Baseball Hall of Famer Monte Irvin, who died Monday at the age of 96, was known for his excellence on the diamond. But long-time Jets and New York sports fans will also recall Irvin's contributions in the early days of the Green & White.
Irvin teamed up with Bob Murphy, the great New York Mets play-by-play announcer, for the radio game broadcasts in the Jets' first season in 1963 following the franchise's first three seasons as the New York Titans.
It was not a force for the Jets to place Irvin in the WHN booth. He was a popular figure on the New York sports scene from his All-Star-level seasons with the New York Giants from 1949-55. And in 1963 he was a polished spokesman for Rheingold Beer, a major sponsor of the Jets and Mets at the Polo Grounds and later at Shea Stadium.
Further, Irvin was a multitalented athlete who also knew his way around a gridiron. In fact, he was a four-sport star at Orange (NJ) High School (football, baseball, basketball, track) and was offered a football scholarship by the University of Michigan, which he said he turned down because he didn't have enough money to move to Ann Arbor, MI. Instead, he attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he was a football standout.
Irvin started his baseball career as a five-time All-Star for the Newark (NJ) Eagles of the Negro National League. With the New York Giants, he led the National League with 121 runs batted in in '51, received his only MLB All-Star berth in '52, and was on the Giants' World Series-champion team in '54.
Irvin was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973. In 2010, the San Francisco Giants retired his uniform No. 20. At the time of his passing in Houston on Monday, he was the oldest living former Negro leagues player as well as the oldest living New York Giant and Chicago Cub.