Baseball Hall of Famer Monte Irvin was born on February 25, 1919, in Haleburg, Alabama. While Monte was still a young boy, his family moved to Orange, New Jersey. At age 13, Monte began playing baseball for the local Orange Triangles.
A natural athlete, Monte earned 16 varsity letters in high school. He made all-state in football, basketball, track, and baseball. He even set the state record in the javelin throw.
After graduating high school, Monte attended Lincoln University in Chester, Pennsylvania, where he continued to excel in all four sports. After two years at Lincoln, Monte left school to become a professional baseball player with the Newark Eagles in the Negro Leagues in 1939.
Monte wasted no time establishing his dominance in the Negro Leagues. He was one of the rare five-tool players, able to run, throw, field, hit, and hit for power exceptionally well. He was widely considered the game's greatest all-around star. Monte had all-star seasons in the outfield as well as at shortstop and third base.
In 1940, Monte batted .422. He followed up that amazing year with an MVP season in 1941, hitting .386 and belting a league-leading 41 home runs.
Monte continued his success as MVP in the Winter Leagues in Cuba. In 1942, he left the Eagles to join the Mexican League. While there, he dominated each of the Triple Crown categories and was also named MVP.
In 1942, Monte married his high school sweetheart, Dee. Together, they raised two daughters, Pam and Patti.
As part of the American effort in World War II, Monte was drafted and spent three years with the Army Engineers. At the end of the war, he returned to the Negro Leagues and continued to stand out.
As Major League teams began to explore breaking the color barrier, Monte was one of the players to attract the attention of Major League scouts. In 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to break the color barrier. Two years later, Monte was signed by the New York Giants affiliate in Jersey City.
Monte crushed minor league pitching, putting up incredible numbers that led to his promotion during the 1949 season. He struggled in his first attempt in the majors, but returned with a strong season in 1950.
In the major leagues, Monte developed a reputation as a strong clutch hitter, leading the National League in runs batted in. In 1951, he led the Giants miracle comeback from 13 and a half games back over the Brooklyn Dodgers, batting .365 down the stretch. Although the Giants lost to the Yankees in the World Series, Monte posted incredible numbers. He batted .458 and became the first player in 38 years to steal home during a World Series game.
Ankle trouble sidelined Monte for part of the 1952 season and would plague him for the rest of his career. Nevertheless, Monte continued to post solid numbers and won the World Series with the Giants in 1954. He played his final season with the Chicago Cubs in 1956.
After retiring, Monte worked in Major League Baseballís Commissionerís office as assistant director of public relations and promotions. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973. Monte wrote his autobiography, Nice Guys Finish First, in 1996, and he currently lives in Homosassa, Florida.