Francis: Monte Irvin looks back at his career

From SABR member Bill Francis at on February 18, 2015:

While Monte Irvin excelled at the big league level, there’s always been the thought that fans during the 1950s didn’t get to see him at his best.

Due to the “color line” in the big leagues prior to Jackie Robinson’s debut in 1947, Irvin, who arguably spent his prime seasons toiling in the Negro Leagues, didn’t make his debut in the majors until after his 30th birthday. Though he might be overlooked today when debating the greats of the game, when finally given the chance he proved he belonged among the best.

In 1976, when U.S. President Gerald Ford urged Americans to join in observing February as Black History Month, he could have used Irvin, a ballplayer who overcame his segregation and became a trailblazer in the sport’s highest office, as an example of the progress made by African Americans over the previous decades.

“The last quarter-century has finally witnessed significant strides in the full integration of black people into every area of national life,” Ford said in his statement.

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Originally published: February 18, 2015. Last Updated: February 18, 2015.