"Get your scorecards. Get your scorecards. Can't tell the spies from the conspirators without a scorecard."
Such was just one of my thoughts after seeing filmmaker Aviva Kempner's fascinating, incredible and rather mind-blowing documentary about Morris "Moe" Berg, Major League catcher, Princeton (B.A.) and Columbia (LL.D.) graduate, speaker of 12 languages who studied Sanskrit at the Sorbonne and, oh, almost forgot, spy for the OSS.
Psst ... He was assigned to help undermine the Nazi atomic bomb program during WWII.
But what drives you crazy as you partake of Kempner's scholarly and entertaining treasure trough of the superbly assembled puzzle that was Newark, N.J.'s, Moe Berg, is, how about all the stuff we probably don't know about him?
It's pretty nutty in its obscurity that every schoolkid in America doesn't know who this unsung hero was. OK, by the very nature of Moe Berg's life outside the baselines, it was all hush, hush.
But one would think as you witness the extraordinary unraveling of the many sides of the catcher who, by the way, once went 117 games behind the plate without committing an error, that his exploits would by now be legend. I mean, gee, one of the Kardashians has an affair with a pop star and we practically declare a national holiday. As I once heard an old philosopher sitting on a soda crate in front of a candy store back in the old neighborhood say, "Something is upside down."
But that's part of the awesomeness that is "The Spy Behind Home Plate," the proof of the pudding that there is the surface world where everyone is just pretty much oblivious, doing the bread-and circus-thing, whereas in little known, unheralded nooks and hollers of the human experience, there are folks doing the heavy lifting for our species.
I'm sure hoping some of them are hard at work right now. It's certainly time for the brave figure on the white horse to enter stage left.
Moe once had tea with Einstein, and the scientist kidded that he'd teach him the theory of relativity if Moe taught him the concept and finer points of baseball. He also enjoyed a friendship with Babe Ruth when he was part of a goodwill tour to Japan, wherein our ballplayers volunteered to help teach the ins and outs of our national pastime to the college players there.
But if anyone was really paying attention back then in 1934, perhaps they'd have given pause to Berg's attendance in the Land of the Rising Sun. You see, while I'll forever be impressed by anyone who ascends to the Major Leagues, by
baseball's highly rigorous standards, Moe was just an average backstop. And when fellow Washington Senator, outfielder Dave Harris, was reminded that his teammate spoke several languages, he said, "Yeah, and he can't hit in any of them."
Thus it only makes sense that anyone with a passing interest in both baseball and international intrigue would have seen the curiosity in Moe being picked to join the likes of future Hall of Famers Earl Averill, Lou Gehrig, Charlie Gehringer, Babe Ruth, Lefty Gomez, etc. Suffice it to note, this may have been Moe's first assignment for the OSS (Office of Strategic Services). Psst, again, he came back with pictures of important Japanese installations that were later used in the Doolittle Raid.
Director Kempner, who has previously treated audiences to documentaries such as "Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg" (2009), "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg" (1998) and "Partisans of Vilna" (1986), may have been, in another life, a super sleuth herself so astute is her sense of deduction. In cracking the code of the otherwise reserved, humble and handsome repository of knowledge that was Moe Berg, she once again proves she's a connector of the dots extraordinaire.
But it's the stuff she pulls from the chasm of the unknown that best distinguishes her documentary creds. When she plucks a previously undiscovered plum out of the perplexing pie for the world to now know, it appears neither specious nor a stretch of the imagination. Kempner's erudite rummaging has us repetitively musing, "How many other anonymous and/or unhailed heroes who have lived and died do we have to thank for the freedoms we enjoy?" It's a bit overwhelming.
On a personal level, considering how things ultimately turned out for Moe, we are a bit saddened by his astonishing tale, unsure if he nonetheless found lasting happiness. He wasn't the type to complain. Hence, in decoding the big secret that was "The Spy Behind Home Plate," we take the occasion to sing our own silent paean to him and console ourselves with the thought that, just as in baseball, there isn't any crying in espionage.
"The Spy Behind Home Plate," not rated, is an mTuckman release directed by Aviva Kempner, starring documentary footage of Morris Berg and a variety of people in the worlds of both baseball and international intrigue. Running time: 101 minutes
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.
Estate Plans Can Help You Answer Questions About the Future
Submitted by Edward Jones
The word "estate" conjures images of great wealth, which may be one of the reasons so many people don't develop estate plans. After all, they're not rich, so why make the effort? In reality, though, if you have a family, you can probably benefit from estate planning, whatever your asset level. And you may well find that a comprehensive estate plan can help you answer some questions you may find unsettling – or even worrisome.
Here are a few of these questions:
* What will happen to my children? With luck, you (and your co-parent, if you have one) will be alive and well at least until your children reach the age of majority (either 18 or 21, depending on where you live). Nonetheless, you don't want to take any chances, so, as part of your estate plans, you may want to name a guardian to take care of your children if you are not around. You also might want to name a conservator – sometimes called a "guardian of the estate" – to manage any assets your minor children might inherit.
* Will there be a fight over my assets? Without a solid estate plan in place, your assets could be subject to the time-consuming, expensive – and very public – probate process. During probate, your relatives and creditors can gain access to your records, and possibly even challenge your will. But with proper planning, you can maintain your privacy. As one possible element of an estate plan, a living trust allows your property to avoid probate and pass quickly to the beneficiaries you have named.
The library trustees plan to compile a building maintenance list to review with the city administration.
New Library Director Sarah Sanfilippo told the trustees Wednesday that she recently met with city officials to go over some of the maintenance issues that have been relayed to her over her... click for more
Two more have joined the City Council race and now 19 will vie for the nine seats.
As of Thursday afternoon sitting city councillor Paul J. Hopkins has taken out papers along with former councilor and former mayoral candidate Robert J. Moultan, Jr. click for more
The center was acquired from David Moresi of Moresi & Associates, with whom BFAIR had been working for several years while the agency managed the customer service portion of the business. click for more