Monte Irvin

Left Fielder

Class of 1973

Monte Irvin

Left Fielder

Class of 1973
Monte Irvin was one of the top all-around athletes of his era.

Games

Birth year

About Monte Irvin

Monte Irvin was not the first African-American player in the modern major leagues, but of all the talented players who made the perilous trip from the Negro Leagues to the American and National leagues in the late 1940s, Irvin may have been the best.

“Monte was the choice of all Negro National and American League club owners to serve as the No. 1 player to join a white major league team,” said Hall of Famer Effa Manley, owner of the Newark Eagles. “We all agreed, in meeting, he 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 since the Walker brothers back in the 1880s. Of course, Branch Rickey lifted Jackie Robinson out of Negro ball and made him the first, and it turned out just fine.”

It also turned out fine for Irvin, who starred for eight seasons in the majors with the Giants and the Cubs.

“I always respected Monte Irvin as much as any player I played with,” said teammate Bobby Thomson, whose homer in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the historic 1951 National League playoff series against the Dodgers lifted Irvin and the Giants into the World Series. “He would show up and do the job every day; one of the strong guys on the ball club.”

Irvin, born Feb. 25, 1919 in Haleburg, Ala., was a four-sport athlete in high school and began playing professional baseball while in college under an assumed name to keep his amateur status. He joined the Newark Eagles and quickly became an outstanding all-around player. He could hit for power, was a strong fielder at shortstop and could steal bases. One of the league’s biggest stars, he was elected to four East-West all-star games. After asking for a raise and being denied, Irvin took off for Mexico and won the Triple Crown there.

He returned to the Eagles in 1946 where he won his second batting title and helped win the Negro World Series. In 1949, the New York Giants bought Irvin’s contract from the Eagles. In 1951 as New York’s regular left fielder, he sparked the Giants the pennant, hitting .312 with 24 home runs and a National League-best 121 RBI, en route to a third-place finish in the National League MVP voting. Although the Giants lost to the Yankees in the World Series, Irvin batted .458 in the six-game series.

He played for the Giants for seven seasons, was named to the 1952 All-Star Game and won a World Series with them in 1954. After an ankle injury, spent his final season with the Cubs in 1956. He finished with a .304 career batting average, 145 doubles, 137 home runs and 688 RBI during his 18-year career.

Following his playing career, Irvin became a scout for the New York Mets and later spent 17 years as a public relations specialist for the commissioner’s office under Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. Of Irvin's character, Kuhn wrote: “If they ever decide to start the Hall of Fame all over and place decency above all else, Monte would be the first man in.”

In 1973, Irvin was elected to the Hall of Fame. He passed away on Jan. 11, 2016.

“Baseball is a game you’d play for nothing,” Irvin said. “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.”

The Basics

Year inducted
1973
Birth Place
Columbia, Alabama
Birth Year
1919
Died
2016, Houston Texas

Career at a Glance

Primary Team
Newark Eagles
Primary Position
Left Fielder
Bats
Right
Throws
Right
Played For
Newark Eagles, 1938-1943
Newark Eagles, 1945-1948
New York Giants, 1949-1955
Chicago Cubs, 1956

Career MLB Stats

Games
1,032
At bats
3,484
Runs
566
Hits
1,059
Doubles
145
Triples
44
Home Runs
137
RBI
688
Stolen Bases
51
Walks
463
Batting Average
.304
Ops
.877
On Base %
.388
Slugging %
.489

Monte Irvin Stories

Explore the archives and go deep into the lives, careers, and stories of the Hall of Fame's honorees.

Monte Irvin Remembers

Monte Irvin proved his greatness in National League

Irvin and Thompson debut for Giants

An Interview with Monte Irvin

Forgotten History

Remembering Monte Irvin

Negro Leagues Researchers and Authors Group

Irvin earns immortality with Hall of Fame election