Moe Berg was a decent defensive catcher who struggled at the plate in the 1920s and ’30’s—it’s his post-baseball career that fascinates.
He was intellectually gifted and was one of only a few Jewish students at Princeton, where Jews were prohibited from joining social clubs. However, they were happy to have him on their baseball team. Upon graduation, he began his 15-year major league career. At a time when major league baseball players were white, Christian, and, with few exceptions, poorly educated, Berg was Jewish, a college graduate, a speaker of many languages, and attending law school. In 1941, he became a spy for the OSS, the forerunner of the CIA. His knowledge of languages and world cultures was an asset, as was his seeming fearlessness: as a Jewish American, he would be in particularly grave danger if caught. He parachuted into occupied Yugoslavia and made contact with resistance groups. He spied on a German physicist to determine Nazi nuclear capability. Berg always remained secretive, and there’s little information about his postwar life, but that’s the way he wanted it. Jones gives readers the sketchy details of Berg’s life and exploits in carefully selected anecdotes, employing accessible, straightforward syntax. Cherrington’s bright cartoons capture the events and subtly convey Berg’s differences from the gentiles who surround him.
A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too. (afterword) (Picture book/ biography. 9-12)