The Extraordinary Life of Moe Berg: From Baseball Catcher to International Spy


  • The story of World War II baseball catcher and spy Moe Berg was depicted in the 2018 war drama, The Catcher Was A Spy, starring Paul Rudd.

  • Intellectual and capable, Moe Berg continued his work after the war, working with the CIA until his contract expired in 1954.

  • Moe Berg, a nomadic post-CIA figure, died at age 70, maintaining a deep love of baseball until the end.

The 2018 drama The Catcher Was A Spy tells the story of the most mysterious baseball player who ever lived, and he lived a reclusive, secretive life long after the war. Starring Paul Rudd, The Catcher Was A Spy examines the life of Moe Berg, who rose to prominence as a catcher for several prominent baseball teams, including the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox in the 1930s. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Berg became involved in the war effort; he accepted a position in the Office of Strategic Services and served as a spy for the United States government throughout the war.

Adapted from Nicholas Dawidoff’s 1994 biography, the film depicts Berg’s fascinating transition from a 15-season career as a baseball catcher to his pursuit of German theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg, who was allegedly responsible for creating an atomic bomb for Nazi Germany; Using his intellect and language skills, Berg traveled across Europe and was tasked with finding Heisenberg before the weapon’s creation was completed. As seen in The Catcher Was A Spy, Moe Berg’s work played an important role in the U.S. government’s fight against the enemy, but his spy work notably continued after the war ended.

Moe Berg rejected the Medal of Freedom after World War II

Throughout the war, Berg pursued Heisenberg across Europe to determine for the U.S. government whether Heisenberg was creating a bomb. As shown in the film, Berg attended a lecture given by Heisenberg in Zurich, with a pistol in his pocket, ready to assassinate the physicist if he found any indication of the bomb. Ultimately, Berg determined that Heisenberg was not working on a weapon and did not pose a threat to the United States; he ultimately never carried out the assassination plot (via Atomic Heritage Foundation).

After the war, Moe Berg returned to the United States and received the Medal of Freedom from U.S. President Harry Truman for his service in the war. However, in a memo to the president, Berg refused to accept the honor, saying that “his humble contribution” could not be disclosed, and that it embarrassed him (via the New York Times). Although he rejected the honor during his lifetime, Berg was awarded it posthumously after his death in 1972. It was accepted on his behalf by his sister Ethel, who later donated it to the Baseball Hall of Fame .

Moe Berg’s 1952 Soviet Mission Explained

After the war, Moe Berg continued to work in espionage for several years. In the late 1940s, he joined the CIA and gained a reputation for his knowledge of evaluating nuclear information. In 1952, he was sent back to Europe to collect available information on atomic science in the Soviet Union. He contacted his old wartime contacts in Europe to try to gather information about the Soviet Union’s atomic nuclear program (via Senior Women).

Berg’s mission in 1952 proved unsuccessful as he was unable to obtain any information for the CIA. He remained working with the CIA and helping NATO select international sites for missiles until his contract expired in 1954 (via Warfare History Network). After finishing with the CIA, despite several offers to coach Major League Baseball, Berg never worked again.

This is the true story depicted in Paul Rudd’s The Catcher Was A Spy, which follows Moe Berg, a baseball player turned spy during World War II.

Why Moe Berg became a nomad after his time at the CIA

After his time at the CIA, Berg seemed to drift from place to place, never settling in one place for long. Although he graduated from Princeton and Columbia law schools, he never had a job and spent the majority of his free time traveling, watching baseball games, and browsing bookstores. Berg was very secretive about his time working in espionage; he refused to discuss it publicly and turned down every book offer he received. According to Dawidoff’s biography, Berg always gave outsiders the impression that he was still working for the CIA, years after leaving the post.

Berg traveled, relying on old friends and strangers before moving in with his brother Samuel in New Jersey. He stayed with his brother for 17 years, unemployed, always sullen and evasive, refusing to talk about his work with the CIA (via Jerusalem Post). The brothers eventually argued and Berg was kicked out of his brother’s home. He then moved in with his sister Ethel, in Belleville, New Jersey, where he lived for the rest of his life.

Moe Berg dies at age 70

Moe Berg suffered from health problems later in life. In 1972, he was hospitalized following complications related to a fall. He never recovered from his injury and died on May 29, 1972, aged 70. It was later determined that Berg died from an aortic aneurysm; he was cremated and his ashes were buried by his family, at a secret location in Israel (via Warfare History Network).

Throughout his life, Berg never lost his love for baseball and followed several teams. His last reported words before his death were “How did the Mets do today?” to a nurse, asking about a baseball game the Mets played in and subsequently won (via Baseball Hall). Moe Berg’s spy work was dramatized in The Catcher Was A Spy, but his covert activities throughout the war had a significant impact on him for the rest of his life.

The receiver was a spy

Release date June 22, 2018

Duration 98 minutes

2024-02-21 02:11:31
#Happened #Catcher #Moe #Berg #Spy #World #War


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