This from MiLB.com as part of a Black History Month series on the minor leagues. We pass this along because it has to do with New Jersey’s place in baseball history – specifically Jersey City’s Roosevelt Stadium. One excerpt:
After spending Spring Training with the Giants in 1950, Monte Irvin found himself headed to Jersey City again, telling reporters as he packed for a return to the Minors, “I’ll be back.”
That April in Jersey City, he found the confidence that would carry him through the rest of his Major League career.
“In Jersey’s stadium, with its 420-foot wall [in center field], he smashed towering Ruthian flies over the scoreboard,” Baseball Digest‘s Charles Dexter wrote in 1951 of Irvin’s 1950 stint in Jersey City.
Indeed, sell-out and near-sell-out crowds of close to 25,000 packed Roosevelt’s seats and aisles that spring to see Irvin devastate International League pitching — he hit 10 home runs and put together a .510 batting average over 18 games. By mid-May, New York was in seventh place and couldn’t ignore Irvin’s success. He was promoted and remained a staple in the Giants lineup for the next five seasons.
In 1951, one year after his ferocious tear with Jersey City, Irvin became the first African-American to lead a league in RBIs, with 121. At the end of that season, along with Willie Mays and Thompson, he formed part of the first all-black outfield in Major League history when Thompson started in right field in place of the injured Don Mueller in a World Series game.
But all this Major League history created by Thompson and Irvin didn’t originate in New York … it began on the other side of the Hudson River.
“What a wonderful stadium,” Irvin told The Jersey Journal. “It was the class of the International League and better than many [Major League] stadiums. I had a lot of thrills there.”