Tag Archives: spy

April 21-THE CATCHER WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD

1934 | PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – Little used catcher Moe Berg of the Washington Senators played in his 117th consecutive error-less game on this day in 1934, a new American League record, but it took him four years. Good thing he had another skill to fall back on.

Moe Berg actually had a long major league career – 16 years – so he must have had something going for him. It was his catching. Hitting was not a skill Berg mastered.

But there was something else about Morris “Moe” Berg. Casey Stengel, manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers at the time, called Berg, “The strangest man ever to play baseball.” Let’s count the ways; he was a Princeton educated intellectual who studied several languages including Latin, Greek and Sanskrit, the classical language of Southeast Asia. While in the majors he attended the Sorbonne in Paris, and later Columbia Law School, finishing second in his class. It was said of Berg, “he could speak a dozen languages but couldn’t hit in any of them.”

When a major league all-star team was picked to tour Japan in 1934, there was Moe Berg along with the likes of Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. It was somewhat strange that Berg would join the ranks of those future Hall of Famers. It wasn’t until years later that it was learned, while on this Japan trip Berg was secretly taking pictures of Japanese shipyards and military installations.

He was a spy, and he did such a good job he went to work for the Office of Strategic Services, which later evolved into the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
ESPN Classic
More on Moe Berg
Still more on Moe Berg

 

Was ’51 Pennant Stolen?

JANUARY 31, 2001 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK • The Wall Street Journal reported today in baseball history what had been rumored for years. The dramatic 1951 comeback by the New York Giants, culminated by Bobby Thomson’s ‘shot heard round the world’ to give the Giants the pennant over the Brooklyn Dodgers, was aided by espionage.

Wall Street Journal reporter Joshua Prager, author of The Echoing Green, reported that Giants players Monte Irvin, Sal Yvars and Al Gettel admitted stealing opposing catcher’s signs for about the last ten weeks of the regular season.

An electrician sitting next to the spy activated a buzzer in the Giants bullpen before each pitch; one buzz meant fastball, two buzzes meant curve.

The Giants clubhouse in the old Polo Grounds was in centerfield. The story goes that manager Leo Durocher had a player peer at the opposing catcher’s signals almost 500 feet away with a telescope through an opening in the clubhouse wall. An electrician sitting next to the spy activated a buzzer in the Giants bullpen before each pitch; one buzz meant fastball, two buzzes meant curve.

Giant utility player Sal Yvars is quoted in Dave Anderson’s book, Pennant Racesas telling Giant batters, “Watch me in the bullpen. I’ll have a baseball in my hand. If I hold on to the ball, it’s a fastball. If I toss the ball in the air, it’s a breaking ball.” The Associated Press quoted Gettel as saying “Every hitter knew what was coming, made a big difference.”

The Giants made a miraculous comeback in 1951 from 13½ games back on August 11th. They tied the Dodgers on the last day of the regular season, forcing a best of three playoff. Each team won a game, bringing the season down to Game 3 at the Polo Grounds on October 3rd. Bobby Thomson’s walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth won game three. It sent the Giants to the World Series, and the Dodgers home.

Contributing Sources/More information:
Wall Street Journal, Joshua Prager, January 31, 2001
The Echoing Green, by Joshua Prager, Vintage Books, 2001
Historic Baseball, AP, February 2, 2002
New York Times