ORANGE, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. dedicated a bronze statue of late Major League Baseball Hall of Famer and Orange native Monte Irvin in Essex County Monte Irvin Park on Wednesday, Oct. 19, during a ceremony.
Irvin, who died in January at age 96, played for the Newark Eagles and later played for New York Giants from 1949-55, one of the first African-American players in the Major Leagues. He also played for the Chicago Cubs in 1956.
Born in Alabama, Irvin and his family moved to Orange when he was 8 years old. As a student-athlete at Orange High School, Irvin he earned All-State honors in football, basketball, baseball and track and field for three consecutive years. Irvin is regarded as one of the greatest athletes in New Jersey.
Irvin, who played in the same outfield with legendary and fellow Hall of Fame teammate Willie Mays, helped the Giants to the World Series title in 1954 against the Cleveland Indians. He went 2-for-9 with a double and two RBI in playing in all four games as the Giants swept.
Irvin finished his Major League Baseball career with a .293 batting average, 99 home runs, 443 RBI. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Committee of Negro Baseball Leagues in 1973. Irvin became the first black executive in the majors in 1968 and, after retirement, remained active in Major League events.
During the ceremony, many dignitaries gave poignant speeches, including Deputy Chief of Staff William Payne, Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver, Assemblyman Tom Giblin, Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura, Freeholder President Britnee Timberlake, Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren, and DiVincenzo.
Mark Beckett, a teacher at West Caldwell Tech, also delivered a beautiful singing performance.
Gary Mintz, of the New York Giants Preservation Society, and Mario Alioto, Executive Vice President of Business Operations from the San Francisco Giants, spoke at the ceremony, recalling their memories of Irvin.
Orange High School baseball head coach Wally Boyett was joined by Orange youth ballplayers, all wearing Orange baseball jerseys.
Irvin’s daughter, Pamela Irvin Fields, also spoke and shared her memories of her father and how her parents grew up in Orange and spent time in the park that bears his name. She thanked DiVincenzo for the statue of her father.
“Everything he stood for will be on display for all to see and it is all due to you. Thank you,” she said.
In a statement, DiVincenzo said, “Monte Irvin was a classy individual who never forgot his roots in Essex County – growing up in Orange and playing baseball for the Newark Bears. He had a stellar professional baseball career, but Mr. Irvin meant more to our community as a pioneer and role model for generations of young men and women.
“We originally recognized Monte and his achievements when we renamed this park as the Monte Irvin Orange Park in 2006. However, having a statue of him here is a more visible and appropriate reminder of someone who overcame obstacles, helped break barriers and always was a gentleman in how he treated others.”