THE JAPANESE SPIRIT, OWNED AND ANNOTATED BY MAJOR LEAGUE BALLPLAYER AND O.S.S. SPY MOE BERG
(BERG, Morris “Moe”) OKAKURA, Yoshisaburo. The Japanese Spirit. New York: James Pott, 1905. 12mo, original blue cloth gilt. $1600.
First edition of these lectures on Japanese history and culture, the copy belonging to major league baseball player and O.S.S. officer Morris “Moe” Berg, with his ownership stamps and extensive pencil markings, signed also by his sister.
Morris “Moe” Berg, was a Major League Baseball player—and, according to Casey Stengel, “the strangest man” in the game. “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 1934, five years before he retired as a player, Berg made his second trip to Japan as part of a traveling major league All-Star team. One might wonder what the seldom-used catcher, a .251 hitter that season, was doing playing with the likes of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Berg, who spoke Japanese, took home movies of the Tokyo skyline that were used in the planning of General Jimmy Doolittle’s 1942 bombing raids on the Japanese capital.” Perhaps Berg read The Japanese Spirit in connection with that trip. 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). Preface by George Meredith. Berg’s ownership stamp appears six times (front free endpaper; title page; pages vii, ix, 127; rear pastedown). In addition, Berg heavily marked in pencil approximately the first half of the text. He marked off many whole paragraphs, sometimes with asterisks; more specific marginalia appears on multiple pages. Berg’s sister Ethel, with whom he lived for the last eight years of his life, signed the book on the front pastedown. Another owner’s stamps appear beneath Berg’s on the front free endpaper.
Light dampstaining toward head of gutter of approximately first 80 pages. Light rubbing to spine ends and extremities, minor soiling and abrasions to cloth, gilt bright. A very good copy with exceptionally intriguing provenance.