Monte Irvin, black MLB pioneer, dead at 96

Monte Irvin, the fourth black player to break into Major League Baseball and a Hall of Fame outfielder, died Monday night. He was 96.

Irvin hit .293 with a .383 on-base percentage and 99 home runs in eight MLB seasons with the New York Giants and Chicago Cubs. He led the National League with 121 RBIs in 1951, the same year he finished third in National League MVP voting. He was selected to the NL All-Star team the following season.

Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973, Irvin hit .394 in two World Series’ with the Giants, leading New York over Cleveland in 1954.

No cause of death was immediately given, though the Baseball Hall of Fame said he died “peacefully” in a statement.

“Monte Irvin’s affable demeanor, strong constitution and coolness under pressure helped guide baseball through desegregation and set a standard for American culture,” President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Jeff Idelson said in the statement. “His abilities on the field as the consummate teammate are undeniable, as evidenced by World Series titles he contributed to in both the Negro and Major leagues, and a richly-deserved plaque in Cooperstown. He was on the original committee that elected Negro Leagues stars to the Hall of Fame, something for which the Museum will always be grateful.”

Irvin was 30 when he joined the Giants in 1949, two years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. A native of Haleburg, Alabama, Irvin played in the Negro, Mexican and Puerto Rican leagues during his 20s.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.