Tag Archives: moe berg

Hang A Crooked Number: Available Now

Cover art by Tony Morais

I wrote a novel called Hang A Crooked Number. It is about a world where baseball is an elaborate front for the operations of a domestic intelligence organization called The Moe Berg Society. It is narrated by a minor league recruit who is mired in a horrific slump on both sides of his work, unable to work his way to the big leagues as either a hitter or a spy, while being caught between rival factions fighting for control of the organization. It’s about some other things, too, but we’ll start there. And it has serious parts and funny parts (parts I intended to be serious and funny, anyway). I’m letting you know about this because I think some people might like it.

As this novel made its final steps to becoming a Real Live Book, my first impulse was to write a huge post detailing its journey from idea to reality, why I took so long to write it, commentary on those Other Things alluded to above, the evolution of my thoughts about fiction in particular and writing in general…

I wrote this very lengthy post, more to remind myself of the journey this novel took from the time when the idea first came to me. Then I crumpled up that post and tossed in the trash, because it would be of no interest to anyone outside of my head. Maybe you’d care about how long it took me to write this novel or what I went through in the intervening years if I was Some Important Author, but I ain’t. Last time I checked, I was known (if at all) as a semi-pro enthusiast of Edgardo Alfonzo, Action Park, and Steampipe Alley. You are well within your rights to not give a shit about my “process.”

Furthermore, I shouldn’t attempt to explain a piece of work whose primary function is to explain itself. I’m reminded of something Elvis Costello once said during a live show: “People are always asking me, ‘What does that song mean?’ If I could have said it in a way other than how I said it in the song, I would have written another song, wouldn’t I?”

So, though brevity is not my strong suit, I will keep this as short and sweet as I can:

Hang A Crooked Number is now out in the world, available to eyes that might enjoy a novel about baseball and spies and some other things. If you believe you own such a set of eyes, it can be purchased at Amazon, iTunes, or Smashwords for the ridiculously low price of $2.99. (Other retailers to follow.) I figure that’s plenty cheap for anyone to take a chance on a novel about spies and baseball written by Some Dude. If you are fortunate enough to own an ebook reading device yet consider $2.99 too much to spend on an ebook, all I can say is good luck to you, sir or madam.

If you do take a chance on this novel and find you like what you read, leave a nice review on Amazon and tell a friend. Leave something nice up on Goodreads, if that’s a thing you do. Tweet or Facebook about it. Every little whisper helps. I’m just one person without any sort of machine working for me, so this is how more eyes will get a chance to read it. That is all I want and all I can want.

Thank you.

From the Scratchbomb Annals of Failure: OSS

Perhaps you’ve heard of No Mas. They’re an awesome apparel/art conglomco that focuses on the dark/weird side of sports. They first caught my eye many years ago, when an acquaintance of mine showed up at a local bar wearing this beauty. I enjoy their products because they clearly love sports, but they lack the unblinking reverence for athletes usually found in sporting media. Their favorite figures are guys like Mike Tyson and Doc Gooden, whose obvious and continued personal failings make them much more compelling than the stainless steel heroism of the Derek Jeters of the world.

Earlier this year, No Mas announced a design-a-t-shirt contest, and I immediately had what I thought was a brilliant idea. Many of No-Mas’s t-shirts play on team logos, such as this one, which combines the Padres’ horrid 1980s uni design with another horrid 80s product, Pablo Escoabar. I went a similar route, and decided to combine the cheesy White Sox logo of the mid-80s with the curious case of Moe Berg.

Moe Berg was a backup catcher with an up-and-down major league career in the 1930s. In an era when most ballplayers were nigh-illiterate farmboys, he was an Ivy League educated gentleman who knew several languages and traveled the world. But he’s still remembered nowadays because at the same time he caught in the major leagues, he also worked as a spy for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS, the precursor of the CIA).

Berg even went on major league barnstorming trips to the Far East with superstars he had no business playing with, like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, as a cover for him taking covert photos and film of the Tokyo cityscape. During World War II, his footage aided in planning Pacific bombing raids. He also parachuted behind enemy lines to aid Nazi resistance groups in Yugoslavia, and traveled Europe to interview physicists and convince them to join the American effort to build the atomic bomb.

That’s a life and half right there. I find his story so fascinating that I used it for the jumping point to a novel that I SWEAR I’m going to finish some time this year (it does not actually involve Moe Berg in any way). I thought he deserved to be immortalized in t-shirt form. And he actually played for the White Sox, which made my idea vaguely appropriate.

I slaved over my design, employing all of my Photoshopping skills, and convinced myself that it HAD to win. Just like I convinced myself for every contest I ever entered as a kid. Unfortunately, I was so convinced of my victory that I never bothered to actually send in my entry. I totally forgot about it until the deadline had long since past, and only remembered when I found the files while scouring through my computer this week.

I present the design to you now, so that it may live in some form. In case you’re wondering, Berg played in an era when most players did not have numbers, so the “34” refers to 1934, the year he took his second trip to Japan for spy photography purposes. My question is, if this was an actual t-shirt, would you buy it? If there’s enough interest, I will look into making this an actual thing you can purchase and wear. Warning: The threshold for “enough interest” is probably “one dude”.