ORANGE – Monte Irvin, a Major League Baseball Hall of Famer who grew up in Orange, died Jan. 11. He was 96. One of the greatest athletes to ever come out of New Jersey, Irvin was one of the first African-American players to play in the Major Leagues.
In eight seasons, Irvin had a .293 career batting average, including 97 doubles, 99 home runs, and 443 RBI in the major leagues. He played seven seasons with the New York Giants from 1949-55 and one season for the Chicago Cubs in 1956.
Irvin was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Special Committee on Negro Leagues in 1973.
Born Feb. 25, 1919 in Haleburg, Ala., Irvin was a four-sport athlete at Orange High School, lettering in baseball, basketball, football and track and field.
As a member of the Newark Eagles, Irvin was one of the best players in the Negro leagues. After playing in Mexico where he won the triple crown, Irvin returned to the Newark Eagles and helped the team capture the Negro League World Series championship in 1946.
In 1949, the New York Giants bought his contract from the Eagles, as Irvin became the fourth African-American player to play in the Major Leagues. Two years later, in 1951, the outfielder batted .312 with 24 home runs and led the National League with 121 RBI, helping the Giants to the N.L. pennant. In the World Series, Irvin batted .458 in the six games, but the Yankees beat the Giants. He was elected to the 1952 All-Star Game.
Irvin helped lead the Giants to the 1954 World Series title as they swept the Cleveland
Indians in four games. Irvin went 2-for-9 with a double and two RBI in playing all four games in the series.
With the Giants, Irvin played in the same outfield as fellow Hall of Fame legend Willie Mays.
After his career ended, Irvin became a scout for the New York Mets. He later served as a public relations specialist for the commissioner’s office under Commissioner Bowie Kuhn for 17 years.
Irvin meant so much to the city of Orange. The Orange youth baseball program, as well as Orange Park, are both named after Irvin, who also was a World War II veteran.
“In the playing field and in the boardroom, Monte Irvin was a trailblazer for generations of athletes to come,” said Orange Mayor Dwayne D. Warren, in a statement. “We choose not to mourn the loss of a native son, but celebrate a rich life that inspires us all.”
“I’m deeply saddened to learn of the loss of Orange’s greatest athlete and Baseball Hall of Famer Monte Irvin and the entire Giants organization offer our deepest condolences to his family,” said Wally Boyett, Founder/Director/Coach of the Monte Irvin Giants travel baseball program. “Monte was always a friend to the baseball community in Orange. In fact, I remember when (former Orange Rec Supervisor) Keith Pressey and I contacted Monte about using his name for our programs, (and) the first thing out his mouth was ‘what took you so long.’ The Monte Irvin Giants will continue to celebrate his life through our baseball program, which focuses on player development, educational opportunities and careers on the business side of sports.”
Irvin was living in a retirement home in Houston, Tex. He was the second-oldest living Hall of Famer, behind only Bobby Doerr.