Monte Irvin’s Few and Chosen

The Giants Retired Monte Irvin's #20 in 2010.

A couple of days ago, I received my mailed copy of “Few and Chosen: Defining Negro Leagues Greatness” by Monte Irvin with Phil Pepe. Triumph Books was the publisher in 2007 and the book is still available over Amazon.Com.

I’ve only had a few hours to quickly read through Monte’s picks as the greatest players by position in the Negro Leagues, but a few entries have really jumped out at me: (1) Yes, Monte truly does pick Ray Dandridge as the greatest third baseman in Negro Leagues history; (2) No, Monte Irvin does not pick Oscar Charleston over Willie Mays as his number one guy in centerfield; (3) There’s the great former Houston Buff Bob Boyd listed as Irvin’s number five choice at first base, and (4) Short-time Houston Buff Willard Brown hit Monte’s list as his number five pick in left field.

Here are Monte’s picks at each position, five players deep:

Monte Irvin’s Few and Chosen Greatest Negros Leaguers By Position:

Catcher: (1) Josh Gibson, (2) Roy Campanella, (3) Biz Mackey, (4) Louis Santiago, (5) Elston Howard.

First Base: (1) Buck Leonard, (2) George Giles, (3) Mule Suttles, (4) Luke Easter, (5) Bob Boyd.

Second Base: (1) Jackie Robinson, (2) Sammy T. Hughes, (3) Newt Allen, (4) Jim Gilliam, (5) Piper Davis.

Third Base: (1) Ray Dandridge, (2) Judy Johnson, (3) Oliver Marcelle, (4) Jud Wilson, (5) Henry Thompson.

Shortstop: (1) Willie Wells, (2) Pop Lloyd, (3) Ernie Banks, (4) Dick Lundy, (5) John Beckwith.

Left Field: (1) Neil Robinson, (2) Minnie Minoso, (3) Vic Harris, (4) Sandy Amoros, (5) Willard Brown.

Center Field: (1) Willie Mays, (2) Oscar Charleston, (3) Cool Papa Bell, (4) Larry Doby, (5) Turkey Stearnes.

Right Field: (1) Henry Aaron, (2) Cristobal Torriente, (3) Bill Wright, (4) Sam Jethroe, (5) Jimmie Crutchfield.

Right-Handed Pitcher: “Smokey” Joe Williams, (2) Satchel Paige, (3) Leon Day, (4) “Bullet” Joe Rogan, (5) Martin Dihigo.

Left-Handed Pitcher: (1) Willie Foster, (2) Slim Jones, (3) Roy Partlow, (4) John Donaldson, (5) Barney Brown.

Manager: (1) C.I. Taylor, (2) Candy Taylor, (3) Buck O’Neil, (4) Vic Harris, (5) Dave Malarcher.

Owner/Organizer/Pioneer: (1) Rube Foster, (2) Gus Greenlee, (3) Cum Posey, (4) Effa Manley, (5) Alex Pompez.

Greatest Negro Leagues Teams: (1) Pittsburgh Crawfords, (2) Homestead Grays, (3) Kansas City Monarchs, (4) Newark Eagles, (5) New York Cubans,

Each chapter goes into some detail on the reasons behind Monte’s choices for the aforementioned rank orders – and that’s good. Any lineup that doesn’t include Satchel Paige, Oscar Charleston, Cool Papa Bell, or the great multi-talented Martin Dihigo as starters is deserving of some close explanation, but Monte Irvin takes on that task pretty well in a book that is only 207 pages in length.

Monte Irvin owns two of the last pair of living eyes on the talent that flowed through the old Negro Leagues. We need to listen to Monte as well as we can, while we are able. Monte Irvin turns 92 years old a week from today, Friday, February 25, 2011, and he remains as sharp as a tack on the subjects of life in general and baseball in particular.

Thank you for making your home among us in Houston, Monte Irvin; thank you for this wonderful book on the “Few and Chosen;” and, however you may choose to spend it, have a very happy 92nd birthday celebration next Friday. The world is a better place because of you.

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5 Responses to “Monte Irvin’s Few and Chosen”

  1. Tom Kleinworth Says:


    I’m glad you reviewed “Few and Chosen” by Monte Irvin. It’s one of the best books on Negro League players I’ve ever read. I also would strongly recommend Monte’s autobiography to anyone who hasn’t read it. We truly are lucky to have him living with us in Houston and to have had an opportunity to meet him. Monte Irvin is a Hall-of-Famer in every sense of the word.

  2. mike Says:

    I’m ordering the book now. Thanks for the heads up.

    And a very Happy Birthday next week to Monte. I hope to talk baseball with you someday.

  3. David Munger Says:

    Dad always said how great it was Barnstorming, and playing with the
    Negro Stars in Cuba and Mexico. What a sad TIME in American History.
    We can’t make it up…but Play Ball…The Cream always Rises to the Top.

  4. Tom Kleinworth Says:

    Oops – sorry about the name confusion. I know you and Bill try to pass yourselves off as twins, but I can tell you apart. Sometimes my fingers don’t type what my brain is thinking.

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