Hogan: Monte Irvin, ‘The Last Eagle’

From SABR member Larry Hogan at The National Pastime Museum on February 3, 2014, with SABR member Monte Irvin:

Monte Irvin lives in an assisted living facility in Houston. It comes as no surprise that he is a star in that place—as he has been wherever he has domiciled along the many roads he has traversed since first arriving on the baseball scene as a youngster in East Orange, New Jersey, in the 1920s. Slowed physically by what advancing age does to all of us—and with eyesight diminished to the point where it is difficult for him to travel—the wonderful spirit he has always exhibited, fueled by wonderful memories of a life so well lived, still burns strong. The title of Jim Riley’s account of Irvin’s life is apropos: Nice Guys Finish First.

Irvin and Jim “Red” Moore are the last of those who proudly wore the emblem of the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League. Who better than James “Cool Papa” Bell could tell us who this baseball great was in the eyes of his fellow Negro Leaguers. “Most of the black ballplayers thought Monte Irvin should have been the first black in the Major Leagues. Monte was our best young ballplayer at the time. He could hit that long ball, he had a great arm, he could field, he could run. Yes, he could do everything.” From the Robinson/Rickey revolution, Jackie is rightfully the one who comes first to mind, but there were many others who demand our attention. The “Last Eagle” is prominent among them.

Arguably, Irvin was the finest athlete ever to graduate from a New Jersey high school, earning 16 varsity letters in four different sports at East Orange High while setting a state record for the javelin. His athletic prowess made no difference on senior prom night when he and his date—and a friend and his date—were refused service at a late-night eatery in their hometown because of the color of their skin. The year was 1937.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/my-favorite-player-monte-irvin

Originally published: February 3, 2014. Last Updated: February 3, 2014.