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

3.6  ·  Rating details ·  1,301 Ratings  ·  116 Reviews
Moe Berg was a baseball player and a spy, and one of the most colorful men ever to pursue either line of work. Long the source of speculation and fascination, Berg's life has never before been pieced together so seamlessly and to such riveting effect as it is now in this superb biography. 16 pages of photos.
Hardcover, 453 pages
Published June 28th 1994 by Pantheon (first published 1994)
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Deborah Edwards
Baseball and spies. Two of my favorite subjects. I really wanted to like this book. Not only was Moe Berg a catcher for the Red Sox and one of the first Jewish players in baseball, but he also happened to do a little moonlighting in espionage on the side. It should have made for a riveting story, full of twists and turns, savory Cold war nuggets and revealing baseball lore. And in the hands of another author, perhaps it would have. But somehow, in the hands of Nicholas Davidoff, it reads like on ...more
Aug 03, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sports, mystery
I have never read a book that was such a chore to finish.
I felt like making a flow chart to follow all the people and a map to keep track of all the places he went. I found it a very confusing book to read.

Many of the people quoted in the book say what a great story teller Moe Berg was, yet the story is told so poorly by the author. The people also say how secretive Berg was and that most of the time no one knew how he could afford to live let alone what he was doing from day to day and that ma
Oct 07, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, baseball
One of the dullest books I've ever read.
Part of the problem is that it's so well-researched. Berg went to London for two weeks, where, wearing his usual white shirt, grey suit and black tie, he stayed at the Claridge Hotel and dined with this person and that person, although he did not submit timely expense accounts, and then he disappeared for two weeks, turning up in Stockholm, where he dined with this scientist and still did not submit his expense accounts -- while wearing his usual white shi
Brian Eshleman
Nov 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If my experience is any indication, the reader is that once maddened by Berg's insistence on fashioning a persona rather than applying himself in a straightforward way AND fascinated by the persona he created.

SECOND READING: Less exasperation and more fascination this time, which is perhaps a function of time and experience on my part rather than any "changes" in this deceased subject. Moe Berg is fascinating in his own right. I love his determination to be himself and to live a life of the mind
Apr 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title of this book sounds as if it could have been written by Mickey Spillane but it is in fact a well-crafted story of a little-known ballplayer, Morris "Moe" Berg, an exceedingly enigmatic figure who played baseball almost by default. But more than a story of a 3rd string, journeyman backstop, The Catcher Was a Spy by Nicholas Dawidoff is a deeply engaging psychological profile of a man personified by the adjective "crepuscular", as shadowy & mysterious as he was intellectually gifted, ...more
Alexandria Barilone
The Catcher was a spy: the secret life of Moe Berg by Nicholas Dawidoff is a biography on the famous catcher Moe Berg. Throughout the book you start with the smart young Morris Berg, and learn about his amazing learning ability. As Moe grows up we learn about his passion for baseball and see him play for Princeton, The Red Soxs, Dodgers, and many other big league teams. As he grows he learns his real calling in baseball is to be a catcher, rather than the shortstop position he had previously mad ...more
Malcolm Anderson
#4 This book is quite possibly a hundred billion times better than the Awakening, almost as good as the Catcher in the Rye, better than the Great Gatsby, better than the Crucible, and not quite as good as small portion that we read of the Things We Carried, just to put this book in perspective with the others we have read this year. In this book, there is a "dream" portrayed. Moe Berg loved playing baseball more than anything else in his world. It made him happy just to be around the game, even ...more
Neil Pierson
After his career ends, a major league baseball player becomes a spy for the U.S. government. If that isn't unusual enough, the baseball player/spy is extremely smart and extremely eccentric.

Moe Berg was the brainy son of a pharmacist. He was admitted to Princeton in 1925 and became a star baseball player there. He went on to play for the Dodgers, Red Sox, and White Sox while obtaining his law degree from Columbia.

He volunteered for government service in World War II and eventually joined the Off
Mel Ostrov
Mar 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Catcher Was a Spy
N. Dawidoff

This book, first published in 1994, is not just about a brilliant, secular Jewish baseball star who also went on to become a U.S. spy for the OSS during WW II. More so, it is an in-depth biography of a strange but lovable character who proves to be just one of a family with similar traits of eccentricity. Here are some examples: “The younger reporters, in turn, were baffled by Berg. They wondered what he did with his time, snickered that he was a ‘freeloader’
Mark Ruzomberka
There is a reason this book was $6.50 at a used book store. It should have been a magazine article. On the surface the idea of a book about a baseball player who also was a spy was very intriguing. However, Moe Berg was neither a great baseball player nor a great spy. Granted it was still a cool story but one that was so meticulously research and told that it was very boring. The problem with the story was the lack or real conflict. At no time was Berg ever really in trouble with no issues to ov ...more
victor harris
Jun 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: baseball
Moe Berg may qualify as the most intriguing baseball player of all time. A weak-hitting but quality defensive catcher who kicked around with various teams for over a decade, the enigmatic Berg would make his mark on another front when he served as a spy for the OSS during WW II and for the CIA in the post-war. Unlike most ballplayers of the 20s-40s (or perhaps any era), he was a Princeton grad, had a law degree from Columbia, and was multi-lingual. He was also Jewish which made him somewhat of ...more
Feb 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm knee-deep in research reading for an upcoming novel and I have stumbled across a fascinating book about a totally unique individual Moe Berg, the only Major League ballplayer with his baseball card on display at the headquarters of the CIA. Moe Berg had both a 15-year career as a catcher for such teams as the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox and also as that of a spy for the OSS during World War II.

Know as "the smartest man in baseball" as well as "the strangest man ever to play baseb
Jan 04, 2009 rated it liked it
I can't honestly remember how I came across Moe Berg's name, but when I first heard about him, I was immediately intrigued. A Princeton graduate, a polyglot, a professional baseball player, and an American spy, Moe Berg seemed to have all the makings for an exciting biography.

Dawidoff's account of Moe Berg's life covers quite a bit of ground, detailing Moe Berg's baseball career, his work as a spy during WWII, and finally his decline in his later years after he was let go from the espionage busi
Aug 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A meticulously researched biography about the third-string Boston Red Sox catcher whom the OSS assigned to assassinate Werner Heisenberg during World War II. Oddly enough, the book's first third, which chronicles Berg's major league baseball career, is more intriguing than its second third, which traces Berg's secret missions in Europe on the trail of the Nazi nuclear program: it's as if the author found it more fascinating that an eccentric intellectual could be a professional athlete than that ...more
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If the purpose of a biography is to produce an honest, interesting account of a life, then this succeeds very well. For those hoping for a book primarily about baseball, or espionage, this may be disappointing, because first and foremost it's a book about Moe Berg.

From my perspective the book breaks down into three parts. The first part is his childhood and baseball, the second part is the OSS and WWII, and the third part is about the strange man he became when his strongest ties (baseball and
Larry Hostetler
Dec 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
This book portended to be ideal for me. A combination of my love of baseball, spycraft and biography, it neither disappointed nor wowed me. Moe Berg was not a name of which I was aware, since he was never a star. I don't even remember his baseball card (which is the only one on display at the CIA). I love a good character and Moe certainly qualifies as a character. Perhaps because so much of his life was inscrutable but could only be pieced together by conjecture, there was an unsatisfying natur ...more
Deanna Against Censorship
I love baseball. I love baseball books, movies and history. Moe Berg was a baseball player and a spy. He was also a weird off the wall character with high intelligence. He was a college graduate and a law school graduate during a time when most professional baseball players were the exact opposite. He was a unique real life character. So how could a book about him be boring. I would not have finished it except I wanted to know more about Berg. The author seemed to get bogged down in minutia. I g ...more
General Lee Gaye
Holy too much detail Batman. Entire passages of this book are dedicated to details that exist exclusively to show that the author knew them. It's almost on a "At 10:52 PST, Berg took a bite of his sandwich" level. This is a fairly interesting story - although the fact that a baseball player became a spy after retiring is not like HOLY SHIT OH MY GOD - but pretty sure excising 100 pages would have served it well. Next!

Sep 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book uncovering the truly mysterious life of Moe Berg. Follows Berg through his beginnings to retirement from baseball, examining his potential role in the OSS. Was he working for the US government, or was he just a whacky ballplayer that participated in some strange things while playing ball. You decide.
Dec 06, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
My two passions (baseball and spies) combine to make this story intriguing and totally absorbing...this book, however, is painful to finish!
Will Byrnes
Was he a US spy? A very interesting bio.
Aug 05, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sports
After reading, it's hard to tell what kind of person Moe Berg was, which is probably the way he would have wanted you to think.
May 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Moe Berg was obviously a one-of-a-kind character. But for some reason, his history didn't resonate all that much with me. Perhaps it is because of the element of fraud that surrounded his life. That said, author Nicholas Dawidoff does a good job of peeling that onion and delving into those insecurities, and I can't complain about the reporting he did on Berg's background.

From the book:

"Once he got to Washington, Berg shifted abruptly from the gregarious entertainer to the man of mystery. Wheneve
May 11, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: completed
Author Dawidoff tells an interesting tale as he explores the truth about Catcher Moe Berg and his service to the O.S.S. during World War II as well as the CIA following the war. The author doesn't ignore Berg's professional baseball career, but suggests that Berg could have never been better than a third string backup catcher.

In fact, as the book progresses, we find that the author believes Berg to be an almost complete fake in just about everything he did. He exposes Berg as a borderline schiz
This book should have had it all, hitting so many of my nerdy high notes.
Baseball and its many eccentric players.
How math, science and being smart helped us win WW2
Travel and adventure...

yet somehow, everything felt a little flat.
Lucas Jaffe
Really interesting content - just a little long and dry over the long run - fantastically interesting guy.
Lynne Cosmano
Mysterious is right...what an eccentric man (and family).
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Moe Berg was a very interesting character with his athleticism, intelligence, and avoidance of fulfilling his potential; but the book is filled with redundancy.
Howard Green
so excited by the premise, but let down by the final product
Rick Peters
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating Story
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“Berg paid his way with stories.” 0 likes
“Berg made himself unique so comparisons were impossible.” 0 likes
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