Irvin and Thompson debut for Giants
The 1949 season was a historic one for the New York Giants, but not necessarily due to performance on the field.
The 1949 Giants finished 73-81 and in fifth place in the National League. But on July 8, 1949, the franchise would be changed forever. On that afternoon, Monte Irvin and Hank Thompson would become the first Black players on the Giants in a game against the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field.
Thompson broke into the American League with the St. Louis Browns in 1947, becoming the third Black player in the AL or NL, following Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby.
However, this was Thompson’s first AL or NL game in nearly two years after being released by the Browns prior to the 1948 season. The game was Irvin’s National League debut following a nine-year career in the Negro Leagues.
Thompson led off for the Giants and played second base. He would go 0-3 with a walk. In doing so, Thompson would become the first Black player to integrate two different teams, and the first to play in both the American and National League.
The 30 year-old Irvin had to wait a while before making his debut. He would enter the game in the top of the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter for Giants starting pitcher Clint Hartung and draw a walk. Irvin’s first NL hit would come 10 days later in his first career start with a double off Cardinals pitcher Al Brazle.
Irvin would go on to a Hall of Fame career as he was inducted in 1973 by the Committee on Negro Baseball Leagues. He hit a career-best .312 with 24 homers and 121 runs batted in during the 1951 season that saw him finish third in the MVP voting.
Irvin was so highly thought of both on and off the field that future Hall of Famer and Newark Eagles owner Effa Manley said that he was considered as a possible candidate to break the color barrier prior to Robinson.
“We all agreed, in meeting, he (Irvin) was the best qualified by temperament, character ability, sense of loyalty, morals, age, experiences and physique to represent us as the first black player to enter the white majors,” Manley said.
That Irvin and Thompson’s first game with the Giants occurred in Brooklyn is significant, with Ebbets Field being the site where Robinson had first broken the color barrier in baseball just two years earlier. In addition, Future Hall of Fame manager Leo Durocher was the skipper of the Giants that year and had been the Dodgers manager the previous year, where he coached Robinson.
Ryan Turnquist was the 2015 public relations intern in the Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Support the Hall of Fame
2016 Hall of Fame Classic Features Baseball’s Biggest Stars in Memorial Day Weekend Legends Game
Gionfriddo robs DiMaggio of an extra-base hit in Game 6 of 1947 World Series
The Babe’s Called Shot
Symposium brings together baseball, academia
1956 Hall of Fame Game
#CardCorner: 2002 Leaf Mike Piazza
Hall of Fame Inductee Exhibits for Class of 2016 Now on Display in Cooperstown
Hall of Fame Class of 2015 Plaques to Visit Selected Ballparks Following Induction
'On Account of War'
Baseball Writers’ Association of America 2016 Hall of Fame Ballot Announced
Historic crowd cheers Griffey, Piazza into Hall of Fame
Class of 2016 Reflects on Election
2010 Ford C. Frick Award Winner Jon Miller