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Showing 1-10 of 86 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 124 reviews
on January 6, 2015
Berg's story in itself is interesting, bizarre, and somewhat depressing. In truth; he was highly skilled at mediocrity. He pursued many paths, but stopped short of real accomplishment - except as a story teller (and, in my view, a BS'er). Was Berg intelligent? Definilty so. Was he eccentric? Very much so.

Dawidoff has deftly captured the essence of Moe Berg and dispelled many inflated claims of Berg's abilities made by others. But the writing is a bit disjointed, and jumps back and forth in time. It gets confusing st times. There is also a fair amount of redundancy; Dawidoff more than adequately tells us that Berg was very intelligent, a loner, unusual, and broke much of the time in his later life.

However, the sheer history of this strange man and Dawidoff's thorough research of him deserves a read.
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on March 23, 2014
As a historian of science, I was drawn to this book because of a very interesting connection between the physicist Werner Heisenberg and Moe Berg, a major league baseball player. Casey Stengel called Moe Berg "the strangest man ever to play baseball," and Casey was pretty strange himself. Moe Berg was a catcher for the Brooklyn Robins (which later became the Dodgers), the Chicago White Sox, and the Boston Red Sox, among other teams. But during World War II he became a high-level spy for the United States. The story goes that Berg was sent to Switzerland to make contact with Heisenberg and then to kill him! (The United States believed Heisenberg was the key to Hitler developing an atomic bomb.) Moe Berg attended an event at which Heisenberg appeared and afterward walked through quiet streets with him. Berg had a gun in his pocket that he intended to use to shoot Heisenberg. However, after talking to Heisenberg at length, he concluded that the Germans had no intention of trying to create an atomic bomb, so he decided not to kill him after all. If you want to learn more about this unique fellow, read this book.
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on May 24, 2017
Extremely detailed account of an interesting man during interesting times....At times accounts of
Moe Berg's life and adventures seem real and fascinting and at other times they seem incredibly
unlikely and hard to believe...you be the judge...
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on September 8, 2015
"That Berg got along badly with his intransigent father and was ambivalent about his religion are important clues in unlocking the mystery of Moe Berg, but they are no Rosebud." This one sentence sums up the writing style and most of the biography of Moe Berg. The title also tells the story. It's all a matter of the details; some, like Berg's life, are embellished and some are just surmised. It's a good story which has been floating around on the internet for a while, but for me the interest wanes a bit mid-book. From the post-WWII era to Berg's wanderings around Washington, it's directionless. Whether that's a fault of the author or of the subject himself is unclear. If you are a baseball fan who likes history (or V/V), then you might enjoy this book. It's not for everyone, but I'll give it a "B" for intrigue.
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on May 2, 2014
This intriguing character held great potential. One could have been moving among baseball legends like Babe Ruth and Jimmy Foxx and moments later, breath abated, waiting for a Nazi guard to acccept yout forged papers.
But Noooo. Early on the author projects to Moe's later life, of living off his brother and not maintaining a job.

The writer did not capitalize on Baseball in the 1930' nor on the mystery and intensity of espionage behind enemy lines.
By the time we get into the 50's Moe has no known sourde of income and moves from poverty to Ritzie Hotels with not a single explanation being posed.
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on May 13, 2013
Before I opened this book, I thought I knew who Moe Berg was, a major league catcher in 20's and 30's who had some role in the OSS. But that isn't even close to the enigma that Dawidoff introduced me to. Berg's incredible intelligence (including a photographic memory), his linguistic capabilities and his reading habits (compulsions?) gave him an opportunity to excell as a student (Princeton, 1923) who then went to law school while simultaneously playing professional baseball. As his athletic career was winding down, he joined the OSS and specialized in investigating Germany's attempts to obtain an atom bomb. This undisciplined loner was an ideal spy for the undisciplined OSS, even though it was that trait that ultimately doomed his career with the more beaurecratic CIA. But it is the last 25 years of Berg's life that is even more fascinating because he lived by his wits even though often seemingly penniless. Imagine someone who could and did converse with Babe Ruth, Wild Bill Donovan, Albert Einstein and Clifton Fadiman. I thank the author for his diigence in researching and writing this incisive work.
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on February 16, 2014
Fascinating insight into the life of a most unusual man -- baseball player, spy, linguist, lawyer, raconteur and more. Dawidoff's research is impressive in its depth and scope, although there were times when I thought TMI! -- too much information. On the whole, the book is well written,engaging and most of all, revealing as it follows Berg's most unconventional life, from childhood in an immigrant Jewish family in Newark, NJ, to Princeton University, to professional baseball in the 1920's, 30's, and 40's, to the OSS during WW II, and finally to his post-war life as a wanderer living on the kindness of others. In the end, Dawidoff traces many of Berg's idiosyncrasies to a strained relationship with his father, who could never accept Berg's love of baseball and refused to see his son play. In sum, an excellent read.
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on September 5, 2015
I like Dawidoff's style and passion and lucidity, and his other books (especially The Fly Catcher). But in the end---or, really, about 2/3 of the way through---I grew impatient with Berg. (Not with Dawidoff!) He was an aimless man, on principle. Aimless people are boring. Berg wasn't actually even much of a spy, in the same way that he was not actually much of a "linguist" (as people supposed he was) or a baseball player. Just a bright guy wandering around determined not to commit to any path or point.
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on February 25, 2016
An okay biography, but not a great one. Moe Berg was a fascinating yet elusive character, and one doesn't get the sense that Dawidoff ever quite figured him out. Being a sports writer he fills many pages with trivia about Berg's baseball career, which is really the least interesting thing about the guy. Dawidoff tells what he could find out about Berg's career as a spy for the OSS, but it all remains rather murky. Other books about famous spies from the period manage to be more clear, and Dawidoff had access to records, so it's a bit of a mystery why Berg remains such a mystery. We also never get a real sense of Berg as a man, what motivated him, how he became such an odd figure, a scholar-lawyer-ballplayer-spy. Not coming up with answers, Dawidoff sometimes simply speculates, other times shrugs it all off, which is a strange attitude for a biographer. One senses that someday somebody might write a better, more insightful book about this man.
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on May 12, 2015
What is it like to be a ballplayer and a Princeton grad who speaks many languages? What is it like to miss spring training and the first two months of the season to complete Columbia law school? What is it like to be a journeyman catcher and enjoy the perks of baseball travel? What is it like to go to Japan and teach the Japanese the game? Moe Berg embraced a life of wandering curiosity. The first half on his life as a ball player was a delight. The second half on his life as a spy was less compelling.
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