University Archives


Baseball player & OSS agent, Moe Berg, Signed Check & Japanese Receipt

A Japanese restaurant receipt, 1p, measuring 6.25" x 7", Tokyo, Japan, dated November 11, 1934. The receipt, directed to the Matsuoka Baseball Team, is for 7.75 Yen, and lists the evening's waitress and chef. Written in Japanese. This piece was paired with another document from a Moe Berg archive authenticated by JSA and was likely kept and preserved by Berg as a souvenir from his 1934 Japan Tour. Looks like the Japanese team was kind enough to treat the Americans! The receipt has been mounted at the corners to a larger sheet, measuring 8" x 10" overall. With a flattened center fold, and light toning throughout. A mark of soiling at the center, possibly from a glass or dish from the restaurant. The document comes with a copy of a JSA Auction Letter of Authenticity, authenticated February 12, 2016.

It was during this tour that Moe Berg likely started his espionage projects. During the All-Star team's stay in Tokyo, Berg, who had become fluent in Japanese, slipped away from his teammates under the pretense of visiting the daughter of an American Ambassador in hospital. In reality, he donned a kimono and snuck up to the roof of the Saint Luke's Hospital, and filmed videos of the Tokyo skyline, Tokyo harbor, and munitions facilities, despite being forbidden by Japanese officials to conduct such behavior. Whether or not this event was the start of Berg's spy career is still hotly debated to this day. Some historians have hypothesized that Berg's entire career as a professional baseball player was just an elaborate cover for his role as a U.S. spy. It may also be possible that Berg was conducting his own espionage, free (for the time being) of government insight. Whatever the truth, Berg maintained throughout his life that his involvement as a spy only commenced in 1942. According to Berg, he offered the Tokyo footage to the government in 1942 on his own initiative and only after they offered him a position. Regardless, the movies from 1934 were later used to help plain U.S. bombing raids over Tokyo.

During World War II, Moe Berg was recruited as an agent for the Office of Strategic Services, operating in Europe on projects investigating Nazi resistance in Yugoslavia and German rocket engineering. General William J. Donovan, the father of the OSS, created a rag-tag intelligence operation staffed by a group of amateurs that included lawyers, professors, businessmen, and he found Berg particularly appealing due to his linguistic prowess [he reportedly spoke 12 languages]. Berg was given a variety of assignments in Italy, Switzerland, and Sweden.

Accompanying this fantastic piece is a Partly Printed Check, measuring 6.25" x 2.75", Newark, New Jersey, dated October 21, 1953, on which Moe Berg signs his full name, "Morris Berg." Filled out by Berg and made payable to “Princeton University Store” in the amount of $11.10. Drawn on the National Newark & Essex Banking Co. Light bank stampings show through from verso. Tiny cancellation holes nick the “M” of signature. The check is affixed to a mat with clear picture corners, double matted with an image of the 21-year-old rookie during his tenure with the 1923 Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) at Ebbets Field. Framed to the overall size of 13" x 17.5".

Morris “Moe” Berg had been a member of Princeton University's Class of 1923, where he distinguished himself as a student and as an athlete, graduating magna cum laude and earning the title of Captain of the baseball team his senior season. Shortly after graduation, on June 26, 1923, he was signed by the Brooklyn Robins as an amateur free agent and played his first major league game the next day. He was sent to the minor leagues in 1924 and 1925. From 1926-1939, Berg played, almost exclusively, as a catcher for the White Sox, Indians, Senators, and Red Sox. He officially retired from baseball after he was released by Boston following the 1939 season.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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