Hall of Fame outfielder Irvin dead at 96


Washington (AFP)

Monte Irvin, a Hall of Fame outfielder and the fourth black player in Major League Baseball, died on Monday night of natural causes at his home in Houston, Texas. He was 96.

Irvin was a star for the Newark Eagles of Negro League Baseball in the 1930s and 1940s, serving in the US Army from 1943-1945, and sparked Newark over Kansas City in the 1946 Negro League finals.

The following year, Jackie Robinson became the first black player allowed into Major League Baseball and in 1949, after Larry Doby and Hank Thompson had also broken the color barrier, Irvin signed with the New York Giants at age 30.

In 1951, Irvin sparked a stunning late-season comeback that saw the Giants overtake the Brooklyn Dodgers to win the National League title. He joined Thompson and Willie Mays in the first all-black outfield in the major leagues.

Irvin became a World Series champion in 1954 as the Giants swept the best-of-seven final from Cleveland. He played his final season with the Chicago Cubs in 1956, finishing with a career .293 batting average, 99 home runs and 443 runs batted in.

Irvin later scouted for the New York Mets and worked for Major League Baseball. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973 and had been the second-oldest Hall of Famer living after Bobby Doerr.

"Monte Irvin's affable demeanor, strong constitution and coolness under pressure helped guide baseball through desegregation and set a standard for American culture," Baseball Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said.

"His abilities on the field as the consummate teammate are undeniable, as evidenced by World Series titles he contributed to in both the Negro and major leagues, and a richly deserved plaque in Cooperstown."