WORLD WAR II-ERA ESPIONAGE NOVEL OWNED AND ANNOTATED BY MAJOR LEAGUE BALLPLAYER AND O.S.S. SPY MOE BERG
(BERG, Morris “Moe”) NASON, Leonard H. Contact Mercury. Garden City: Doubleday, 1946. Octavo, original brown cloth. $1500.
First edition of this espionage novel, the copy belonging to major league baseball player and O.S.S. officer Morris “Moe” Berg, with his ownership stamps and pencil markings, also signed by his sister.
Nason’s own World War II service in the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S., forerunner of the CIA) informs this thriller about “a fiendish and almost successful plot against the Allies.” “If what you have read about the secret of the atomic bomb has not already scared the pants off you,” commented a contemporary New York Times review, “this novel will go a long way toward completing the job.” This book’s previous owner, Morris “Moe” Berg, was a Major League Baseball player—and, according to Casey Stengel, “the strangest man” in the game. “In his 15 major league seasons, in which he played just 662 games, Berg was a lifetime .243 hitter. He started out as a slick-fielding utility infielder before the Chicago White Sox in 1927 moved him to catcher, where he then found his niche as a substitute backstop, filling that role until he retired in 1939… But he was a brilliant scholar, picking up degrees from Princeton and Columbia Law School and studying philosophy at the Sorbonne. His linguistic skills inspired this observation by a teammate: ‘He can speak seven languages, but he can’t hit in any of them.” In 1943, Berg became an O.S.S. officer; he would carry out one of its “more ambitious endeavors—a plot to possibly assassinate Werner Heisenberg, the head of Nazi Germany’s atom-bomb project… Berg’s assessment of the situation was that Germany was not close to having a nuclear bomb, and there was never an attempt to kill Heisenberg” (ESPN). Without original dust jacket. Berg’s ownership stamp appears on the front and rear pastedowns and on the half title. In addition, Berg heavily marked in pencil the first third of the text; pages 16 (“lingo ‘Krauts”) and 24 (“Germans = Ger-ries”) bear marginalia in his hand. Berg’s sister Ethel, with whom he lived for the last eight years of his life, signed the book twice on the front free endpaper, recto and verso. Another owner’s stamps appear beneath Berg’s on the front pastedown.
Front paper hinge split, binding sound. Light rubbing to spine and extremities, light soiling to cloth. A very good copy with exceptionally intriguing provenance.