Monte Irvin: New York Giants Hall of Famer (1949 - 1956)

 Monte Merrill Irvin was born February 25, 1919, in Halberg, Alabama but his family soon moved up North. Irvin grew up in West Orange, New Jersey. He was to become became one of just five players from the state of New Jersey to go to the Baseball Hall of Fame. 
Monte went to West Orange high school and starred in four different sports, setting a state record for javelin throwing. He was offered a scholarship to the University of Michigan but turned it down, because he could not afford to move to the Ann Arbor area.

He went to play for the Newark Eagles in the Negro Leagues on weekends under a different name to keep his amateur status. In baseball Irvin could do it all and was a five-tool player in the style of his future teammate Willie Mays. 

Irvin was a five time All Star with his home state Newark Eagles in the Negro Leagues, hitting over .400 twice & just missing a third time batting title when he hit .396. He led his team to a championship win over the Kansas City Monarchs as well. He also played in the Mexican League winning an MVP award & a Triple Crown in 1942. 

Military Service: He then went off to serve in World War II for three years in England & France. There was no baseball there. He helped build bridges, roadways & did guard duty.

Monte returned in 1945 to hit .400 & lead Newark to a Championship over the Kansas City Monarchs. 

Possibly Breaking the Color Barrier: Many Negro League players & owners felt Irvin should have been the first player to break the color barrier. As he was probably the best all-around player at the time. He was approached by Branch Rickey & the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945 about being signed for the major leagues. As the story goes, Irvin felt he wasn’t ready to play at that level, especially after just leaving the military. 

Eventually by 1949 The New York Giants paid $5,000 for his contract while he was playing in Cuba.

He was assigned to their affiliate in Jersey City back near his hometown. After batting .373 in 63 games at Jersey City, he & Hank Thompson were brought up the Giants big league team in July. at the age of 30. 

Reporting to the Giants: Upon the two players arrival, manager Leo Durocher told his team he thinks these two guys could help make them some money & win a pennant & a World Series. I don't care what color you are, if you can play baseball you can play on this club. Irvin said this was two years after Jackie Robinson debuted, so people were used to seeing a black player. "It was no picnic; we heard the names, but we didn't have it as rough as Jackie did".

MLB Debut: On July 8th, Irvin came into the game as a pinch hitter, he drew a walk off the Dodgers Rex Barney in a 4-3 loss at Ebbett's Field.

Irvin was mostly used as a pinch-hitter, playing some outfielder, third & first base, going 16-76 in 36 games. In 1950 he started out the year in Jersey City again, but after hitting .510 after 18 games, he arrived in the major leagues for good, he was already 31 years old.

Quotes- Monte Irvin: "This should have happened to me ten years ago. I'm not even half the ballplayer I was then." Dodger great Roy Campanella agreed.

MLB Career: In just his third game that year, On May 18th, 1950, he hit a grand slam HR off the Cubs Dutch Leonard, driving in five total runs in the Giants 10-4 win. In his next game, Irvin hit a three run HR off Ewell Blackwell in aN 8-0 Giants win over the Reds. 

He cooled off into a slump that brought his average below .200 in mid-June. Although he did drive in ten runs over 16 games that month, with three multi-RBI games.

Things got better, especially in August as Irvin had an eleven-game hit streak, hit three HRs & drove in 14 runs in the month. He began September with a two run HR off the Dodgers Preacher Roe, with an RBI sac fly as well leading the Giants to a 4-1 win in Brooklyn. 

In the first two weeks of the month Irvin hit five HRs & drove in 13 runs. He had a big month with 25 RBIs overall for the 3rd place Giants who won 86 games.

On the 1950 season Irvin hit 15 HRs with 19 doubles 5 triples 66 RBIs 52 walks a .392 on base % & an .889 OPS.

1951 Giants Pennant Season: Irvin would become one of the star players on the Giants NL 1951 Pennant winner. He came in third place in the NL MVP Voting, leading the league in RBIs with 121. He hit .312 (5th best in the league) with a .415 on base % (4th best in the league) & a .929 OPS. Defensively he led all left fielders with a .995 fielding %, making eight assists (4th most in the NL). 

Irvin hit 24 HRs (10th in the NL) with 19 doubles & 11 triples (3rd in the NL). He stole 12 bases (8th in the league) & posted the third best fielding % in the outfield (.996). 

Irvin would also serve an important role, as a mentor to a young rookie, the 19-year-old Willie Mays. 

On April 19th Irvin hit a grand slam HR in Milwaukee, & drove in a total of six runs, although the Giants lost 13-12 to the braves. He fell into a slight slum then took off in May. He would drive in runs in six straight games from May 5th through May 9th, with three of those games being multi run games.

On May 23rd his two run HR at Wrigley Field was all Sal Maglie needed to beat the Cubs 2-1 on a four hitter. In a five day stretch in mid-June he drove in ten runs in the midst of a thirteen game hits streak. ON June 12th he hit a three run HR in the top of the 10th inning, off Cincinnati’s Ken Raffensberger for the 6-3 win over the Reds. Later that week, 

On June 18th Irvin’s, single in the top of the 12TH off Cloyd Boyer, drove home Bobby Thomson with the game winning run over the St. Louis Cardinals. He continued to drive in runs & hit throughout the summer. 

Giants Amazing Pennant Run: In late August the Giants made their incredible come back to catch the rival Brooklyn Dodgers. On August 11th the Giants were 13 games back & as late as August 22nd they were still eight games back. They would go an incredible 27-8 the rest of the way to tie Brooklyn for the NL title.

On August 12th Irvin drove in all three runs in the Giants 3-2 win over the Phillies. That win sparked an incredible 16 game Giants win streak. During that win streak Irvin drove in runs in seven games, also hitting safely in 12 of 14 games from August 15th thru the 30th.

Walk Off Win: On August 27th with the Giants down to the Chicago Cubs 4-3 in the bottom of the 12th inning, Irvin hit a base hit to left field for the walk off win. Then scored the game winning run on pitcher Bill Rigney’s base hit. 

Then in the second game of that day's double header, he hit a two run HR leading to a 6-3 Giants win. 

On September 5th he hit a three run HR & drove in four runs in a 9-1 win over the Braves. The next game in a 7-3 win, he hit another HR with three more runs driven in. 


Two days later he hit drove in both runs with a two run HR off Ralph Branca, to beat the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field 2-1. The win cut the Dodger lead to 5.5 games. 

On September 18th he hit a two run HR helping in a 6-5 win over the Reds at Crosley Field. He then drove in runs in five straight games, all Giants wins, topped off with a three run HR& four RBIs in a 10-1 win at Philadelphia. He drove in runs in five straight games from September 22nd thru the 26th during another Giants win streak, lasting nine games. 

On September 26th he hit a three run HR in the first inning of a 10-1 blowout of the Phillies. On September 30th, he drove in what turned out to be the game winning run, in the 5th inning at Boston to beat the Braves. 

He drove in another the next day as the Giants kept pace with Brooklyn for the pennant race. The Giants & the Dodgers finished in a regular season tie ending the ’51 campaign. A best of three tie breaker series was set to determine the NL Pennant. 

1951 Tie Breaker Series: In the first game at Ebbett's Field, Bobby Thomson hit a two run HR
off Ralph Branca giving the Giants a 2-0 lead.
Irvin collected two hits & added an 8th inning insurance run with a HR off Branca in the 3-1 win. 

In the second game he went 0-4 as the Dodgers tied the series at one game each. 

On October 3rd, 1951, the legendary third game was played in the Polo Grounds, all of New York was tuned in to the game as well as America. As it was one of the first games to be broadcast nationally on TV. 

Irvin had gone 0-2 then led off the 7th inning with a double to left off Don Newcombe. The Dodgers were clinging on a one run lead, Irvin advanced to third on Whitey Lockman's fielder's choice. He then scored the tying run on Bobby Thomson’s sac fly.

The Dodgers put up three runs in the top of the 8th off pitcher Sal Maglie. They took a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the 9th inning. The Giants got lead off singles from Alvin Dark & Don Mueller. Irvin made the first out of the inning as he fouled out to Gil Hodges at first base. Next Whitey Lockman doubled & then Bobby Thomson followed with the most famous HR in baseball history, sending the Giants to the World Series. 

In the three games Irvin had two hits, drove in a run & scored three runs. 

Post Season- 1951 World Series: In the 1951 World Series, Irvin had big start gathering up four hits in Game #1. 

In the first inning he singled & eventually stole home off pitcher Allie Reynolds in the Giants 5-1 win. He would have three more hits the next day in the 3-1 loss across the Harlem River.

In games #4 & #5 he would have two more hits in each game. Overall, in the Series he hit .458 (11-24) with two walks & a .500 on base percentage. He drove in two runs, scored three runs, stole two bases & hit a triple. Monte hit .500 (4- 8) in both Games at the Polo Grounds. 

Trivia: In that 1951 World Series Mont Irvin along with teammates, Willie Mays & Hank Thompson made history, as they formed baseballs first all-black outfield.  

After the Pennant: In 1952 he broke his ankle in April and was limited to just 46 games all season. He did bat .310 & made his only All-Star appearance that season

In 1953 he was having another MVP type season until an injury to the same leg he had the broken ankle with the previous year affected his play.

In June of 1953 he hit 6 HRs with 30 RBIs, hitting safely in all but three games that month. On July 8th he cleared the bases with a three-run triple in the first inning in a game at Pittsburgh. He later hit a grand slam driving in seven of the Giants ten runs in the 10-7 over the Pirates. 

That season the Giants finished fifth going 70-74. Irvin finished the year batting .329 with 21 HRs 21 doubles 5 triples & 97 RBIs while posting a .406 on base %. 

1954 Giants Championship Season: By now Irvin was already 35 years old & injuries had weakened his strength in his legs. 

On April 13th, Irvin helped beat the rival Brooklyn Dodgers with a HR off Billy Loes, in a season high four RBI Day in a 6-3 win at Ebbets Field. 

On May 13th he hit a pair of HRs at the Polo Grounds in a 6-3 win over the Chicago Cubs. He would hit six HRs that month. Although he was hitting for lower average he still was driving in runs, from May 31st to June 8th Irvin had nine RBIs. with the Giants winning eight of those games.

Game Winning Hits: On June 6th, he broke an 8th inning 2-2 tie in Cincinnati with a HR off the Reds Frank Smith leading to a 3-2 win. On June 8th, with the Giants down by a run, his top of the 9th inning two run double off the Braves Dave
Jolly were the winning runs in the Giants 5-4 win. 

Walk Off Hit: 
On June 22nd, the Giants were down to the Milwaukee Braves 2-1 in the bottom of the 9th inning. Willie Mays tied the game with a double. With two men on & two men out, Irvin delivered the game winning walk off hit with a base hit off Gene Conley driving home Mays.

Starting on July 7th he would hit HRs in four straight games driving in six runs, all were Giants wins including a three-game sweep of Brooklyn at Ebbett's Field giving the Giants a 5.5 game lead over the Dodgers in the NL.

He was hitting .286 at the end of July, but then slumped to finish off the year at .262. He only hit two HRs in the final two months, both coming in early September. Irvin had a much better first half hitting 16 HRs with 46 RBIs. He was limited to 54 games in the second half & batted .255 with 3 HRs & 20 RBIs. He had a horrendous August batting just .122 with two RBIs.

In 1954 he hit 19 HRs with 13 doubles 3 triples & 64 RBIs. His 70 walks were second on the club to Hank Thompson & helped him post a .363 on base %, he also stole seven bases along with his .909 OPS.

The Giants won the NL pennant five games ahead of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Post Season-1954 World Series: In the 1954 World Series against the Cleveland Indians, Irvin went hitless in the first three games. 

In Game #1 Irvin was removed for pinch hitter Dusty Rhodes in the 10th inning. Rhodes went on to hit a walk off HR off Cleveland's Bob Lemon. 

In Game #2 Dusty Rhodes pinch hit for Irvin in the 5th inning & went to drive in all three Giants runs in the 3-1 win. 

In Game #3 Irvin was removed in the 3rd inning once again in favor of Rhodes. 

In the final Game #4 of the Giants World Series sweep, Irvin had his best game, with two hits driving in two runs and scoring another. In the 5th inning he singled off the Indians' Hal Newhouser driving in the fifth run in the 7-4 Giants win. The Giants won their first World Championship since 1933. It was the first & only New York Championship for Irvin as well as Willie Mays.

In the four games, Irvin hit .222 (2-9) seeing less playing time due to his aging & the huge Series Dusty Rhodes had.

World Series Career: Overall Irvin played in two World Series’ batting .394 (13-33) with 13 hits four RBIs & two stolen bases. 

After the Championship: 1955 would be his last year with the Giants; he was limited to only 51 games hitting .253 with one HR & 17 RBIs. He spent his final season with the Chicago Cubs after being drafted (Rule V) away from the Giants. 

In his final season he batted .271, with 15 HRs 13 doubles & 50 RBIs while playing in 111 games. 

Trivia: While in New York, he & Willie Mays owned the Wilmont Liquor store located in Washington Heights.

Career Stats: In an eight-year MLB career, Irvin batted .293 with 731 hits 97 doubles 31 triples & 441 RBIs. He drew 351 walks, stole 28 bases with a .383 on base % & an .858 OPS.

Retirement:
  After his playing days he served as a scout for the New York Mets in the late sixties. He also was a public relations man for the Rheingold Brewery.

Irvin then spent seventeen years (1968-1984) as a public relations specialist for MLB under Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. Irvin was living in Florida during those years.

Honors: In 1973 he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame for his play in both the major leagues & in the Negro leagues. He also served as a member of the Hall of Fame Veterans & Negro Leagues Committee. 

On June 26th, 2010, Irvin’s uniform number was officially retired by the Giants in a ceremony at AT&T Park. 
Irvin joined fellow Giants Hall of Famers; Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry & Orlando Cepeda in tossing out the ceremonial first pitch of the 2010 World Series.

Family: Monte was married to his wife Dorinda, affectionately known as Dee. Together they had two daughters Patricia & Pamela.

Passing: In January 2016, Monte Irvin passed away in Houston, Texas at the age of 96. 

He was living in Texas in a retirement community for some time. Prior to his death Irvin was the oldest living member of a World Series team.


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