Hall of Famer and baseball icon Monte Irvin has passed away at the age of 96. His death signifies the official end of an equally dynamic and despicable era in American History. The incomparable story of the Negro Leagues, from a player's perspective, will forever be told using second-hand information and previous player accounts.
Irvin, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1973, was an MLB institution (as acknowledge by Prez Obama during a trip to the White House in 2015) and the oldest-living Negro Leagues player. He was an original baseball pioneer whose inspirational time playing in Puerto Rico and throughout Latin America helped open the floodgates for those players on the MLB level.
For those of you not familiar with baseball royalty or the role baseball played in integrating America during and prior to the Civil Rights Movement, Irvin is the man who the great Puerto Rican outfielder Roberto Clemente idolized. He holds a unique place in baseball history, as one of a select group of Hall of Famer's to star in both the Negro Leagues and Major League Baseball. In 1951, Irvin teamed with the incomparable Willie Mays and Hank Thompson to form the first Soul Patrol (all-black outfield) in MLB history.
Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. issued the following statement regarding Irvin's passing.
“Monte Irvin was a true leader during a transformational era for our game. A longtime member of the Newark Eagles of the Negro Leagues in his native New Jersey, the All-Star slugger made a seamless transition to the New York Giants in 1949. With the Giants, he played a key role on two National League pennant-winning clubs and befriended fellow Hall of Famer Willie Mays. Monte remained an exceptional ambassador for the National Pastime long after his playing career concluded in 1956. He spent 17 years working under Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and long maintained a close association with the Giants franchise. “Monte loved our game dearly, bridged eras of its history and touched many lives. Major League Baseball will be forever grateful to courageous individuals like Monte Irvin. On behalf of our 30 Clubs, I extend my deepest condolences to his family, friends and fans.”
In February of 2014, I wrote an “Our Game 2” piece about Irvin on his 95th birthday entitled, Monte Irvin Is Proof That Black Don’t Crack. It celebrated one of baseball’s most cherished and historically relevant ambassadors as he approached almost 100 years of living the African-American Dream.