Art Berke, a lifelong White Sox fan, has worked at the highest levels of the sports industry with Major League Baseball, ABC Television and Sports Illustrated. He grew up in Northwest Indiana, in the shadow of old Comiskey Park, and proudly proclaims 2005 as the best year of his life. Art offers his glass half-full opinions and observations as he lives and dies with the Sox.
calendar—it is Monte Irvin’s birthday. And this year he’s celebrating No. 92.
For those of you who might not be familiar with him, Monte is a
Baseball Hall of Famer, honored primarily for his outstanding Negro League
career. He was also a star for the New York baseball Giants in the 1950s
and was a key driving force in ’51 as the Giants dramatically overtook the Dodgers for the National League pennant. Last year, the club retired his No. 20 jersey.
He was a mentor to
the great Willie Mays, was a special assistant in the Baseball Commissioner’s
Office and arguably the greatest all-round high school athlete to come out of
New Jersey. Monte is also the finest person you’d ever want to know.
I have been Monte’s friend for 36 years (that’s the two of us pictured above). From the moment I began
working with him in the Commissioner’s Office in 1975, I felt honored to be in
his presence. He is smart, funny, principled, kind and generous. He’s the type
of person who makes you feel better about yourself just by being around him.
We knew it had to end sometime. And the fact that the Sox have lost only twice in 17 games and moved to within 1 1/2 games of the Twins’ A.L. Central lead, makes today’s 8-6 loss to the you-know-whos an acceptable, if not satisfying, outcome.
It was also heartening to see the Sox rally in the ninth and bring the winning run to the plate in the person of Alex Rios, the club’s most consistent offensive performer.
The hope now is that the Sox continue to play sound baseball. Winning 11 games in a row is one thing, maintaining their consistency after the streak is another. But from the looks of things, Sox fans have to be confident that good things are ahead.
Speaking of the number 11
Baseball Hall of Famer Monte Irvin, who starred in both the Negro Leagues and with the New York Giants, on Saturday became the 11th player in the history of the Giants franchise to have his uniform number (20) retired.
During the ceremony, 91-year-old Monte told the crowd: “My life in baseball is now complete.”
Readers of this blog may remember the 91st birthday tribute I wrote in February to my former Major League Baseball colleague and friend Monte Irvin.
Friends of Monte will be able to celebrate again on June 26 as Monte’s #20 will be retired by the San Francisco Giants.
Those unfamiliar with Monte should know that he was a star in the Negro Leagues, an outstanding player in the majors primarily with the then-New York Giants even though he was past his prime, a Hall of Famer, a mentor to Willie Mays and an advisor in the Baseball Commissioner’s Office for many years.
Monte is the finest gentleman I’ve ever known and a wonderful friend. This honor just adds to his legacy as a superior athlete and wonderful human being.