THE REMARKABLE MOE BERG (COMMENT). I was honored that Russell Seitz commented on this post on some of Moe Berg’s accomplishments. Annalisa advised me that that post was a little unclear. To clarify, the man who said that “Physicists do not kill physicists” was a physicist, and he was the head of a group of physicists who were tracking the Nazi nuclear effort. Moe Berg was not a professional physicist. Berg’s profession was baseball, and he loved it. This wikipedia article quotes Berg as saying: “”I’d rather be a ballplayer than a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.” (The reference to the Supreme Court was meaningful. Berg had a law degree from Columbia and practiced law with a Wall Street firm). Kids, my father spoke fondly of Moe Berg at our dinner table, because baseball fans were proud of him and perhaps because he had played five years for the White Sox. The wikipedia article informed me that Berg was the subject of the most famous scouting report in baseball history, a telegram reading “Good field, no hit.” Russell Seitz in his comment calls attention to the fact that Berg’s technical expertise enabled him to spy on Japanese military production while he was touring Japan with other baseball players in the thirties (wikipedia notes that he addressed the Japanese legislature in Japanese while there). Russell Seitz points out that Berg “hung around with physicists at Columbia and [Princeton] during the 20’s and 30’s.” And so Moe Berg knew enough of advanced physics and the practicalities of making a nuclear bomb that the OSS turned to him to attend Werner Heisenberg’s lecture and decide whether to kill him.

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  1. Russell says:

    I’m happy to report that I’ve had a nice note from Dorothee Heisenberg, to whom I wrote apologizing for the The Economist’s rough edit of my letter there, to which she responded in this weeks issue.

    In one of the sentences The Economist cut , I said was sincerely relieved that Berg left her grandfather unperforated . I mean that both as a physicist and a baseball fan, since , in accordance with the precepts of armed neutrality, folks at the ETH in Zurich probably had plenty of government issue firearms about the place , and Moe might have faced an interesting response to pulling his gun in the lecture hall.

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