February 25th, 2009 marked the 90th birthday of baseball icon Monte Irvin. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1973, Irvin is the last living star of the Negro Leagues. Starting with the legendary Newark Eagles in 1937 as a shortstop under the name Jimmy Nelson to protect his amateur status; he went on to play in 4 East-West All Star games before being signed by the New York Giants in winter of 1948. Due to the presence of future Hall of Famer Willie Wells at shortstop, Irvin made the switch to outfield, and a legend was born. Staring with the Giants as a 30-year old "rookie", he went on to post a .293 career average, and was third in the MVP voting in 1951 en route to a World Series appearance.
Irvin is one of the classiest acts in baseball, often readily traveling to spread the word about baseball's history at dinners, signings and stadiums. He is a walking baseball encyclopedia and one of our sports greatest resources. He currently lives in a retirement community in Houston.