Critical Context

Most biographies of sports figures focus on their on-field accomplishments. Moe Berg is unusual in showing that the subject’s off-the-field life was even more dramatic than his baseball career. Kaufman, Fitzgerald, and Sewell do not imply that Berg was negligible as a baseball player. After all, he was talented enough to play fifteen seasons in the major leagues and set a record, since broken, of 137 consecu-tive errorless games by a catcher. When Joe Cronin became manager of the Boston Red Sox, the first player he acquired was Berg, whom Cronin regarded as one of the best baseball minds.

Nevertheless, Moe Berg is of primary value to young readers as evidence that athletes can also be scholars, can have significant lives beyond the playing field, and can make important contributions to their nations. Berg’s life is the story not only of accomplishments but also of obstacles overcome, in addition to the prejudices against intellectuals in the sports world and athletes in the scholarly world. He acquired an Ivy League education alongside the children of wealth and privilege by earning his own way. He made a name for himself at Princeton despite the often virulent bigotry of his classmates against Jews. Berg longed to make his father proud of him but was unable to, as his father refused to understand his fascination with baseball and never saw him play. His inspiring story is one of the most remarkable in American history, and the authors of Moe Berg have created a classic young adult biography.