Searching declassified CIA documents for baseball stuff – CBSSports.com


November 6, 2015 4:22 PM ET

The CIA! It keeps files on all kinds of things, you know. So because it is the offseason and because there is presently no baseball here, your foul-smelling correspondent has undertaken the necessary work of deep-mining declassified CIA documents for anything related to this, our baseball.

President Harry Truman established the CIA in 1947, so as you might expect much of what follows flows from Cold War goings-on. Come with us, won’t you?

First, let’s sample the January 1953 dossier of Matsutaro Shoriki, a Tokyo media mogul who’s still regarded as the progenitor of Japanese baseball.

Indeed, Shiroki, largely to promote his newspaper, organized Japanese barnstorming tours featuring American ballplayers. The first was in 1931, and the 1934 edition featured not only the luminous Ruth but also Connie Mack, Lou Gehrig, Charlie Gehringer, and Jimmie Foxx …

(Image: Wonderful Rife)

Above: That’s Shiroki at far left, Mack in center, and Ruth at far right.

The baseball tour came at a cost, though, as Shiroki, linked by extremists to increasing foreign influence in Japan, was the target of an assassination attempt — by broadsword, actually. The attack cost Shiroki a liter of blood and left him with a scar of impressive dimensions.

In the run-up to World War II, however, Shiroki became an Axis supporter of some renown. As noted by the Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner of the CIA) …

In August 1947, Shinoki was released from prison and, as the Economist noted in 2012, soon found common cause with the Americans with regard to a shared antipathy for communism. Eventually, Shinoki helped usher in Japan’s atomic age.

Next, let’s move ahead to June 1959. In Germany, an unnamed CIA liaison is interfacing with Siegfried Nickel, a former leader in the Hitler Youth organization. Part of that report

As noted in this CIA decoder, “KORTMANN” was the internal alias for Nickel. As for this bit of shoe-leather recon, the document reviewer seemed roundly unimpressed …

Ho hum.

July 1954: We get a dispatch from a Soviet emigre regarding his perceptions after six months in the US. Of note for our purposes …

The youths of America, they play baseball. Also of interest from this very same observational missive:

Duly noted.

An April in the 1960s: What’s the CIA codename for BND, the West German intelligence service?

Baseball! This, by the way, comes via a CIA damage assessment after the BND was infiltrated by Soviet double agent Heinz Felfe.

Baseball as instrument of propaganda? Forthcoming! This 1984 backward-looking study of OSS propaganda recalls the coordinated effort to effect surrender of Japanese troops during World War II. To this end, Japanese prisoners of war were recruited/compelled to aid the effort by writing purported letters from home and the like to Japanese soldiers on the front lines. As part of that …

Surrender and you can play baseball. Sounds reasonable enough.

Speaking of “inducements,” what’s the best way to promote an American-run anti-Castro offshore radio station in post-Revolutionary Cuba? This 1979 intra-agency history of the Bay of Pigs invasion provides a clue …

Baseball cards! But not gum, it would seem.

From 1952-56, the CIA, in collaboration with MI-6, undertook construction of a tunnel from West Berlin to East Berlin for the purposes of intercepting Soviet cables. When attempting to surreptitiously design the tunnel, engineers resorted to these measures (via Clandestine Services History) …

Darn those friendly East German guards and their capable throwing arms.

Hey, now let’s hear from CBS’s own Edward R. Murrow in 1963, when he was head of the United States Information Agency. The matter at hand? A letter to Sports Illustrated in which the Cuban letter-writer complains that he doesn’t get enough baseball news via the Armed Forces Radio Serice. Mr. Murrow’s answer? Give Voice of America radio a try …

Forthcoming: A relevant CIA cryptonym from the Cold War …

Red Sox!

Finally, in the course of this scribe’s research he encountered something called “The Baseball Conspiracy,” which included no accessible documentation. Sufficiently titilated by the title and to the end of Important Journalism for the Public Good, he filed a FOIA request. Here’s (a poorly lit photo of) what came back …

(Click to enlarge.)

As it turns out, it’s a work of satire that appeared in the communist-leaning Daily World. Ah well.

For reasons sufficient unto the writer alone, this has been a baseball-inspired spelunking through declassified CIA files. This concludes our tour.

People, there is no baseball right now.


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    if (globalNav && navContentJson) {globalNav.init(navContentJson);}
    CBSi.globalNav = globalNav;
    });

    <!– DARK RIVER TEST/ sports_river – disabled [0

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