Rest In Peace, Monte Irvin

""If we had known he wanted to be a dictator, we would have kept him around and made him an umpire." ~ Monte Irvin on Fidel Castro's failed tryout with the former's Cuban ball club. December 9, 2009

“If we had known he wanted to be a dictator, we would have kept him around and made him an umpire.”
~ Monte Irvin on Fidel Castro’s failed tryout with the former’s Cuban ball club.
December 9, 2009


By now, you probably know the sad, but unsurprising news, considering his age. Two days ago, on January 11, 2016, Baseball Hall of Famer Monte Irvin passed away in his sleep at his Houston home at the age of 96. When I heard, my first thoughts hovered briefly along the lines of what a beautiful way to go that would be for any of us, but deservedly so for someone like Monte Irvin, a man who gave and received a ton of love in all he did in his lifetime as one of baseball’s greatest examples of what giving oneself to life with all one’s total humanity should be about for all of us.

Monte Irvin gave of all his passion and ability to everything he apparently did. And we loved him for it. He also was a thinking, sensitive, aware, and active life soldier in the ongoing battle that belongs to all of us in the war against racism and other forces that work against social justice and equity for all.

Monte will be missed, but the energy for the good he set in motion during his long lifetime shall remain in flight. Relative to the idea that even the movement of a single butterfly’s wings have their own singular altering effect on the future of our planet, Monte Irvin flew through life on the wings of the (Newark) eagle that he lived to be – and the currents for the better destiny in human relations he set in motion shall awaken others to the same call – long beyond this day of our physical separation from him.

God Bless You, Monte Irvin! Our love for you and all you’ve done for the rest of us will live forever.

Here’s a link to Monte Irvin’s SABR biography:

And here are couple of past columns from The Pecan Park Eagle that are tied to Monte Irvin:

December 9, 2009: The Monte Irvin-Larry Dierker “Baseball: Then and Now” SABR Meeting at Minute Maid Park:

On June 9, 2010, it was my honor to be the lucky transporter of Monte Irvin to a special Saturday meeting of SABR at the all too brief reopening of the Finger Furniture Houston Sports Museum at their Buffalo Stadium site/Gulf Freeway @ Cullen location. Since we had to travel from far west side of Houston, the area where we both lived, we shared a little more than an hour of total baseball talk time that day in my car – and Monte was as warm and funny and wonderful as someone I might as well have known personally forever.

I felt so overwhelmed by the presence of this great Hall of Fame star from my baseball card, Game-of-the-Day childhood memories, that something happened to me that rarely, if ever, occurs. Soon after I reached home, I was aware that I had brought with me the uplifted mood and good feelings about Monte’s presence, but little detail of all the things he told me openly and in response to my questions – and, I mean, we talked about his near miss for the role that Jackie Robinson played in breaking the color line, his days as an all sports athlete while he was growing up in Orange, New Jersey, his days in the Negro League as a member of the Newark Eagles, team owner Effa Manley, the great Josh Gibson, Leo Durocher, the 1951 New York Giants, and Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round the World” against Ralph Branca, – that it wasn’t what he said about anything that stood out in my memory. It was the live way he spoke about everything as one who was  overjoyed (most of the time) to simply have been there for all of it. – My time with this baseball icon proved to be the closest ride I ever took in a time machine – and the wonderful Monte Irvin had been the Captain of our flight.

Thank you, Monte! – And Godspeed to the memories, perspectives, wisdom, and joys you now take with you to the galaxy of a spiritual realm that is, one and the same, both very close to all of us, even now, and yet, too, so very, very far away.


NY Giants BB CAP

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3 Responses to “Rest In Peace, Monte Irvin”

  1. Dick "Lefty" O'Neal Says:

    He was a gentle giant!! He treated me with the utmost respect when we met at a Houston SABR meeting where I presented my book along with him and the Toy Cannon. He will always be remembered by me as a true Christian man!!
    Dick “Lefty” O’Neal

  2. Mike McCroskey Says:

    Bill. A wonderful column, a fine tribute to a great man. Monte and his daughter Pat were so gracious when I took my teenage daughter, Meghan, to meet him at his residence. It was a wonderful visit. And as I told her last night, she can show the picture he posed for with her to her grandkids some day; and let them know what a true gentleman, as well as a great athlete, he was.

  3. Lary Bump Says:

    Met him in the ’70s. Even from a brief exposure to Monte Irvin, I knew he was one of a handful of people who made my life better just from having met him. Very nice piece, which I will share.

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