February 25, 1919 |
|Batted: Right||Threw: Right|
|July 8, 1949 for the New York Giants|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 30, 1956 for the Chicago Cubs|
|Runs batted in||443|
Major League Baseball
|Career highlights and awards|
|Election Method||Negro Leagues Committee|
Monford Merrill "Monte" Irvin (born February 25, 1919) is a former left fielder and right-handed batter in the Negro leagues and Major League Baseball who played with the Newark Eagles (1938–42, 46-48), New York Giants (1949–55) and Chicago Cubs (1956).
|Monte Irvin's number 20 was retired by the San Francisco Giants in 2010.|
Although born in Haleburg, Alabama, Irvin grew up in Orange, New Jersey, one of five players who grew up in the Garden State to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. In high school, he starred in four sports and set a state record in the javelin throw. Monte Irvin attended Lincoln University and was a star football player.
Irvin was one of the first black players to be signed after baseball's color line was broken by Jackie Robinson in 1947. He fashioned a career of dual excellence both with the Eagles in the Negro leagues, where he was a teammate of Larry Doby, the first player to break the color barrier in the American League, and with the Giants in the National League. After hitting in the Negro leagues for high marks of .422 and .396 (1940–41), Irvin led the Mexican League with a .397 batting average and 20 home runs in 63 games, being rewarded with the Most Valuable Player award. After serving in the military in World War II (1943–45), he returned to the Eagles to lead his team to a league pennant. Irvin won his second batting championship hitting .401, and was instrumental in beating the Kansas City Monarchs in a seven-game Negro League World Series, batting .462 with three home runs. He was a five-time Negro League All-Star (1941, 1946–48, including two games in 1946).
He was approached in 1945 by Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey about being signed for the major leagues, but Irvin felt he was not ready to play at that level so soon after leaving the service. Newark Eagles business manager, Effa Manley, would not let Rickey sign Irvin without compensation. Rickey had already obtained Robinson without paying for his rights to his Negro league clubs. Said Irvin,
- "...from a purely business standpoint, Mrs. Manley felt that Branch Rickey was obligated to compensate her for my contract. That position probably delayed my entry into the major leagues...Mrs. Manley told Rickey that he had taken Don Newcombe for no money but she wasn't going to let him take me without some compensation. Furthermore, if he tried to do it, she would sue and fight him in court...Rickey contacted her to say he was no longer interested released me...the Giants picked up my contract...":p.277
Irvin earned MVP honors in the 1945-46 Puerto Rican Winter League, and after he spent the 1948-49 winter in Cuba, the Giants paid $5,000 for his contract. Assigned to Jersey City (International League), Irvin batted .373. He debuted with the Giants on July 8, 1949 as a pinch-hitter. Back with Jersey City in 1950, he was called up after hitting .510 with 10 HR in 18 games. Irvin batted .299 for the Giants that season, playing first base and the outfield.
In 1951, Irvin sparked the Giants' miraculous comeback to overtake the Dodgers in the pennant race, batting .312 with 24 homers and a league-best 121 runs batted in, en route to the World Series (he went 11–24 for .458). In the third game of the playoff between the Giants and Dodgers, Monte Irvin popped out in the bottom of the ninth inning before Bobby Thomson hit the historic home run. That year Irvin teamed with Hank Thompson and Willie Mays to form the first all-black outfield in the majors. Later, he finished third in the NL's MVP voting. In 1952 he was named to the NL All-Star team.
In his major league career, Irvin batted .293, with 99 home runs, 443 RBI, 366 runs scored, 731 hits, 97 doubles, 31 triples, and 28 stolen bases, with 351 walks for a .383 on base percentage, and 1187 total bases for a .475 slugging average in 764 games played.
After retiring, Irvin worked as a scout for the New York Mets from 1967 to 1968 and later spent 17 years (1968–1984) as a public relations specialist for the commissioner's office under Bowie Kuhn. In this capacity he became the target of scorn—not racial, but because of what the public saw as a double standard. When Commissioner Kuhn, who had ordered the Braves not to bench Hank Aaron in the opening series in Cincinnati at the start of the 1974 season (the Braves wanted Aaron to break the career home run record in Atlanta), sent Irvin to Atlanta in his place, the fans booed Irvin because Kuhn didn't come to Atlanta for the historic event, instead attending a "boosters" event for the Cleveland Indians.
Monte Irvin was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973, primarily on the basis of his play in the Negro leagues. Today, he serves on the Veterans Committee of the Hall of Fame and actively campaigns for recognition of deserving Negro league veterans.
On June 26, 2010, the San Francisco Giants officially retired his number 20 uniform. He was joined by fellow Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry and Orlando Cepeda in the pre-game ceremony. He later joined those same Giants Hall of Famers in throwing out the ceremonial first pitch of Game 1 of 2010 World Series.
Irvin is the oldest living African American to have played in the Major Leagues.
Irvin now lives in a retirement community in Houston, TX and is still very active in baseball and the community. He is involved with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and always looking to spread the word about Jackie Robinson and the role he played in moving baseball forward.
The first official statistics for the Negro leagues were compiled as part of a statistical study sponsored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and supervised by Larry Lester and Dick Clark, in which a research team collected statistics from thousands of boxscores of league-sanctioned games. The first results from this study were the statistics for Negro league Hall of Famers elected prior to 2006, which were published in Shades of Glory by Lawrence D. Hogan. These statistics include the official Negro league statistics for Monte Irvin:
|1946||Newark - c||40||149||34||57||8||2||6||36||3||16||.383||.584|
|c = pennant and Negro League World Series championship.|
|* - led league.|
- Simons, William M. Alvin L. Hall, ed. The Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, 2000. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 0786411201.
- Hogan, p. 381.
- Hogan, pp. 390–391.
- Treto Cisneros, p. 27, 31, 293.
- Clark, Dick; Lester, Larry (1994), The Negro Leagues Book, Cleveland, Ohio: Society for American Baseball Research
- Hogan, Lawrence D. (2006), Shades of Glory: The Negro Leagues and the Story of African-American Baseball, Washington DC: National Geographic, ISBN 0-7922-5306-X
- Holway, John B. (2001), The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues: The Other Half of Baseball History, Fern Park, FL: Hastings House Publishers, ISBN 0-8038-2007-0
- Riley, James A. (1994), The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, New York: Carroll & Graf, ISBN 0-7867-0959-6
- Treto Cisneros, Pedro (2002), The Mexican League: Comprehensive Player Statistics, 1937–2001, Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, ISBN 0-7864-1378-6
- Monte Irvin at the Baseball Hall of Fame
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- Negro league baseball statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference (Negro leagues)
- St. Petersburg Times - Profile
- cmgww.com - Official website
- legacymemorybank.org - Monte Irvin interview on Martin Luther King, Jr.