Moe Berg Estate Document Collection (approximately 1,000 individual pieces)

Sold For: $3,819

Auction Year: 2010 spring

Lot: 1299

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Voluminous collection of papers, letters, documents, newspaper clippings and other miscellaneous paper items originating from Moe Berg's estate. Moe Berg was one of the most interesting figures in the history of baseball. Berg was a journeyman Major League catcher who played a total of fifteen seasons between the years 1923 and 1939, but it is not his baseball career that has intrigued present-day historians. Unbeknownst to all at the time, Berg was also working as a spy for the U.S. Government and was later recruited by the OSS, the forerunner to today's CIA. After his playing career, Berg traveled throughout Europe gathering information on Germany's nuclear capabilities. Following World War II he worked for the CIA in an attempt to obtain Soviet atomic information. Always mysterious in his actions, the last years of his life were spent as a nomad. He held no known job and lived first with his brother Sam, and then later with his sister Ethel, until his death in 1972.

All of the material offered here was originally gifted by the Berg family to Charlie Owen, who was well known as a close friend of the Berg family, and perhaps the preeminent scholar and researcher of Moe Berg's life story. Owen was friendly with both Ethel Berg and Dr. Sam Berg, who were both extremely supportive of his interest and research, and it appears that the items in this collection were derived from both sources. Although practicality precludes us from counting every single item in this collection, we would estimate that close to 1,000 individual items and documents are present here. Included are correspondence written to Moe Berg, numerous military documents relating to Berg's years in the OSS, personal tax return documents, pages of handwritten notes by Berg dating from both his collegiate and professional career (many in foreign languages), legal documents, snapshot photos, postcards from numerous foreign locales (both used and unused), foreign publications relating to atomic energy, address books, Cold War related items (for example, a 1951 book entitled Toward a Russian Policy with underlinings and notations), newspaper clippings relating to Moe Berg's baseball career, and a compass and straight razor that, presumably, belonged to Moe Berg. The only three items we found featuring Berg's signature were two bank checks, dated 11/15/52 and 12/22/53, respectively (each signed "Morris Berg" on the front) and a torn letter, signed "M. Berg" (signatures grade "8" or better), but there are many papers handwritten by Berg and documents filled out by him. Also included are three vintage baseball cards of Berg (two 1933 Goudey #158, both Gd, and a 1940 Play Ball #30, Vg), a vintage uncut sheet of Japanese strip cards (year unknown), and a Moe Berg business card ("Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs"). Approximately five to ten percent of the material relates not to Moe Berg, but to Charlie Owen's research and Moe Berg related projects, including correspondence with Moe Berg's brother Dr. Sam Berg, and correspondence relating to a potential movie project on Moe Berg's life. It should be noted that approximately half of the documents in this collection, including many of the military papers, are copies of the originals. It also appears that many of these copied documents were featured in Ethel Berg's 1976 self-published book on her brother titled My Brother Morris Berg - The Real Moe. (The bulk of this material may represent the raw material for her book.) Condition varies, with the older pieces, especially the newsprint materials, displaying flaws commensurate with their age, including tears, chipping, creases, etc. Overall the material ranges from Good to Excellent, averaging Vg-Ex. It would be impossible to do justice to this collection in a catalog description. It would take months and require its own catalog! This is a vast and fascinating "unmined" archive of material that, frankly, needs to be seen to be believed, that obviously includes many hidden treasures, and that may someday even yield new information regarding the life of Moe Berg, one of the most enigmatic players in baseball history. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $3,819

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