Hall of Famer Monte Irvin has passed away at 96 years of age, according to a remembrance posted on the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s website. MLBTR joins those around the league in celebrating Irvin’s long and prosperous life, and offering its condolences to his loved ones.
Irvin was an iconic ballplayer who excelled in both the Negro Legaues and the major leagues. The World War II veteran later worked as a scout, spent time in the commissioner’s office, and grew to become a beloved ambassador of the game for many decades after his playing career ended.
A standout performer with the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League, Irvin drew consideration to become the player to break the color barrier and at one point seemed lined up to do just that. While that honor went to Jackie Robinson, it was Irvin (among others) who carried the legacy forward after Robinson’s untimely death.
Irvin ultimately joined the New York Giants as an outfielder before his age-30 season. He played for eight years in the majors, compiling a .293/.383/.475 batting line and swatting 99 home runs. As good as those statistics were, of course, they only hinted at what Irvin might have done had he spent his youth and prime at the big league level.
Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson offered some compelling words on Irvin:
“Monte Irvin’s affable demeanor, strong constitution and coolness under pressure helped guide baseball through desegregation and set a standard for American culture. His abilities on the field as the consummate teammate are undeniable, as evidenced by World Series titles he contributed to in both the Negro and Major leagues, and a richly-deserved plaque in Cooperstown. He was on the original committee that elected Negro Leagues stars to the Hall of Fame, something for which the Museum will always be grateful.”
If you’re interested in getting a sense of Irvin’s personality and reading up on some of his stories from the wondrous period in which he played, be sure to give a read to this piece from MLB.com’s Richard Justice. Be sure also to click on the video link at the Hall of Fame page linked above, which features a nice interview with Irvin. (It includes some interesting thoughts on the modern game that are, perhaps, even more interesting when you realize the interview was conducted nearly twenty years ago.)