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Autograph Collection: Monte Irvin

It’s amazing the stuff you can find while looking around Google. Try this search yourself: Search for reasons why Monte Irvin doesn’t belong in the hall of fame. You will find that roughly 80% of the people who claim this will do two things: they will point out that Irvin has the worst numbers of anyone in the hall and they will simultaneously forget to mention that he spent a decade in the Negro Leagues and three years serving our country in WW2. Why? Well, I’m going to assume that these people are not so racist or so stupid as to think Negro League accomplishments don’t matter. No, I think they are just lazy. Too stupid to do even a little research.

I could go on and on about my ever increasing fascination about the Negro Leagues, but I’ll save that for a few future posts on recent books I’ve read on the subject. Instead, let’s focus on Mr. Irvin, a man who through the shear stupidity and bigotry of baseball and society, did not get the chance to show what he could do at the major league level for very long. A few random facts:

  • In 1951, Mr. Irvin became the first player of color to lead a league in RBIs. He would finish third in the MVP voting that year and you could even argue his numbers were more well rounded than winner Roy Campanella and runner up Stan Musial. Still, any time you are mentioned in the same breath as those two players, you’ve accomplished something.
  • That same year he would take a young player under his wing and mentor him on his rise to greatness. That player was Willie Mays. 
  • Mr. Irvin spent years working in the commissioner’s office and was sent in Bowie Kuhn’s place to witness Hank Aaron’s 715 home run. He may have been booed by the crowd angry at the Commissioner for not attending personally, but Irvin was personally thrilled and proud to be a witness to the accomplishment.
  • His number, 20, was retired by the San Francisco Giants this summer. Five men showed up to honor Mr. Irvin at the ceremony: Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Gaylord Perry, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda.
Perhaps the thing I respect most about Monte Irvin is that you can not find one individual who knew the man and has something bad to say about him. He carried himself with grace and dignity, despite the ridiculous injustice visited to him and his race. He held his head high and played baseball. Well done Mr. Irvin. I’ll continue to treasure this card.