I am always in search of superlatives. Tell me something or someone is the best or the tallest or the tastiest, and I'm right there with you, wanting to know more.
And if Casey Stengel, a man who once doffed his cap at home plate to allow a bird to fly away off his head, says someone is the strangest man ever to play baseball, that man automatically enters my Hall of Heroes.
Stengel said that about Moe Berg, the polymath who played a almost a decade and a half in the major leagues, but never took it too seriously. What the backup catcher took seriously was learning, and he did that in 12 languages, reading books and newspapers by the ton.
I can hardly imagine how happy he would be to be alive today, what with the internet serving a torrent of information with the stroke of a few keys! Plus, he would be 115 years of age, so he'd have that going for him.
But today I don't want to write about his baseball exploits, or how he went on a tour of Japan in the 1930s to spread the love of baseball worldwide and wound up taking home movies of Japanese defense plants and munitions storage that wound up being used by US spy agencies in World War II, or that he parachuted into Yugoslavia as a spy, or that he did not speak to his brother, Dr Sam Berg M.D. for over 30 years, or that Moe trained as a lawyer and worked for several of the big firms in New York during baseball offseasons, but gave up the practice of law because he found it boring.
No, I want to give gardening advice, because one of my favorite stories in one of the books I've read about Moe, and there have been a few, came from The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg, written by Nicholas Dawidoff and published by Pantheon Books in 1994.
And in that book we learn that Moe's sister Ethel, who was a kindergarten teacher for many years and served as a trainer for new teachers, had the habit of roller skating through the halls of her school. And that she raised raspberries in her home garden, raspberries so tasty that she would regularly trade a quart of them for a meal at New York's finest restaurants, where the pastry chefs used them for their finest pies and tarts.
And that the secret to her great raspberries was that she lived a block away from a mounted police stable.