Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Catcher Was A Spy Book Club Discussion Begins

All right, let's start talking about it. What were your thoughts about Moe Berg the person, the ballplayer, the spy as Dawidoff portrayed him?


jtorrey13 said...

Love that the first comment on our discussion is spam. Hilarious.

One thing I love about the book (and ok, love is more that a bit too strong, but just keeping with the strong words following my first paragraph's confession of spam love) is that Dawidoff doesn't evaluate Moe's personality until the very end. He presents a few viewpoints in the introduction just to give us a taste that our subject might not be completely reliable. Then, he lets the story unfold and we can put it together however we want. At the end though, he starts to evaluate Berg: his relationship with his father; the personalities of his siblings; slips in Moe's words and chinks in his elaborately crafted emotional armor.

I have to admit that the reason I liked the book was because I related to Berg. I understand being elusive. I understand not wanting to talk about yourself when you may not be where you want to be or where you think others want you to be in your life. I think we all have those parts of us that envy the certainty of others, envy the lives of excitement of others and long to be envied ourselves. Berg just took it to a whole new level.

As for baseball, I think teaching your kid to be a pitcher if he's a lefty or the tools of ignorance if he's a righty are the keys to the possibility of a long, long major league career.

So, that's my opening salvo. Hopefully we can get things started with that.

Mad Guru said...

I'm not quite done yet so maybe there will be some clarity at the end but I was left confused as to the "real" Moe Berg. On and on and on I hear how much everyone liked Moe Berg. On and on and on I read how he would encounter his acquaintances, hold his finger to his lips and shush them, then walk away. I kept wondering why anyone would want to be around someone like that.

I'm even more baffled by his lengthy baseball career. Fifteen seasons with a career OPS+ of 49. Again I wonder why.

As for his spying exploits, I was just as underwhelmed by them as everything else about his life.

If Berg's not a baseball player (and I'm not sure how he was), is there any interest in him at all, as a spy or otherwise? Or if he's not a spy (and I'm not sure he was), is there any interest in his baseball career or otherwise?

jtorrey13 said...

I think he is an interesting person - not unlike another recommendation you made to me - the story of Geoffrey Pyke. (Was the book "Pyke, the Unknown Genius"?) He was intelligent. He had pretty unconventional ideas about living. He just wasn't that good at relating to those around him.

The fact that he was a baseball player and a spy were what created the idea to make a book about him, though he wasn't much of either of them. The intersection of people in the world and baseball players is small. The intersection of people in the world and spies is probably a bit larger. However, the intersection of baseball players and spies is only one as far as I know. (Though I'm looking at you Miguel Batista.)

mr haverkamp said...

A real impressive amount of research by Dawidoff really brought Berg to life for me.
Have been doing some other reading recently regarding personality typing (Myers-Briggs)and trying to figure out who Berg really was (the open, friendly, well-liked baseball player and teammate or the non-communicative 10 newspaper/day reader) is a real
challenge. He's a guy that just doesn't fit into a box, and when you think about it, pretty much what a spy's personality description should be. Only part of the book I didn't care for much was the in-depth wartime detail; Dawidoff seems to assume that everyone is knowledgeable of every separate theatre during WWII.....and I'm not. Would have enjoyed the book even more if I was a war geek, but for now, just being a baseball geek will have to do.

jtorrey13 said...

I think the reality, especially coming after the concluding chapters, is that he was both people. The perception of the baseball players may be different because of the way a clubhouse works. A guy that isn't that talkative might be loquacious in terms of a clubhouse setting if he can communicate about anything at all. The non-communicative guy is also there because in the real world, being able to control the conversation with others that have intellectual curiosity becomes impossible unless you use forced silence. The situations dictated who he became.

Mr. Haverkamp, you raise a good point on WWII. I definitely want to read more about the war and in particular the intelligence gathering after reading this.

Mark A. said...

I'm still wading through the book. For two reasons. I'm a slow reader and the story isn't really going anywhere for me. Yes, it is moving along chronologically, but I'm not feeling the tension and then the release. I'm not quite sure what I expected from the book. The writing is good and I'm expanding my vocabulary. I'm learning a bit about our nation's info gathering during that time, but I don't have anything to compare it to. I'll finish the book out, for rarely do I set a book aside, but I almost dread whenever I pick it up. I hope for a good anecdote, but it has been a while since I found one. I think that a better name for the book would have been, "The Catcher turns into a Spy".

I'm sure that I'll have some more thoughts, but right now, not so much.