Espionage and curveballs: ‘The Spy Behind Home Plate’ has both

( Unrated ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

Morris “Moe” Burg lived an almost unbelievable life as a polyglot spy and pro baseball player. ‘The Spy Behind Home Plate’ tells his story perfectly.

Courtesy of Irwin Berg
Moe Berg plays catcher in a Major League Baseball game; he also worked as a spymaster in World War II. ‘The Spy Behind Home Plate’ tells the story of his life.

He was known as “the brainiest man in baseball,” but it was his exploits off the playing field that account for his one-of-a-kind life story. Morris “Moe” Berg, the subject of the creditable Aviva Kempner documentary “The Spy Behind Home Plate,” was a standout ballplayer at Princeton, going on to play in the big leagues for 15 years.

Somewhere in there he also found time to attend Columbia Law School and become fluent in at least 10 languages, including Sanskrit. Here’s the most amazing part: During World War II and the lead-up to it, he was a spy for the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA. (His anti-Nazi spy-mastering overseas was particularly fraught, as he was Jewish.) 

If this sounds familiar, it’s probably because it was also the basis for last year’s bland biopic “The Catcher Was a Spy,” starring Paul Rudd. Seeing the story played out with reams of interviews and archival footage is so much better. It makes the unbelievable believable. Grade: B+ (Unrated.)

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