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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Izenberg: Happy 95th birthday Monte Irvin

83-year old Jerry Izenberg, on Monte Irvin’s 95th birthday.

The last Eagle will be 95 years old this morning. Monte Irvin broke the New York Baseball Giants’ color line in 1949 and played in two World Series for them. He was the first African-American to work as an aide in the office of the Commissioner of Baseball. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

That’s for the résumé.

But for me, he will always remain a Newark Eagle.

...Now, after all those years home and abroad in all those ballparks the white world never heard about, all of America got to see Monte Irvin, the artist at work, on integrated playing fields that for so long were whiter than a brand new baseball.

He is the oldest living ballplayer to have been on a winning World Series team (1954) and the oldest living former major-leaguer.

And for some of us — black or white — he will always have a place of honor in our private pantheons as the last Newark Eagle.

He lives in Houston now, but there is a piece of him that never left New Jersey, where as a teenage superstar at Orange High School he won 16 varsity letters in four years ... where in his only attempt he threw the javelin farther than any high school track and field guy before him, anywhere in the state ... where he and his high school sweetheart, Dee, walked hand-in-hand long before she became his wife, through the park that now bears his name.

The last Eagle was shaped here in this state and the link between him and America’s social history is an unbreakable bond. Chronologically for him, age is just a number, not a lifestyle.

Happy birthday, Monte.


Repoz Posted: February 26, 2014 at 07:00 AM | 17 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history

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   1. John Northey Posted: February 26, 2014 at 07:30 AM (#4662653)
How many old Negro Leaguers are left? Given it closed shop after 1957 (roughly...seems there is some dispute and some list 1950 as the last 'major' year) I'd figure the members are passing away as the youngest probably was born around 1940 making him 73 years old.
   2. BDC Posted: February 26, 2014 at 09:08 AM (#4662676)
One could go through the roster at the NLBPA website and take roll, as it were. Aaron, Banks, Irvin, Mays, Newcombe: a lot of the guys who became ML stars are still around.

And the major/minor distinction is important. Segregated leagues persisted in the South long after 1947. There was a West Texas Colored League as late as 1960.
   3. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: February 26, 2014 at 09:45 AM (#4662700)
The first time I ever remember reading about Monte Irvin was a feature story in one of those old baseball annuals, which told about how he nearly died of a streptococci infection that came about from a simple scratch on his finger.

This was when Irvin was just a teenager. I wonder how many of us would still be alive if modern medicine hadn't been around during our lifetimes? I would've been a goner at least 3 or 4 times myself.
   4. just plain joe Posted: February 26, 2014 at 09:47 AM (#4662703)
Irvin might be the oldest living player who was on a World Series winning team but he is not the oldest living major leaguer. Connie Marrero, who pitched for the Senators in the early 1950's, is still alive in Cuba and is over one hundred years old.
   5. EddieA Posted: February 26, 2014 at 10:06 AM (#4662719)
Click through on this one, the article is an easy read.
   6. BDC Posted: February 26, 2014 at 10:21 AM (#4662735)
I mentioned him in #2, but Don Newcombe also played for Newark, so Irvin is not the "last Eagle." I can't find others who are definitely alive. The nature of the Negro Leagues was such that a lot of the non-stars were simply lost track of, so it's unsurprising that the longest-lived players are from the ranks of the best known.

   7. djrelays Posted: February 26, 2014 at 10:51 AM (#4662761)
Apparently lots of little "facts" that are off.

Irvin was never the all-time leading javelin thrower among New Jersey high school kids. Irvin threw 192-8 in 1937, but Mike Berman of Barringer HS in Newark threw 194-4 1/4 in 1931.
   8. DL from MN Posted: February 26, 2014 at 10:58 AM (#4662766)
Few of the NGL players remaining played before 1947 when it was the only option. Irvin is one of the few remaining. This is why Holway's oral histories are so important.
   9. michaelplank has knowledgeable eyes Posted: February 26, 2014 at 12:30 PM (#4662859)
Apparently lots of little "facts" that are off.

Will no one do a 1-page report on Monte Irvin?
   10. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: February 26, 2014 at 12:49 PM (#4662882)
Apparently lots of little "facts" that are off.
Will no one do a 1-page report on Monte Irvin?

"Monty Irvin (no relation to Frank Robinson) celebrated his 95th birthday..."
   11. michaelplank has knowledgeable eyes Posted: February 26, 2014 at 12:55 PM (#4662891)
"Monty Irvin (no relation to Frank Robinson) celebrated his 95th birthday..."

Do we know that he actually celebrated it? The author says he lives in Houston. Did he check?
   12. ajnrules Posted: February 26, 2014 at 01:20 PM (#4662913)
Irvin isn't even the oldest living Hall of Famer. Bobby Doerr turned 95 last April and he's still around the last I checked.

Still, many happy returns to Monte Irvin for joining Doerr, Lee MacPhail and Al Lopez to be the only Hall of Famers that lived to be 95. I think Elmer Flick missed by just two days.
   13. Random Transaction Generator Posted: February 26, 2014 at 01:28 PM (#4662922)
Who was the last player from the Negro Leagues to play in MLB?

Willie Mays?

   14. DL from MN Posted: February 26, 2014 at 01:40 PM (#4662936)
Hank Aaron retired later than Mays. If they induct Minnie Minoso this year I think he gets the title.
   15. Howie Menckel Posted: February 26, 2014 at 01:54 PM (#4662957)

"He is the oldest living ballplayer to have been on a winning World Series team (1954) and the oldest living former major-leaguer."

could someone be the latter yet not the former?
   16. DL from MN Posted: February 26, 2014 at 02:13 PM (#4662992)
Sorry, play in MLB has to be Minoso
   17. BDC Posted: February 26, 2014 at 02:24 PM (#4663007)
OK, just to trace this … Bill Endicott is a few months older than Irvin, and played for the 1946 Cardinals (though not in the Series itself). Irvin is older than Eddie Robinson or Al Rosen (1948 Indians), though, and older than any of the surviving Yankees from 1947-53 (there are quite a few of them alive, including of course Berra and Ford). Irvin is a few years older than Red Schoendienst (1957 Braves) as well, as well as any of the living Boys of Summer. Irvin is also three years older than his 1954 teammate Al Dark. He seems to check out as the oldest WS winner (ie actually played in that Series).

I initially read this as the survivor from the longest-ago World Champion, which of course was a misreading. There are a few 1945 Tigers left, including Billy Pierce, who was in five games for them. I don't think there are any survivors of earlier Series champions, though I could very well be wrong.

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