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The Catcher Was a Spy


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About the Author

Nicholas Dawidoff is the author of five books. One of them, The Fly Swatter, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and another, In the Country of Country, was named one of the greatest all-time works of travel literature by Conde Nast Traveller. His first book, The Catcher Was A Spy: The Mysterious Life Of Moe Berg was a national bestseller and appeared on many 1994 best book lists. In 2009, Pantheon published The Crowd Sounds Happy: A Story of Love, Madness and Baseball. He is also the editor of the Library of America's Baseball: A Literary Anthology. A graduate of Harvard University, he has been a Guggenheim, Civitella Ranieri and Berlin Prize Fellow, and is a contributor to The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine and the American Scholar.


Ball player Berg hit in some pretty big leagues--he was also a spy for the OSS during World War II. His biographer has contributed stories to Sports Illustrated , the New Republic , and The New Yorker.

Berg (1902-1972) was a third-string major league catcher for 15 seasons, but it's not for his lack of baseball skills he's remembered, but rather for his intellectualism and eccentricity. After graduating from Princeton in 1923 (he later earned a law degree at Columbia Unversity and studied at the Sorbonne), Berg joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. Dawidoff shows us the oddball Berg: he sometimes read 10 newspapers a day and he had ``a near mania for cleanliness.'' With the outbreak of WW II, Berg's ability to speak perhaps 18 languages was put to use working for ``Will Bill'' Donovan at the OSS. Berg played an important role in supplying information on the German nuclear threat and after the war helped corral European scientists for the U.S. After the OSS was disbanded, Berg was cashiered and awarded the Medal of Freedom, which he refused to accept. For the remaining 25 years of his life he became ``a vagabond, living on wit and charm and the kindness of friends.'' Dawidoff, a freelance writer, has done a wonderful job of unraveling the legends around the mystifying Berg. Photos. (July)

"A delightful book that recounts one of the strangest episodes in the history of espionage. . . . . Relentlessly entertaining."--The New York Times Book Review

"[A] meticulously researched biography. . . . . As Dawidoff tracks his elusive subject...the story becomes more than a search for the core of someone who spent his life making himself a mystery, but a dark, moving human tragedy."--Los Angeles Times

"[Dawidoff] has done heroic research, much of it in unlit corners. . . . Moe Berg doubtless will forever remain a mystery, but Dawidoff has brought the mystery to life."--Washington Post

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