Berg had always, somewhat compulsively, filled hotel stationery, small notebooks, even paper napkins, with jottings, but at this point the habit became obsessive. He holed up for a spell in a Washington hotel and filled about 500 pages of letter stationery with a complex plan for revising the U.S. intelligence network in Eastern Europe.
Berg dabbled in other things. Rockefeller briefly made him president of Equity International Company in Dover, Del., but office life didn't agree with him, and he was forced to resign. He took on occasional legal chores, yet never worked for a firm again. Mostly he was a vagabond.
Sometimes it was Levitt who put Berg up for a night or two. Other times it might be Joe DiMaggio or Berg's old Princeton teammate Cooper. "I said to come on over and have dinner and spend the night with us," related Cooper. "He came, he had dinner, spent the night and stayed six weeks." Berg traveled with only a razor and toothbrush in a ditty bag. At night he washed his clothes in the sink and hung them over the bathtub to dry.
People were sympathetic and baffled. Some lent him money or bought him clothes. "I can't understand why, with his abilities, he would be impoverished," says Levitt. The answer was that Berg never tried to earn a living. "He didn't want to live his life scurrying for a train every day," says Holtzman. "He lived his life the way he wanted to. He beat the game."
Berg attended meetings of the American Philosophical Society, read all day in used-book stores, went out for dinner with people and often let them pay the check. Berg drank Bloody Marys in blowsy bars with reporter Jimmy Breslin, dined out with Stengel and Groves, and chased about town with an entourage that included sports editor Harry Grayson, sportswriter Murray Olderman and various Runyonesque characters, including a horseplayer named Andy and a tough guy from the Bronx named Tony.
Berg's primary base of operations remained baseball. He owned a lifetime major league pass and was a regular in the Yankee Stadium press box, where he watched the game and ate from the spread set out for the reporters.
In the late 1960s, now past 60 years of age, Berg met the publisher Sayre Ross of the Sayre Ross Company. "He came to me in a black tie and baggy pants," says Ross. "I later learned that he had this huge hernia he never attended to. I kept insisting, 'Let the Army hospital do it,' and he kept saying, 'To hell with them. I won't let the Army do anything for me.' One morning he arrived at my office at 8:45 a.m. I walked in, and he was sitting there. He had seven newspapers from all over the country. 'Look,' he says, 'I don't want anybody to touch them.' That was the beginning of Moe Berg's stacks." Over the next few years Berg came to Ross's every day that he wasn't traveling. He never paid a dime of rent or did much of anything but fill the office with piles of newspapers, flirt with Ross's secretaries and, when Ross needed them, provide the telephone numbers of people like Stengel and DiMaggio. Ross loved having him.
Berg's behavior in his last few years became so strange that Dr. Sam concluded that he was senile. After Dr. Sam asked him to leave his house, Moe shared Ethel's Newark house.
By all accounts Ethel Berg was a harridan. Like her brothers, she never married. She despised Dr. Sam, managing to live about 10 blocks from him for 50 years without exchanging so much as a greeting. Later, when she learned that Dr. Sam was cooperating with Moe's biographers, she rejected their request for an interview and told them she would sue if her name appeared in the book. Instead, she published her own book—more a collection of Moe's papers, slightly annotated—titled My Brother Morris Berg: The Real Moe. She loved her baby brother, but she wore on him as she did on everyone else. "There were times that Moe had to board elsewhere for weeks at a time to get away from the aggravation and tension," wrote Dr. Sam. "But Moe had no money, so he had to make the best of things with Ethel."
Berg was in reasonably good health for a man of 70 when, in a hurry to get to the bathroom one day, he accidentally fell against the corner of a table, jabbing his midsection. He lay in bed for days until Ethel forced him to go to the hospital. Berg died three days later of internal bleeding. His last words to his attending nurse were a question: "How did the Mets do today?"