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


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

ISBN13: 9780679762898
ISBN10: 0679762892
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The only Major League ballplayer whose baseball card is on display at the headquarters of the CIA, Moe Berg has the singular distinction of having both a 15-year career as a catcher for such teams as the New York Robins and the Chicago White Sox and that of a spy for the OSS during World War II. Here, Dawidoff provides "a careful and sympathetic biography" (Chicago Sun-Times) of this enigmatic man. Photos.

About the Author

Nicholas Dawidoff is the author of The Catcher was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg and In the Country of Country: A Journey to the Roots of American Music, and is the editor of the Library of Americas Baseball: A Literary Anthology. He is also a contributor to The New Yorker, The American Scholar, and The New York Times Magazine. A graduate of Harvard University, he has been a Guggenheim Fellow and a Berlin Prize Fellow of the American Academy. He and his wife live in New York.

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man with a pipe, November 8, 2009 (view all comments by man with a pipe)
This book had every reason to be a thriller: a professional baseball player who used his moxy to obtain crucial undercover intelligence during the world war; a scholar in athlete's clothing who commingled existences while remaining under most people's radar screens.

So why did this book fall entirely flat? First, the presentation was awkward, overstuffed with clutter and seemingly random and meaningless events, particularly after Berg's return from Europe at the conclusion of the war. But more than that, I was left to conclude that Berg was not a figure who warrants our attention after all. A good major league ball player but not a great one. But likely a worst spy. Mostly, Berg created an enigmatic image of himself that ultimately didn't hold sway with those in the know. Dawidoff presents a plethora of information indicating that Berg was usually awol on his spy missions; he could never account for his time or expenses; and his results were for the most part non-existent, self-exaggerated, or miniscule.

Berg is described by many as fascinating, secretive, complex, and so forth, and these characteristics are said to be what made him the "perfect" spy. But his personal characteristics, from this reviewer's professional experience, appear to implicate serious mental illness, a subject which was only tangentially broached. Probably half the book is devoted to Berg the lonely and wandering Vagabond during his last 25 years. There is the distinct feeling of watching a slow motion train wreck as one wades through episode after episode of Berg's off-center nomadic existence. But the episodes lead to nothing, other than the sad conclusion that the man simply wasn't what he - and others - had made himself out to be.

In the end, this is a story about a bright and talented individual who was most likely fraught with a debilitating mental illness which precluded his achievement of the lofty ends which this book attempts to portray. And as such, I ended up feeling sorry for Moe Berg more than anything else. Even so, I just couldn't help but feel -- against my will -- that the book was much ado about nothing.
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Product Details

Dawidoff, Nicholas
New York
Military - World War II
Historical - U.S.
Berg, morris, 1902-1972
World War, 19
baseball;biography;sports;history;non-fiction;espionage;wwii;spy;moe berg;oss
Edition Number:
1st Vintage ed.
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8 x 5.2 x 1 in 1.0688 lb

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
Biography » Political
Biography » Sports
History and Social Science » Military » Espionage
History and Social Science » Military » World War II » General
History and Social Science » Politics » General
Sports and Outdoors » Sports and Fitness » Baseball » General

The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg Used Trade Paper
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Product details 480 pages Vintage Books USA - English 9780679762898 Reviews:
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