Before He Was a Catcher or a Spy: Moe Berg's Year with the 1925 Reading Keys
Presented by Historian Brian Englehardt
Moe Berg played 15 years in the major leagues, mostly as a backup catcher. For those keeping score at home, Berg played in 663 games with five different teams. It was not from accomplishments on the field that Berg’s notoriety arose. It was unusual enough that Berg was a professional ballplayer who graduated magna cum laude from Princeton fluent in ten languages (as well as a law degree from Columbia University). It was Berg’s Jewish heritage which made him even more of a rarity in baseball, as there have been fewer major leaguers of Jewish heritage than those with Ivy League degrees.
Following Berg’s retirement from baseball, he engaged in espionage activity during World War II for the Office of Strategic Services, predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency. The latter events were dramatized in the film “The Catcher Was a Spy.” (Which also was a title of the most authoritative biography on Berg). Unique as Berg was in generally, bubbling below the surface were those elements of his behavior which would cause Casey Stengel to describe him as, “The strangest fellah who ever put on a uniform.”
ABOUT BRIAN ENGLEHARDT:
BRIAN ENGELHARDT is a native of Reading, Pennsylvania where he resides with his wife, Suzanne, who is a good sport about any number of things. They raised three daughters, who are Phillies fans (although the one who lives in Pittsburgh has a picture of Bill Mazeroski in her family room.) A trustee of the Berks History Center, Brian is a regular contributor to The Historical Review Berks County, his subjects covering local matters of historical note – about half of them involving baseball. He has also written for various publications by the Society for American Baseball Research, and is the author of, Reading’s Big League Exhibition Games, a book about the many occasions since 1870 when major league teams played games in Reading (which up to now has mysteriously been ignored by the Pulitzer people.) A retired attorney, Brian serves as an adjunct professor at Albright College.