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Morris “Moe” Berg Papers

 Collection — translation missing: en.enumerations.container_type.container: Consolidated Box P25, Folder: P-853
Identifier: P-924

Scope and Content Note

The Berg papers span the years 1924 to 1984, with the bulk of the material dating from 1930 to 1960. The collection features correspondence between Berg and other major league baseball players: Alphonse “Tommy” Thomas, Ted Lyons, Johnny Nuen, and Al Schacht. Also included is correspondence about Berg during his OSS employment from Major Charles G. Wagner, Col. William J. Donovan, and U.S. diplomat Laurence Steinhardt. The collection is organized in four series: Baseball Career, WWII Activities, Personal, and Ephemera. This collection also includes all materials from a smaller collection (P-853) that has been incorporated. The materials formerly in P-853 include the Berg Employment Application (copies) and the Moe Berg Medal of Freedom Correspondence which can now be found in Series II: WWII Correspondence.

Dates

  • undated, 1924-1972
  • Majority of material found within 1930 - 1960

Creator

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers, except items that may be restricted due to their fragility, or privacy.

Use Restrictions

No permission is required to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection, as long as the usage is scholarly, educational, and non-commercial. For inquiries about other usage, please contact the Director of Collections and Engagement at mmeyers@ajhs.org.

For reference questions, please email: inquiries@cjh.org

Biographical Note

Morris “Moe” was born March 2, 1902 in New York City to Russian-Jewish immigrants Bernard Berg, and his wife, Rose Tashker. Rose and Bernard had three children, Samuel, Ethel, and Morris, who was the youngest. At the age of three, Moe begged his mother to let him attend school with his older sister and brother, and after she outfitted him with school clothes, he joined his older siblings.1 Berg had a photographic memory that enhanced his ability to retain copious amounts of information and may have later helped in his career as a spy for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The family moved to Newark, NJ where Berg attended Barringer High School. Berg had a knack for languages studying Latin, Greek and French and was voted “Brightest Boy” by classmates.2 Berg’s natural knack for baseball could be seen even as a toddler, when he would toss around a ball with his brother Samuel and play catch with his neighbor. During his high school baseball career, Berg was third baseman; he had a steady bat and made no throwing errors.3

After graduation Berg enrolled at New York University, transferring to Princeton University after two semesters. At Princeton, Berg studied Linguistic Science and became proficient in Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Sanskrit. Berg’s zest for knowledge led him to study a variety of other subjects including philosophy, history, economics, literature, and biology. Berg continued playing baseball at Princeton, initially as first baseman on the freshman team, then as starting shortstop on the varsity team, where he helped win eighteen consecutive games. Though not particularly strong as a batter or runner, Berg was commended for his field work, and his ability to read the path of the ball and field it efficiently. Graduating Princeton University in 1923, Berg was offered a teaching position, but decided to travel to continue his language studies.4

In order to afford his study and travel, Berg accepted a contract to play shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers. During his time with the Dodgers, Berg was commended for his agility on the field. However, his arm and aim with the ball became erratic and he consistently made errors. Berg decided to take a break from major league baseball and left to study in Paris.5 He enrolled at the Sorbonne soon upon arrival where he studied Latin, Italian, and French Literature and took classes to study Romantic Linguistics.6 While abroad Berg had the opportunity to tour Italy and Switzerland. He returned to baseball in 1926 to play third base with the Minneapolis Millers, a minor league team. The following year, he moved up to the major league Chicago White Sox, where he played catcher. While with the White Sox, Berg attended Columbia Law School, graduating in 1930, balancing academic interests with his love of baseball. During this time he seriously injured his knee, which limited his time on the field. Berg worked for a brief period of time in a Manhattan law firm, Saterlee and Canfield, as a corporate lawyer.7 The Cleveland Indians picked up Berg in 1932 as a substitute catcher and he played both with the Indians and the Washington Senators up until 1935.

During this time, Berg traveled to Japan twice. In 1932 Berg and two other players traveled to Japan to teach baseball at Japanese universities. While the other players returned home after their coaching assignments, Berg stayed behind to explore Japan and traveled to India, Egypt, and Germany.8 In 1934, Berg toured Japan a second time with a group of major league all-stars which included Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. A New York City production company gave Berg a camera to film scenic sites on his trip.9 During an all-star game, Berg went to the roof of one of the tallest buildings in Tokyo, Saint Luke's Hospital in the Tsukiji district, and filmed the city harbor.10 Pilots reportedly later used the film during Tokyo-area bombing raids in World War II. After returning to America, Berg was picked up by the Boston Red Sox in 1935. He retired as a baseball player in 1939, but stayed with the Red Sox to coach from 1940-1941.

During World War II, possibly in 1942, Berg was recruited as an agent for the OSS. Touring Europe, he was assigned to help determine how close Germany was to developing an atomic bomb by posing as a business man in Switzerland. Berg spent parts of 1944 and 1945 in Italy and Germany, helping arrange the capture of German atomic scientists. Returning to the United States, he retired from the OSS in 1945.11 He was awarded the Medal of Freedom, but turned it down. In 1952 Berg returned to work for the CIA and was sent to Europe to gather intelligence on the Soviet Union. He served in the CIA until 1954, when his contract expired.

After his service with the CIA, Berg lived in New Jersey with his brother Samuel and his sister Ethel, where he resided until his death at age 70 in 1972.

References

  1. Nicholas Dawidoff. The Catcher Was A Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg New York: Vintage Books (Division of Random House Inc.), 1994.
  2. Ibid, 26.
  3. Ibid, 26.
  4. Ibid, 32-34.
  5. Ibid, 42-43.
  6. Ibid, 45.
  7. Ibid, 67.
  8. Ibid, 75.
  9. Ibid, 82-83.
  10. Ibid, 94-95.
  11. Ibid, 240-243.

Extent

.05 Linear Feet (1 manuscript box and 2 OS1F folders)

Language of Materials

English

German

Italian

Japanese

French

Abstract

This collection contains the papers of Morris "Moe" Berg, who was a professional baseball player, linguist, lawyer, and international spy during WWII. Berg's papers are in the form of correspondence, contracts, telegrams, newspaper and magazine clippings.

Physical Location

Collection is located in Consolidated Box P25.

Acquisition Information

The Morris “Moe” Berg papers were donated to the American Jewish Historical Society by Irwin M. Berg, Linda McCarthy and George Blumenthal of the Jewish Sports Archives.

Digitization Note

Box 1 Folders 7-12 have been digitized as part of an ongoing digitization-on-demand program at the Center for Jewish History.

Related Material

This collection combines two previously unprocessed collections regarding Mr. Berg, plus a third collection, P-853 Morris Berg OSS Employment Application, 1943, which contains a photocopy of his application. The collections were merged into Series II: World War II Activities.
Title
Guide to the Morris Berg Papers, undated, 1902-1972   P-924
Status
Completed
Author
Processed by Alexandra Bickel
Date
© 2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2018-03-01:: Added 1958 scorecard formerly on exhibit at the National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH) in Philadelphia. Updated box list; deleted asterisk in collection number; updated OS1F folder designations; updated collection .xml naming; changed Undated to undated; updated bulk dates format; added photograph and updated folder 10 description. Tanya Elder.
  • October 2020: RJohnstone: post-ASpace migration cleanup.

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

Contact:
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New York NY 10011 United States