Monday, December 07, 2015

When Baseball Spy Moe Berg was a Dodger - Vintage pic in Brooklyn Uniform at RMY Auction

If you are a student of the game and a lover of its history then you no doubt know who this fellow is.  Featured above is a vintage 1923 original Charles Conlon photograph of famed catcher Moe Berg.  Best yet, he is seen in a Brooklyn Robins/Dodgers uniform, and according to the auction house may be the only known photograph of him in a Brooklyn uni.  It recently sold this past weekend at an RMY Auction for $383.

As you may know, Berg was not only regarded as the smartest (i.e. brainiest) ballplayer there ever was, but it was also revealed that he worked undercover as a spy for the American Office of Strategic Services (a precursor to the CIA) during and after WWII.  It is known that he traveled extensively throughout Europe to meet directly with foreign scientist in order to recruit them and evaluate forces who opposed Hitler's Germany.

As for his Baseball career, he was a star shortstop on Princeton's ballclub while in college and captained the team during his senior year.  Although he was a below-average hitter, Berg proved to be strong defensively.  So, upon graduation he was coveted by both the Dodgers and Giants - eventually signing for $5,000 to play in Brooklyn in 1923. 

That first professional season proved to be a poor one for Moe.  He slashed a measly .186/.198/.240/.439 and committed 22 errors in 47 games.  He then took a winter vacation to Europe, his first, and stayed in Paris.  It was here that he began infamously reading several newspapers in several different languages every day.  Berg would strangely refer to unread periodicals as "alive" and refused to allow other folks to touch them.  It was only when he finished reading them, referring to them as "dead," that he would allow other to check them out.

Later that Spring he returned to Brooklyn and was subsequently sent to the minors due to a lack improvement.  It is during this time that he started playing as a catcher and solidified his future on a Major League roster due to his excellent defense.  He would go on to play 14 more years in the Majors - most which with the Boston Red Sox.

Check out an excellent biography on him at SABR here.  There is also a fantastic book on his life written by Nicholas Dawidoff called "The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg" that is worth checking out.

Below are his career statistics, via Baseball-Reference:

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Welcome to the Blue, Aroldis Chapman! UPDATE: Deal is Dead!

It's starting to look like the Dodgers are going to be very busy.  After losing out on the Greinke sweepstakes, the Dodgers needed to make a splash to put the fans at ease.  First, there was word over the weekend that they are in the midst of signing free agent starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma (not yet confirmed).  Now we hear from all corners, originally via Ken Rosenthal on twitter, that the Dodgers have made a trade with the Reds for fireball relief pitcher/closer Aroldis Chapman.
Best yet, it doesn't appear that we had to give up our best prospects to get him, via a tweet by Jon Heyman:
At this point we still don't know who'll be going to Cincinnati, so stay tuned for that.  In the meantime, you can follow Chapman on twitter here: @achapman_105, or on Instagram here: _thecubanmissle54.

BTW, if you don't already know, Aroldis Chapman is the hardest throwing pitcher in the game.  He regularly throws over 100 mph and is considered one of the top closers in Baseball.  It is expected that that the Dodgers will keep both Kenley Jansen and Chapman in the bullpen, so I wouldn't expect any pending followup trade.  Instead, I suspect both relievers will close with Jansen being the main guy out of the pen.  After all, Kenley has earned that role with the club.

Clearly, this trade instantly shores up a bullpen that has been severely lacking the past few years.  If Chris Hatcher continues to pitch like he did for most of last season then we might be looking at a sold 7, 8 and 9 inning relief core that could be the best in the league.

In celebration of Chapman becoming a Dodger I made the above two fantasy cards of him.  On the left, the photograph by Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY and I used the 1979 Topps Baseball card design.  On the right, the photograph is by Rob Tringali/Getty and I used the 1959 Topps Baseball card design. 

Below are his career statistics as a player, via Baseball-Reference:

UPDATE:  Apparently, everyone has jumped the gun here.  So, the post above might be premature.  Other Baseball sources are saying this deal is not yet done.  Via a couple of tweets via Jayson Stark and Mark Sheldon:

UPDATE II:  I think it's safe to say that this trade is now on hold and may very likely be DEAD.  This news came out Monday evening, via Tim Brown and Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports: "Police report: Aroldis Chapman allegedly fired gunshots, 'choked' girlfriend in domestic incident."  I'll share my thoughts on this matter soon.  In the meantime check out there report.  It ain't pretty.

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Blog Kiosk: 12/7/2015 - Dodger Links - Some Odds and Ends

Above is another fantastic Charles Conlon original photograph that recently sold at an RMY Auction this weekend.  As you can see, it features Brooklyn Hall of Fame pitcher Dazzy Vance in his follow-through.  This photograph sold for $286.  Check out the listing here.

Below are more links to check out:
  • Although not yet confirmed by the team, the Dodgers have resigned Chase Utley via a tweet by Jeff Passan:

"It was a very tough decision, but I am headed to L.A.," Geren said. "Both my wife and I have aging parents and extended family in Southern California. It's not often you get a chance in baseball to work that close to home and to your family. I'm going to miss everything about New York and the Mets. It was a wonderful four years."
  • Via Joe Posnanski at NBC Sports, "Then and now: A desperate gambit 50 years ago shows just how much baseball has changed."  Joe writes about the time Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax tried to collectively negotiate a contract.
Here’s the thing that is striking about the Koufax-Drysdale gambit — it never had a chance of working, and that is made entirely clear by the amused reaction of the Dodgers’ brass. You might imagine the miserly Walter O’Malley, his face red with rage, shaking his fist and grumping, “You’ll never get another nickel out of me!” But it wasn’t like that. O’Malley and Bavasi were not angry at all. Quite the opposite. They sounded almost sympathetic to the absurdity of baseball players believing that they had the power to command that sort of money or security.
  • This is too damn cute.  A couple of Dodger fans "revealed their Baby's gender in the most epic way possible," via Morgan Shanahan at BuzzFeed.
  • ICYMI:  Andrew Friedman responds to Greinke signing with Arizona on twitter:

  • Apparently, the Dodgers have added another coach.  He is Chris Woodward and he will man 1st base, via a tweet from Ken Rosenthal:

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