The baseball world mourns the passing of Monte Irvin on Monday. After playing for the Newark Eagles for more than 9 seasons (and serving nearly 3 years in the Army), on July 8, 1949, Irvin became one of the first African American players to play for the New York Giants (along with Hank Thompson), after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947. He was selected a Negro League All-Star five times and an MLB All-Star once in (1952). He was the Negro National League MVP in 1941, the Mexican League MVP in 1942, and the Negro League RBI leader in 1951. In 1973 he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
I first learned of Monte’s career in the mid-1990s, when I was doing some research for a project on Negro League Baseball in the mid-Atlantic region. He had been supportive of our project, participated in an oral interview, and even made an appearance at one of our events. Thus, he became one of my favorite players.
I put the following timeline together rather hastily from a variety of websites, so it is not complete (nor has everything been double-checked and verified). Monte’s stats appear below.
Thanks again very everything, Monte… we will miss you.
- February 25, 1919: Montford Merrill Irvin was born Haleburg, Alabama
- 1934-1938: Attended East Orange High School; earned 16 varsity letters; made all-state in football, basketball, track, and baseball; set state record in the javelin throw
- Spent two years at Lincoln University in Chester, PA; participated in football, basketball, track, and baseball
- 1938: joined the Newark Eagles
- 1941: Negro National League MVP
- 1940-1942: Played in the Winter League in Puerto Rico
- 1942: played in the Mexican League, where he was named MVP (after salary negotiations with Eagles’ team own Effa Manley were unsuccessful)
- 1942: Married his high school sweetheart, Dee
- 1943-1945: served in the Army Engineers in World War II
- 1945-1947: played in Winter League in Puerto Rico
- 1947-1949: played in Winter League in Cuba
- 1949: Signed by the New York Giants; began the season in Jersey City and later called up to the parent team
- 1951-1968: community relations director with Rheingold Brewery
- 1954: Member of the World Series-winning New York Giants
- 1956: retired from MLB after 764 games, 2,499 at-bats, and 99 home runs, with a lifetime batting average of .293.
- 1957: played 4 games with the minor league Los Angeles Angels
- 1967-1968: scout for the New York Mets
- 1968-1964: worked in the MLB Commissioner’s Office as Assistant Director of Public Relations and Promotions
- 1973: elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame
- 1996: published his autobiography, Nice Guys Finish First
- 2010: The San Francisco Giants retired his number (20)
- Served as chairman of the Hall of Fame’s Special Committee on the Negro Leagues and Hall of Fame’s Veterans’ Committee
- Inducted Into 9 Halls of Fame in the U.S., Mexico, Cuba and Puerto Rico
- Voted the “Greatest Athlete Ever in New Jersey” by the New Jersey Sports Writers’ Association
|1942||Veracruz Azules (Mexican League)||63||237||20||0.397|
|1949||Jersey City Giants||63||204||9||0.373|
|1949||New York Giants||36||76||0||0.224|
|1950||Jersey City Giants||18||51||10||0.510|
|1950||New York Giants||110||374||15||0.299|
|1951||New York Giants||151||558||24||0.312|
|1952||New York Giants||46||126||4||0.310|
|1953||New York Giants||124||444||21||0.329|
|1954||New York Giants||135||432||19||0.262|
|1955||Minneapolis Millers (AAA)||75||250||14||0.352|
|1955||New York Giants||51||150||1||0.253|
|1957||Los Angeles Angels (Pacific Coast League)||4||10||1||0.300|