Profiles of Valor
Monte Irvin was born in 1919 to a family of sharecroppers in Alabama. The Irvin family, vulnerable to the continuousracial violence in the South, moved to Orange, New Jersey in the 1920s.
Irvin was introduced to baseball after noticing a baseball glove in a store window, enticing him to buy the glove andkickstarting his baseball career.
While still in high school, Irvin tried out and joined the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League. To retain hisamateur status for both high school and college he played under the name of Jimmy Nelson.
Irvin’s versatility in both the infield and outfield led to strong seasons and his first appearance in the 1941 East-WestAll-Star Game. Unable to negotiate his contract for the 1942 season, Irvin left the Eagles for the Mexican League’s,Vera Cruz Blues, where he finished at the top in both batting and homeruns, as well as the receiving MVP award.
Drafted in 1942, Irvin served in the 1313th General Services Engineers, in an entirely black unit. Serving in England, France and Belgium, Irvin was engaged in D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge and faced discrimination in the ranks fromwhite commanders. Earning the rank of Sergeant, Irvin was demoted to Private, before being discharged in September 1945.
In 1946, Irvin led the Eagles to a seven-game Negro League World Series victory, catching the eyes of the New YorkGiants, who signed him in 1949. Arguably the best all-around player in the Negro League, Irvin, along with Robinson,became a pioneer in the integration of Major League Baseball.
The 1951 season pushed Irvin into the MVP race, with a .312 average, 24 home runs and 121 RBIs. Irvin played with the Giants until 1955, starting in all four games of the Giant’s ‘54 World Series victory. His last season, 1956, was spent with the Chicago Cubs. After retiring from baseball, he served as a scout for the New York Mets and a public relations specialist in the league. Monte Irvin was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1974, and the Giants retired his number, 20, in 2010.