Position: Outfielder
Teams:
Newark Eagles, 1938-1942, 1945-1949; New York Giants, 1949-1955; Chicago Cubs, 1956

Monte Irvin
Monte Irvin was past the age of 30 by the
time he signed his first organized
baseball contract.

“Most of the black ball­players thought Monte Irvin should have been the first black in the major leagues. Monte was our best young ballplayer at the time. He could hit that long ball, he had a great arm, he could field, he could run. He could do everything.” Cool Papa Bell spoke for the black stars of his day -- many felt that Irvin was the best.

Monford Merrill Irvin was born in 1919 in Columbus, Alabama, but he grew up in Orange, New Jersey. He was one of the greatest all-around athletes the state ever produced, winning All-State honors in four sports in high school. After graduation, he attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania while playing pro ball for the Newark Eagles under the assumed name “Jimmy Nelson” to protect his amateur status.

Irvin was a star in the Negro Leagues. It was acknowledged that he was the batting leader in 1940 and 1941. “My only wish,” said Irvin, “is that major-league fans could’ve seen me when I was at my best.” In Mexico in 1942, he hit .398 with power. He was drafted late in 1942, and missed most of the next three seasons while he was serving in the armed forces. He came back to Newark for full seasons in 1946 through ’48.

He was signed by the Dodgers after the Eagles folded in 1948. The owner of the defunct Eagles demanded $5,000 for Irvin, so the Dodgers relinquished the contract. The New York Giants paid the sum, however, and signed the 29-year-old.

In 1949, Irvin hit .373 for Jersey City of the International League. He had his first taste of big-league ball late that year. In 1950, he returned to Jersey City, where he hit .510 with 10 homers in just 51 at bats, and back up he came, hitting .299 with 15 homers for the Giants. Willie Mays joined the team for the 1951 “Miracle at Coogan’s Bluff,” but manager Leo Durocher called Irvin “my best hitter.”

Monte hit .312 and led the league with 121 RBI. The Giants ran down the Dodgers, beat them in a playoff on Bobby Thomson’s famous home run, and faced the Yankees in the World Series. Though they lost, Irvin hit .458. He called that season “the high point of my life.”

Monte hit over .300 in ’52, but a broken ankle sidelined him for most of the season. He bounced back in 1953, hitting .329 with 21 home runs and 97 RBI. Late in the 1953 season, he reinjured his ankle, and it bothered him for the rest of his career. He retired after the 1956 season. Irvin was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1973.

Here are Monte Irvin's negro league totals*:

BA

G

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

SB

.346

224

908

314

54

10

34

26

*Note: Irvin's negro league statistics are incomplete.

And his major league totals:

BA

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

.293

764

2,499

366

731

97

31

99

443

28

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