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Monte Irvin dies; star in both Negro Leagues and majors

HOUSTON — Monte Irvin, the Giants outfielder who was one of the first outstanding black players in the majors and a Hall of Famer for his brilliance in the Negro leagues, where he spent most of his prime years before baseball's color barrier was shattered, died Monday night at his home in Houston. He was 96.

Mr. Irvin was 30 when he joined the Giants in 1949, two years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. He spent seven of his eight big-league seasons with the Giants and one with the Cubs in 1956. A native of Haleburg, Ala., he played in the Negro, Mexican and Puerto Rican leagues during his 20s.

Mr. Irvin could hit for average and power, steal bases and cut down a runner with his howitzer of a right arm. He finished with a career average of .293 with 99 homers and 443 RBIs.

Mr. Irvin also became the first black executive in Major League Baseball's hierarchy, assigned to promote a game that had once barred him because of his race.

After his career was over, Mr. Irvin lived for many years in Citrus County and helped promote the Devil Rays in their early days. He, Ted Williams, Stan Musial and Al Lopez threw out the ceremonial first pitches for the Rays' inaugural game in 1998.

"Today is a sad, sad day for me," said Hall of Famer and former teammate Willie Mays. "I lost someone I cared about and admired very, very much; someone who was like a second father to me. Monte was a kind of guy that you had to be around to get to know. But once you became friends, he always had your back. You had a friend for life."

Mr. Irvin was one of the most important contributors during the Giants' amazing pennant drive in 1951 when they overtook the Dodgers after trailing by 131/2 games in mid August. Irvin batted .312 with 24 homers and an NL-leading 121 RBIs.

That year Mr. Irvin teamed with Hank Thompson and Mays to form the first all-black outfield in the majors. He finished third in the NL's MVP voting.

"Monte loved our game dearly, bridged eras of its history and touched many lives," commissioner Rob Manfred said. "Major League Baseball will be forever grateful to courageous individuals like Monte Irvin."

DODGERS: The team agreed to a six-year deal with hard-throwing Cuban right-hander Yaisel Sierra, 24, according to several reports. The deal could be worth about $30 million, Yahoo Sports reported. … Alex Anthopoulos was named vice president of baseball operations. He spent the past six years as GM of the Blue Jays.

MARLINS: Left-hander Wei-Yin Chen and infielder Chris Johnson agreed to terms on free agent contracts. Chen accepted a five-year, $80 million deal. Terms of Johnson's deal were not announced.

ROCKIES: Outfielder Gerardo Parra agreed to a three-year, $27.5 million deal.

Monte Irvin dies; star in both Negro Leagues and majors 01/12/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 12, 2016 9:29pm]
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