March 2 – Happy Birthday Moe Berg

If I was going to make a movie about the life of a baseball player, one of the the players I’d strongly consider would be today’s Beantown Baseball Birthday Celebrant. Moe Berg was undoubtedly one of the most intelligent men to ever play Major League Baseball, The son of Russian Jews, Berg graduated from Princeton and Columbia Law School. He began his big league career with Brooklyn in 1923, as a middle infielder. He hit just .198 in his rookie season and he didn’t play in another big league game until 1926, with the Chicago White Sox. It was during the 1927 season that Moe volunteered to catch after both of Chicago’s regular receivers were injured. That switch of positions turned out to be a great career move that would keep Berg in the big leagues as a back-up catcher for the next dozen seasons. He moved around a lot, going from the Windy City to Cleveland and then to Washington and back to Cleveland. In 1935, he signed on with the Red Sox and spent the last five seasons of his big league career as Boston’s back up catcher. He only got in 148 games during those five seasons and averaged .262. His one Beantown specialty was becoming the preferred catcher of the great Lefty Grove. So why would I seriously consider making a movie about a guy who usually got fewer than 100 at bats in any of his fifteen big league seasons?

After Moe Berg quit playing, he coached for Boston for a couple of years and then became a spy. He could speak 12 languages and when World War II broke out, Berg joined the US Office of Special Services as an espionage agent. He was sent on several secret missions in Europe. When the war ended, Berg struggled to find a career that challenged him. He went broke on a bad business investment and spent the rest of his life traveling around the country living off friends and relatives.

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