MARCH 8, 1946
The first spring training game ever to be played in Arizona takes place at Tucson’s Hi Corbett Field. The Indians, behind the pitching of Bob Lemon, beat the Giants, 3-1, in the inaugural Cactus League contest. (Nationalpastime.com)
On Tuesday, February 25, members of the NYGPS were privileged to attend the 2014 Cactus League Luncheon at Mesa Riverview Cubs Park, the new spring training home of the Cubs. Most notably the luncheon included induction of the inaugural class of the newly formed Cacuts League Hall of Fame and of special interest to Giant fans Mr. Horace Stoneham was one of the inductees. Making the occasion extra special was the enthusiastic attendance of members of the Stoneham family including granddaughters Jaime and Kim Rupert and nephews Craig and Peter Stoneham. Jaime Rupert gave a very fine acceptance speech on behalf of her grandfather and, hopefully, the Cactus League HOF will be prelude to Horace Stoneham’s overdue induction into Cooperstown! She mentioned our group in the process and how we are keeping the NY Giants past alive.
And making the day even more enjoyable we spoke by phone with Monte Irvin on the occasion of his 95th birthday. Monte was a joy to speak with and, overall, is doing well. He shared with us that Bobby Thomson and Whitey Lockman were his best friends on the club and that he misses them to this day. How wonderful to speak with Monte, a true Giant in every way!”
Great article by Jerry Izenberg
The last Eagle will be 95 years old this morning. Monte Irvin broke the New York Baseball Giants’ color line in 1949 and played in two World Series for them. He was the first African-American to work as an aide in the office of the Commissioner of Baseball. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
That’s for the résumé.
But for me, he will always remain a Newark Eagle.
They played for and against great ballplayers who were born too soon to play for the Dodgers or the Yankees or any of the baseball teams that called themselves the major leagues. They knew in baseball’s racist world the Dodgers and the Yankees and the others were all white men and they expected it to stay that way.
So Monte, the oldest and probably the last survivor of those days, and Larry Doby and Josh Gibson and so many great players whose names you never heard, followed the sun when their all-black league seasons ended. They followed it to Mexico and Venezuela, to Puerto Rico and Cuba, to any place where the sun was shining and a man was judged not by the color of his skin but the speed of his fastball.
Once, when I asked him about his nomad days with the Newark Eagles, the bus trips, the ridiculously low salary of $125 a month and later $150, the greatness of teammates like Doby and Ray Dandridge and Willie Wells and Leon Day that surrounded him, and the icons like Gibson and Satchel Paige and Buck Leonard who played against him, he smiled and then said:
‘‘I played in three countries. I played in two World Series. But I never found anything to match the joy and the laughter those years with the Eagles brought me. The city (Newark) and county (Essex) loved us. We’d go out to hear jazz or to dinner and our fans were always grabbing the check. We were young and the world was new to us. We had never traveled.
‘‘They were the happiest times of my life.
‘‘And we still had this game … this marvelous, beautiful, blessed game … and nobody and nothing could take that away from us, so we just went out and played it. Wherever and whenever we could.”
FEBRUARY 26, 1957
The Giants trade right-hander Hoyt Wilhelm to the Cardinals for their former all-star first baseman/outfielder Whitey Lockman. The knuckleballer will win only one of five decisions for the Redbirds before being selected off waivers by Cleveland in September, and New York’s newest infielder will spend two seasons with his old club hitting .246 in 225 games over that span.
FEBRUARY 25, 1934
At the age of 60, John McGraw dies at New Rochelle Hospital, two weeks after entering the facility with optimistic reports about his recovery. The renown Giants skipper, known as ‘Little Napolean’ due to his style and stature, won ten pennants and three world championships during his 30 years as the team’s manager.
NYGPS Member Moe Resner spoke on NYGPS Member Sam Maxwell’s Bedford & Sullivan Podcast to discuss catching on film the last game the Giants played in the Polo Grounds as a New York team, a film he calls, “An End of an Era.” Moe recently had Willie Mays endorse his film and added Mays’ picture on the cover. To purchase the DVD contact Moe through me if you like. Here is the link:
Author and NYGPS Member John McLaughlin spoke on NYGPS Member Sam Maxwell’s Bedford & Sullivan Podcast to discuss the book he’s working on about the New York Giants’ departure from New York, a topic that has gotten less fanfare over the years than the Dodgers own exit from the town. as well as his own baseball foundation. A Great listen!!
Jackie Robinson heroically broke the color barrier in 1947. But how—and, in practice, when—did the integration of the sport actually occur? Bill Madden shows that baseball’s famous “black experiment” did not truly succeed until the coming of age of Willie Mays and the emergence of some star players—Larry Doby, Hank Aaron, and Ernie Banks—in 1954. And as a relevant backdrop off the field, it was in May of that year that the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled, in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, that segregation be outlawed in America’s public schools.
Featuring original interviews with key players and weaving together the narrative of one of baseball’s greatest seasons with the racially charged events of that year, 1954 demonstrates how our national pastime—with the notable exception of the Yankees, who represented white supremacy in the game—was actually ahead of the curve in terms of the acceptance of black Americans, while the nation at large continued to struggle with tolerance.