Monday Baseball Motivation

Monte Irvin 1953.jpg
Monte Irvin with the New York Giants in 1953

“Early in life I learned, just through observation, that right always wins out over wrong. If a person has good intentions in his heart and wants to do the right thing, then there are certain ways that any obstacle can be overcome.”
– Monte Irvin

The First Caribbean Series

Monte Irvin 1953.jpg

Monte Irvin, shown here in 1953 or so, drove in the most runs (11) of the 1949 Serie del Caribe

The semi-finals of this year’s Caribbean Series are tonight, with the final being played tomorrow. The Caribbean Series, or Serie del Caribe, is held each year in early February. Participants are the national champions of the member leagues of the ConfederaciĂłn de BĂ©isbol del Caribe, the organization that governs winter leagues in the Caribbean. Its current members are:  Liga de BĂ©isbol Profesional Roberto Clemente, Liga Venezolana de BĂ©isbol Profesional, Serie Nacional de BĂ©isbol, BĂ©isbol Profesional de Panamá, Liga de BĂ©isbol Profesional de la RepĂşblica Dominicana, Liga Mexicana del PacĂ­fico, and Liga Colombiana de BĂ©isbol Profesional, representing Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Cuba, Panama, the Domincan Republic, and Colombia, respectively.

The first Caribbean Series was held February 20-25 in 1949. The participating teams were: Alacranes del Almendares of Cuba, Spur Cola Colonites of Panama, Indios de MayagĂĽez of Puerto Rico, and CervecerĂ­a Caracas of Venzuela. The Series was played at Estadio del Cerro in Havana, Cuba (now known as Estadio Latinoamericano).

The Cuban team dominated in that series, winning all six of the games they played. Here’s how their games went:

  • Feb. 20, 1949: Cuba scored 16 runs to Venzuela’s 1 run. Connie Marrero was the winning pitcher. Home runs: 1 by Dalmiro Finol for Venezuela.
  • Feb. 21, 1949: Cuba 8, Puerto Rico 5. Winning pitcher: Agapito Mayor
  • Feb. 22, 1949: Cuba 4, Panama 0. Winning pitcher: Ed Wright
  • Feb. 23, 1949: Cuba 6, Venezuela 3. Winning pitcher: Rene Solis
  • Feb. 24, 1949: Cuba 11, Puerto Rico 4. Winning pitcher: Agapito Mayor. Home runs: 1 by Monte Irvin for Cuba.
  • Feb. 25, 1949: Cuba 5, Panama 2. Winning pitcher: Agapito Mayor. Home runs: 2 for Cuba, hit by Monte Irvin and Hector Rodriguez.

Connie Marrero 1950s.JPG

Connie Marrero, ca. 1950s

In addition to Connie Marrero and Monte Irvin, the Cuban team included Sam Jethroe and Chuck Conners. (Yes, that Chuck Connors.)

Venezuela came in second in that first Serie, winning 3 games and losing 3; Chico Carrasquel hit a home run for Venezuela in the 2nd place game on February 25th. Panama finished third and Puerto Rico was in fourth place. Notably, the Puerto Rico team included Negro Leaguers such as Quincy Trouppe, Luke Easter, and Wilmer Fields.

The Caribbean Series was played from 1959 to 1960, but was cancelled in 1961 after professional baseball was dissolved in Cuba in the wake of the revolution. The Series was revived in 1970 and has been played every year since, with the exception of 1981, when there was a player’s strike in the Venezuelan League. Cuba did not participate between 1961 and 2014, but returned in 2014. However, they are not participating in this year’s competition due to visa issues. Panama did not participate between 1961 and 2018, returning only in 2019.

Stay tuned for more Caribbean Series stats coming this Stat-urday!

~ baseballrebecca




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Happy Birthday, Monte!

Monte Irvin 1953.jpg
Monte Irvin with the New York Giants, ca. 1953 (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
“Baseball is a game you’d play for nothing. And I am so happy the Lord gave me a little ability, because it allowed me to meet a lot of good people and see so many exciting places.” ~ Monte Irvin 

Yesterday would have been Monte Irvin’s 100th birthday. Irvin, who passed away in 2016, spent eight years in the major leagues, after nine years in the Negro Leagues and three in the Army. He was just the seventh African American player in Major League Baseball, and a member of the first all-black MLB outfield in 1951, along with Willie Mays and Hank Thompson.

Monford Merrill Irvin was born in Haleburg, Alabama, on February 25, 1919. He moved to Orange, New Jersey, with his family when he was a child. After playing for the semi-pro Orange Triangles, Irvin joined the Newark Eagles in 1938. When he did not get the raise he asked for in 1942, Irvin went to Mexico and played for the Veracruz Azules. During the off season, he was drafted into the Army, where he spent three years in England, France, and Belgium, and served in the Battle of the Bulge.

Irvin returned to the Eagles in 1945. While with the Eagles, he played winter ball in Puerto Rico and Cuba. In 1949, Irvin signed with the New York Giants, earning a salary of $5,000. In 1949 and 1950, he split time between the Giants and their AAA affiliate, the Jersey City Giants, making his major league debut on July 8, 1949. Irvin played with the Giants through the 1955 season, after having been an all-star in 1952 and playing in two World Series – the Giants lost in 1951, but won the World Series in 1954.

Monte Irvin’s baseball awards and accomplishments include:

  • 5-time Negro League All-Star, 1941, 1946-48 (two All-Star games in 1946)
  • Mexican League Triple Crown winner, 1942
  • Puerto Rico Winter League MVP, 1945-46
  • Negro League Batting Champion (with a .401 batting average), 1946
  • NL RBI leader, 1951
  • MLB All-Star, 1952

Irvin signed with the Chicago Cubs for the 1956 season, but in 1957 a back injury during spring training led to his retirement. After his playing career, held a variety of jobs, including being a scout for the New York Mets from 1967 to 1968. In 1968, he became the first Black MLB executive when he was appointed to the position of Public Relations Specialist for the Commissioner’s Office, a position he held until his retirement in 1984.

Irvin was elected to the Mexican Professional Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame a year later. The San Francisco Giants retired his uniform number in 2010.

Happy Birthday, Monte!

~ baseballrebecca

Stat-urday, 2/3/2018


Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana, Cuba, shown here in 2005, was the site of the 1949 Serie del Caribe. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia. 

The first Serie del Caribe was held in February 1949 in Havana, Cuba. During the series, the Cuban team was undefeated, and the Puerto Rican team won only one game. Al Gionfriddo, who’d played in the Brooklyn Dodger’s minor league system in 1948, led the series with a .533 batting average. Monte Irvin was the series home run leader with 2 home runs and 11 RBIs. LHP Agapito Mayor was the series MVP with a record of 3-0. All three players played for the Cuban team from Almendares.

Where did all this great information come from? Just a few clicks on the Baseball Reference web page! Check out more Caribbean Series stats at

~ baseballrebecca




Monte’s Coca Cola Ad

Monte 1954Last week began our discussion of the baseball sociology of food. Related to this is the marketing of certain foods and beverages to MLB fans. This practice goes back at least to the 1920s, and has included several baseball players.

Last week, John Thorn, MLB’s Historian, posted a Coca Cola ad featuring Monte Irvin. Pretty cool.

~ baseballrebecca


Thanks for Everything, Monte

7fingersThe 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.

monte2I 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.

~ baseballrebecca

  • 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
Year Team G AB HR BA
1938 Newark Eagles 2 4 0 0.000
1939 Newark Eagles 21 52 0 0.192
1940 Newark Eagles 35 131 3 0.351
1941 Newark Eagles 34 130 4 0.400
1942 Newark Eagles 4 12 1 0.750
1942 Veracruz Azules (Mexican League) 63 237 20 0.397
1943-45 military duty
1945 Newark Eagles 1 13 0 0.385
1946 Newark Eagles 40 152 6 0.375
1947 Newark Eagles 13 46 4 0.348
1948 Newark Eagles 9 30 2 0.233
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
1956 Chicago Cubs 111 339 15 0.271
1957 Los Angeles Angels (Pacific Coast League) 4 10 1 0.300