Moe“ Berg (* 2. März 1902 in New York City; † 29. Mai 1972 in Belleville New Jersey) war ein US amerikanischer Baseballspieler und während des Zweiten Weltkriegs Spion für das amerikanische Office of Strategic Services. Auch wenn er über… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Moe Berg — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Berg. Moe Berg …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Berg — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom.  Pour l’article homophone, voir Bergh (homonymie). Berg est un toponyme commun dans les pays de langue germanique signifiant éminence , mont ou… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Moe Berg — Morris Berg Morris Moe Berg (2 de marzo de 1902 29 de mayo de 1972) fue un beisbolista de Estados Unidos de las Grandes Ligas de Béisbol, y que más adelante fue un espía durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Aunque jugó 15 temporadas en las Grandes… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Moe — Contents 1 People 2 Fictional characters 3 Geography 4 Entertainment 5 Acronyms …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.