The Spy Behind Home Plate Review
by Dan Skip Allen
The Spy Behind Home Plate isn’t the first movie about Morris “Moe” Berg but it’s the best! It’s the second in as many years. The first starred Paul Rudd as Moe Berg but this one is a documentary. A documentary that spans from his childhood to the heights of glory as an American spy for the OSS (The Office of Strategic Services).
Moe was the son of Jewish immigrants. His father fought to give his children a good life in America. A life he didn’t have growing up. He wanted Moe to be better than him. To go to college. That’s what Moe did. He exceeded all expectations in high school. Even though he was great at his academics he wanted to play baseball. Of course, his father didn’t like this very much. Moe had his choice of colleges to go to after high school. His parents wanted him to go to Columbia, but he chose Princeton instead. Even though he was suma cum laude he still had a passion for America’s favorite pastime. He chose baseball over the life his father wanted for him. He wanted him to become a lawyer.
Moe was a good baseball player, but he had flaws in his game. He couldn’t hit or run. All he could do was field. He had a head for the game. He was good with the strategy, so his managers liked him for that. He bounced around the majors a little bit. Ending up on the Washington Senators. He became an integral part of that team. He was very friendly with pitching legend, Walter Johnson. He helped out Joe Cronin so much, Joe picked him up years later when he was the manager of the Boston Red Sox. Moe got hurt and gained a degree as a lawyer. Later, he volunteered to be a catcher when his teammate was injured. He would remain a catcher the rest of his career.
That career would end as a member of the Boston Red Sox. Before that though, he got invited to be a part of a traveling all-star team in Japan. Babe Ruth was a part of the team as well. While in Japan, Moe took the opportunity to use his camera and take some photos and a video of the city. This would later prove useful when he would become a member of the OSS. While in Japan he learned Japanese (his eighth language), in two weeks.
When Moe’s baseball career was over WWII had just started, the Germans invaded Poland and the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour. This made a man of Moe’s talents very valuable. The OSS came calling. He was first deployed in South America trying to see if the Germans were infiltrating other countries and spreading communism. Then when things were more dire, he was sent to Germany to try to infiltrate their ranks via parties and social life. Finding defectors was his main objective.
Moe lived a phenomenal life by any standards. Aviva Kempner captured this life through many interviews and archival footage. This is a fantastic documentary about an incredible American. We all should stand up and applaud Moe Berg. A true American hero. This is a great film. I can’t wait to see what other films Kempner has in store for us.
Dan Skip Allen