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against the Japanese all-star teams. Berg had graduated from Princeton with a major in modern languages, and later earned a degree from the Columbia Law School. He was included because he spoke Japanese—and at least six other languages. Parenthetically, when asked by a reporter whether he knew that Berg spoke a number of foreign languages, a teammate answered, “Yeah, I know, and he can’t hit in any one of
During the players’
tour of Japan, Berg traveled to a Tokyo hospital on the pretext of visiting the daughter of the American Ambassador. Berg found his way to the roof of the hospital, one of the city’s tallest buildings, and surreptitiously used his movie camera to film the entire city and its harbor, including its military and industrial facilities.
Some seven years later,
after the attack on Pearl
Harbor, Berg retired from
baseball and joined the
war effort. He presented
his films to intelligence
officers in the United
States military. Then Air
Force Colonel (and later
General) Jimmy Doolittle
used the footage to planBhGTi.sindsdpe1 ctacular raid on Tokyo—glamorized in books and movies since 1943. Within a year, Berg had joined the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency. At the age of forty- one and with the code name "Remus," he parachuted into Nazi occupied territory in Europe. His mission, in part, was to determine how close the Germans were to developing the atomic bomb. Berg, armed with a pistol and
in possession of a suicide pill in case
he was captured, arranged to attend a lecture in neutral Switzerland, by Nobel prize winning Nazi physicist Werner Heisenberg. His directions were to kill Heisenberg if he was assisting in the development of a nuclear bomb. After the lecture, he spoke with Heisenberg and learned that the Germans were nowhere near completing plans for the bomb. Heisenberg was spared. Berg’s
licensed, never practiced law. Until his death in 1972, he was jobless. A lifelong bachelor, he lived with relatives for the rest of his life. He died at the age of 70 at a hospital in New Jersey. His final words were to his attending nurse: “How did the Mets do today?”
Berg had once appeared on a radio quiz show, “Information,
Please.” He was so impressive that then Baseball Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis remarked, “In just thirty minutes, Berg did more for baseball than I’ve done the entire time I’ve been commissioner.” In 1966, he was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Today, Berg’s baseball card is on display at
the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency. His Medal of Honor is in Cooperstown. In 1994, Nicholas Dawidoff wrote a biography, the “Catcher Was a Spy,” finding that some of Berg’s exploits, while essentially true, had been embellished. ESPN was kinder,
featu4/r2i0n/17g B12e:25rgPMin its “30 for 30” series in 2015. Last year, it was announced that Paul Rudd, who stars in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Ant Man, will portray Berg in a biopic currently in production—perhaps serving to justify Justice Blackmun’s inclusion of this obscure catcher as among baseball's immortals.
Gary Wade is a former Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court and the current dean and vice president of Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan School of Law.
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findings ultimately reached the desk of President Roosevelt. In a conversation with the CIA Director, FDR remarked: “Give my regards to the catcher.”
After the war ended, Berg was awarded the Medal of Freedom, our country’s highest award for a civilian
in war time. Because he would have been required to identify himself as a spy, he declined the honor. Although Berg’s contract with the CIA was not renewed in 1954, he chose not to apply for a teaching position, and, even though
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