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5 Jewish baseball players hit home runs on the same day

Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers connecting for his second home run of the game against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, June 8, 2018. (Corey Perrine/Getty Images)

By Ron Kaplan         

(JTA) — June 8 was the most productive day for Jewish batters in Major League Baseball history.

Five members of the tribe combined for six home runs on Friday to help their respective teams to victory. Here’s the scorecard:

Ryan Braun, “The Hebrew Hammer,” hit two home runs, driving in five runs to lead the Milwaukee Brewers to a 12-4 win over the Philadelphia Phillies — who have a Jewish manager in Gabe Kapler. Braun’s three-run shot with two outs in the first inning broke a scoreless tie. His two-run homer, again with two outs, left Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Ballpark with an exit velocity of 112.9 miles per hour, according to the new high-tech analytics. It’s the hardest ball Braun has hit since they started measuring these things in 2015.

Kevin Pillar, the Toronto Blue Jays outfielder who is known more for his outstanding defensive play than his skills at the plate, hit his sixth homer of the year and third in seven games in a 5-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles. His eighth-inning solo shot gave the Blue Jays their final run. Danny Valencia, the third baseman for the O’s that night, was the only Jewish position player not to hit one out on Friday.

Alex Bregman hit his eighth home run, a solo drive, in the Houston Astros’ 7-3 win over the Texas Rangers. The Astros selected his younger brother A.J. in the recent MLB draft, so it’s conceivable they could become the first set of Jewish brothers to play on the same team since Norm and Larry Sherry were members of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1959 to 1962.

 

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Aviva offers two presentations for SABR 48 Convention in Pittsburgh, PA


SABR 48 National Convention
June 20-24, 2018
Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh
600 Commonwealth Place Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Aviva Kempner will be participating in two presentations
at the SABR 48 National Convention.

“Collusion and Collision: Hank Greenberg in Pittsburgh in 1947”

and

“Moe Berg: All-Star Espionage?” Work-in-progress screening.

Learn more about the convention here

RSVP

“Collusion and Collision: Hank Greenberg in Pittsburgh in 1947”

When: Thursday, June 21, 2018 at 1:15 p.m. – 1:40 p.m. Where: Grand Ballroom 1
With: John Thorn, Official Sports Historian and Bijan C. Bayne, Sports Historian

aboutpic1For decades, an unspoken “gentlemen’s agreement” kept professional baseball segregated. Hank Greenberg, in the final year of his career, showed solidarity with African-American players and helped signify necessary change. This discussion will put the gentlemen’s agreement in the context of other open secrets between team owners and elaborate why Greenberg was in a unique position to empathize with marginalized athletes. In 1947, Tigers team owner Walter Briggs colluded with other team owners to exile Greenberg to the National League. Greenberg was disillusioned enough to quit the game that he loved, but the Pittsburgh Pirates’ owners enticed him to return. They installed a new bullpen, nicknamed “Greenberg Gardens,” in Forbes Field to make it easier for him to hit home runs and offered him the first ever $100,000 baseball contract. Greenberg, as a Jew who suffered anti-Semitic insults from fans and rival players, was in a unique position to relate to the young Jackie Robinson in May of 1947 when the Brooklyn Dodgers played the Pirates. During the game, Robinson and Greenberg collided at first base. Greenberg checked that Robinson was not hurt and offered the rookie player encouragement. Footage will contextualize this discussion of business practices and racism of the time, as well as shifting norms. Kempner, Thorn and Bayne will also examine contemporary ownership and racism in baseball.

Aviva Kempner makes award-winning documentaries about underknown Jewish heroes. Kempner is finishing a documentary on Moe Berg, the catcher who spied for the U.S. during World War Two. She made Rosenwald, a documentary about Chicago philanthropist Julius Rosenwald’s partnership with Booker T. Washington in building 5,000 schools for African Americans in the Jim Crow South; Yoo-Ho Mrs. Goldberg, about Gertrude Berg, who created the first television sitcom; and the Emmy nominated and Peabody awarded The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, about the Hall Famer slugger who faced anti-Semitism during the ’30s. She also produced the Partisans of Vilna, about Jews fighting the Nazis.

John Thorn <https://ourgame.mlblogs.com> is the Official Historian of Major League Baseball and the author of many baseball books.

Bijan C. Bayne is a sports historian who has researched, written for, and been interviewed in various films and television shows. He appears in the 2017 movie The First to Do It. In April 2014, he appeared on TV One’s Unsung Hollywood’s episode “The Harlem Globetrotters.” The same year, he was interviewed and featured in Brian Culkin’s documentary The Mission. In 2015, Bayne co-wrote, directed, and helped cast the pilot for the reality series Team of Dreams. In August 2009, he served as moderator for the Filmmakers’ Panel at the seventh annual Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival(on the topic “Black Film in The Age of Obama”). He has written and presented extensively on Black baseball, and the Latin American contribution to the game.

“Moe Berg: All-Star Espionage?”

When: Thursday, June 21, 2018 at 6:40 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Where: Grand Ballroom 2

Screen Shot 2017-03-01 at 1.51.31 PM
Moe Berg, Photo: National Baseball Hall of Fame

Filmmaker Aviva Kempner will show a 24-minute work in progress clip, entitled “Moe Berg: All-Star Espionage?”, that highlights Berg’s first trip to Japan with Herb Hunter, Lefty O’Doul and Ted Lyons to teach baseball seminars at Japanese universities and later his return to Japan in 1934 for an exhibition tour with All-Star players Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Charlie Gehringer, Jimmie Foxx and Lefty Gomez. The completed full-length documentary film will be ready in 2019.

Moe Berg: All-Star Espionage? Work-in-Progress Screening

On Sunday, May 6, 2018, the Ciesla Foundation screened a work-in-progress titled “Moe Berg: All-Star Espionage?” to a full house at the Edlavitch DCJCC at the 38 th Washington Jewish Film Festival.

The 23-minute clip highlighted Berg’s first trip to Japan with Herb Hunter, Lefty O’Doul and Ted Lyons to teach baseball seminars at Japanese universities and later his return to Japan in 1934 for an exhibition tour with All Stars Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Charlie Gehringer, Jimmie Foxx and Lefty Gomez. The work in progress posed the question of what Berg was doing when he sneaked onto the roof of St. Luke’s hospital to film the city skyline with his Bell & Howell?

The work -in-progress clip included home movies from Lefty Gomez, Jimmie Foxx, and original Moe Berg footage in Japan. Included was interviews with; Robert Fitts, Author of Banzai Babe Ruth, Sam Berg, Moe’s brother, Irwin Berg, Moe’s cousin, sports columnist Ira Berkow, Vernona Gomez, daughter of Lefty Gomez, Julia Ruth Stevens, daughter of Babe Ruth, Hank Thomas, grandson of Walter Johnson, baseball greats Elden Auker, Joseph Cascarella, Tommy Thomas, Charlie Wagner, Monte Weaver and many more.

A highlight of the morning screening was Aviva Kempner introducing the audience to both Katie Banas, Vernon Louis “Lefty” Gomez’s great granddaughter and Hank Thomas, grandson and biographer of Walter Johnson.

Grandson and biographer of Walter Johnson, Hank Thomas (left)  and great granddaughter of Lefty Gomez , Katie Banas (right)

After the screening, director Aviva Kempner, Hank Thomas, grandson and biographer of Walter Johnson, and Intelligence Analyst Richard Willing joined together for a lively panel discussion. Aviva provided a glimpse into additional aspects of the full-length Moe Berg documentary in production and Hank Thomas shared stories of Moe Berg babysitting his mother during Washington Senator ball games. Richard Willing expounded on Moe’s breadth of knowledge and how he seemed to impress everyone he came in contact with.

Richard Willing, Aviva Kempner, Hank Thomas

We want to thank everyone for coming! Stay tuned for additional updates

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Frank Monteleone, a radio operative for Moe Berg in Italy during WWII dies at 93.

Our condolences to the family of Frank Monteleone who passed away on April 19th, 2018. Last year in May of 2017, Aviva Kempner interviewed Frank about his time in Rome, Italy during WWII. Frank served as a radio operator for Moe Berg to send messages in code to the Allies. Berg had been sent by the OSS to interview Italian scientists on what they knew about Germany’s effort to develop the atomic bomb.

Frank Monetelone's OSS Identification Card
Frank Montelone’s OSS Identification Card

In his interview, Frank described to Aviva how he had to hide in the attic in an Italian villa with his radio equipment and first translate the messages from English to Italian and send the messages in cypher code to the Allies and then in the reverse when messages came back. Frank told Aviva that Moe Berg was a mysterious man and that it wasn’t until later he learned that Moe was a professional baseball player.

Frank's Interview Footage
Frank Montelone’s interview footage for Aviva Kempner’s film on Moe Berg.

Patrick O’Donnell in Operatives, Spies and Saboteurs describes Frank’s work in the Maritime Unit as part of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) He writes that “ Frank did it all, parachuting behind the lines, infiltrating by sea on silent motorized floating mattresses, and stealthily collecting and radioing back enemy intelligence.”

Moe Berg Work in Progress Screening May 6, 2018

WORK IN PROGRESS
MOE BERG: ALL-STAR ESPIONAGE?
May 6, 2018 at 11:00 am
Edlavitch DCJCC
1529 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20036
Dir. Aviva Kempner | 20 min.
Documentary United States 2018
Sunday, May 6, 2018 – 11:00 AM Edlavitch DCJCC 60 min. program
Morris “Moe” Berg was an enigmatic major-league baseball player who played for five MLB teams, including the Washington Senators, before joining the OSS to spy for the U.S. on the Nazis atomic bomb program.
Berg grew up in an immigrant Jewish family in Newark, NJ. This screening of this clip from Aviva Kempner’s work in progress highlights Berg’s exhibition tour with Hall of Famers Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig to Japan in 1934.
20 minutes of the work-in-progress film will be shown, followed by a discussion with director Aviva Kempner, intelligence analyst Richard Willing, and Henry “Hank” Thomas, biographer of Walter Johnson (and his grandson).
This event is free to attend.

 

The OSS Gold Medal Ceremony

The OSS Gold Medal Ceremony
OSS GOLD MEDAL CEREMONY, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21 BLOG
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Morris “Moe” Berg and the 13,000 heroic men and women of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) finally received a well-deserved Congressional Gold Medal on Wednesday, March 21st during a moving ceremony in the U.S. Capitol’s Emancipation Hall. In true OSS style, the ceremony went on in spite of a Federal Government shutdown for a snow emergency.

Along with Charles Pinck, President of the OSS Society, leaders of the U.S. House and Senate delivered remarks honoring the OSS members during a live streaming of the event. Members of the OSS and their extended families came from all over the U.S. and attended receptions in their honor Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. More congressional members spoke during the Wednesday evening rooftop reception.

The medal was finally bestowed after many years of lobbying spearheaded by the OSS Society under the fine leadership of Charles Pinck, whose father had served in the OSS in China. The Congressional medal, the nation’s highest civilian distinction, was conferred collectively and recognizes the members of the OSS, the WWII intelligence agency and CIA predecessor for their superior service and major contributions during World War II. The OSS included both military personnel and civilians. Women comprised more than one-third of the OSS personnel and many of America’s leading scientists and scholars also served. One side of the medal represents the range of work undertaken by the OSS and features the inscription “OSS” with a woman, a paratrooper, and a man in a suit. The design features the dates “1942-1945” the years during which the OSS operated. The reverse side of the medal features the OSS Spearhead inscribed with code words related to important OSS missions and agents. AZUSA was one of the code words representing a mission Moe Berg participated in.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s included Moe Berg in his remarks delivered during the ceremony: Watch Here.

“As we’ve been hearing today, the ranks of the Office of Strategic Services included quite the cast of characters. There was ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan, the visionary leader intent on ‘sowing the dragon’s teeth’ and breeding chaos behind enemy lines. There were celebrities like Marlene Dietrich, and future celebrities like Julia Child; all-star academics, like Arthur Schlesinger…..I’m partial to the story of Moe Berg, an Ivy Leaguer turned journeyman Major League Baseball catcher who gave up trying to hit curveballs and started throwing curveballs to the Nazis. Moe parachuted into occupied Yugoslavia, and he eavesdropped on German physicists.”

Singer Songwriter Mark Russell delighted the ceremony audience with his rendition of “Wild Bill,” a satirical song about the leader of the OSS. The OSS was created in 1942 by the legendary General William “Wild Bill” Donovan to coordinate American intelligence efforts, in its heyday the OSS deployed more than 13,000 operatives in addition to four future CIA directors. Pioneers of sabotage, intelligence gathering, supplying resistance movements, capturing high-value targets and infiltrating enemy strongholds, OSS agents were in Gen. Donovan’s words “glorious amateurs” who undertook “some of the bravest acts of the war.”

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Accepting the medal on behalf of all the brave OSS men and women, was William Clarke, an OSS & CIA veteran. He told the audience that around 100 OSS members are still alive.
The OSS was America’s first effort to implement a system of strategic intelligence during World War II and provided the basis for the modern-day American intelligence and special operations communities. Present day Special Operations Forces trace their lineage to the OSS. The CIA, the Navy SEALs, the Army Special Forces, and the Air Force Special Operations Command all have their precursors in the OSS. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research also traces its creation to the OSS Research and Analysis Branch.

Also speaking at the ceremony were Representatives Robert Latta (OH) and Marcy Kaptur (OH), Nancy Pelosi, (House Democratic Leader) Senators Roy Blunt (MO), Mark Warner (VA), Angus King, (ME), Mitch McConnell, (Majority Leader) and Paul Ryan, (House Speaker).

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Pictured is Eugene Polinsky, navigator in the Air force special operations group known as the “Carpetbaggers.”

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Pictured is Robert Holmstrom displaying with fellow “Carpetbagger” Bill Becker the silk maps they carried to be informed about the typography of their missions.

The OSS was America’s first effort to implement a system of strategic intelligence during World War II and provided the basis for the modern-day American intelligence and special operations communities. Present day Special Operations Forces trace their lineage to the OSS. The CIA, the Navy SEALs, the Army Special Forces, and the Air Force Special Operations Command all have their precursors in the OSS. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research also traces its creation to the OSS Research and Analysis Branch.

Also speaking at the ceremony were Representatives Robert Latta (OH) and Marcy Kaptur (OH), Nancy Pelosi, (House Democratic Leader) Senators Roy Blunt (MO), Mark Warner (VA), Angus King, (ME), Mitch McConnell, (Majority Leader) and Paul Ryan, (House Speaker).

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Family members enjoyed reuniting with other OSS families who had served together on their missions. The family members of Lt. Col Gerhard L Bolland met the family of William Colby, an OSS member who like others later became the head of the CIA.

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At the reception following the ceremony Representative Will Hurd (TX), who had been in the CIA, spoke about his appreciation of the clandestine nature of serving in the OSS.
At the reception many relatives of the OSS members bemoaned the fact that it took 73 years for this Congressional medal to finally be awarded, and they regretted that their deceased family members could not partake in the Congressional recognition.
The stories of these courageous OSS men and women will finally be memorialized when The National Museum of Intelligence and Special Operations opens in the future.

We hope the documentary film of Moe Berg will contribute to this important effort.

Click to see the National Museum of Intelligence and Special Operations Brochure.

 

Happy International Women’s Day!

Happy International Women’s Day! Today we celebrate the brave and brilliant female figures of the past – which like Moe Berg served in the O.S.S. We’d like to honor in particular the American Intelligence legend Elizabeth P. McIntosh. McIntosh’s memoir “Sisterhood of Spies” highlights her remarkable past as an O.S.S. spy as well as shares the accounts of the under-known troupe of international female combatants such as Virginia Hall (nick-named the “The Limping Lady” because of her wooden leg) or Betty Lussier, known for her double-agent network in France.

Moe Berg’s Japan Address

In February of 1942, Moe Berg was pushed into action after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He had just retired from baseball in January and had joined Rockefeller’s Office of Inter American Affairs and was about to leave on a South American mission. Prior to leaving, the U.S. Government asked Berg to address the Japanese people in their own language. By shortwave radio Berg reminded them of the friendship Americans and Japanese had previously shared and about their shared love of baseball.

(excerpt from speech)

“You loved us enough to copy our national game-baseball. We appreciated it when thousands of you gave our All American baseball team a great reception in 1934, waving American flags. I ask you, what sound basis is there for enmity between two peoples who enjoy the same national sport?”

Read more about Moe Berg’s experiences with the Japanese people in Robert Fitt’s Banzai Babe Ruth.

Spring Training or Law School? That is the Question.

Baseball Pitchers and Catchers have reported to Spring training and are back in action! MLB teams are reporting to sunny Florida and Arizona in preparation for the 2018 season. Moe Berg spent 15 years in major-league ball with most of them as a catcher.
In 1926 White Sox owner Charles Comiskey granted Berg’s request to miss spring training so he could finish the semester at Columbia law School. However, in February of 1927, Moe contacted Charles Comiskey to request permission to report late for spring training again. Comiskey wrote back ”My Dear Young Man, The time has come when you must decide as to the profession you intend following. If it is baseball, then it is most essential and important to the club and yourself that you report for spring training. Whether or not you decide to play baseball, the Chicago Club must continue, so you may rest assured that whatever action you take will make no difference to us.” Berg wrote back, unconvinced, and Comiskey’s next letter read, “should you decide that you would report for spring training, I might tender you a contract with an increase over the contract which you now have in your possession.” Berg did want to play baseball, so he got a leave of absence from the law school dean for the remainder of the academic year. As a result of reporting late, he spent the first three months of 1927 on the bench and that was when Manager Ray Schalk yelled, “Get me another catcher, quick.” Berg told the manager that the team already had another catcher – referring to Earl Sheely, but Schalk misunderstood and thought Berg was volunteering so put him in as catcher. Moe did eventually complete his law studies at Columbia (his father wanted him to be a lawyer) and received his degree in 1930.