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”.