The Spy Who Played Baseball

  • Review
By – March 29, 2018

This appeal­ing pic­ture book biog­ra­phy begins and ends with intrigue. Moe Berg was a Jew­ish Amer­i­can whose bril­liance and tal­ent brought him into two dis­tinct realms — sports and spy­ing. An extra­or­di­nary stu­dent and base­ball play­er, Moe attend­ed Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty and played on the school’s base­ball team. He was flu­ent in sev­er­al lan­guages, sat in on biol­o­gy and chem­istry class­es for fun, earned a law degree, and ulti­mate­ly spent fif­teen sea­sons play­ing pro­fes­sion­al base­ball for the Brook­lyn Dodgers and oth­er teams.

But Moe’s achieve­ments did not insu­late him from anti-Semi­tism. When the Nazis came to pow­er in Ger­many, Moe was eager to help the Unit­ed States and its allies defeat them, and went to work for the U.S. Office of Strate­gic Ser­vices as a spy. His intel­li­gence, lan­guage skills, and bold­ness enabled him to gath­er vital infor­ma­tion for the gov­ern­ment. He even mon­i­tored a promi­nent Nazi physi­cist who was work­ing on devel­op­ing an atom­ic bomb.

Moe Berg is such a provoca­tive fig­ure that it only takes a few anec­dotes to make him seem absolute­ly fas­ci­nat­ing. But his sto­ry also rais­es issues of dis­crim­i­na­tion and Nazism, mak­ing this book a rich source for dis­cus­sion. By con­trast, the illus­tra­tions have a car­toon­ish appeal and light­en the book’s tone. An after­word and pho­tos of the sub­ject are includ­ed. Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 5 to 8.

Teri Mark­son has been a children’s librar­i­an for over 18 years. She is cur­rent­ly the act­ing senior librar­i­an at the Val­ley Plaza Branch Library in North Hol­ly­wood, CA.

Discussion Questions