Dick Irvin

Dick Irvin (right) with ex Negro League and New York Giants star Monte Irvin
photo taken in 1996


By Dick Irvin

For the past six years the 30 and over league in Eugene, Oregon has given me back to the future baseball experience. My middle years were void of any on-the-field baseball activities. This was a time of life where family responsibility and developing a niche in the work a day routine was essential. In addition, there were no attempts to provide any adult or senior baseball programs.

I am a native of western Pennsylvania and spent my early years in this area. At each end of the state we had three professional baseball teams. The Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, and the Philadelphia Athletics. In the entire state, amateur baseball ruled the day. On the day of a game, the intensity of play between a home team and the visiting team equaled that of a Dodger vs Giants confrontation.

In the '40's and '50's I played high school, legion, college, industrial league and had a short stay in professional baseball.

One incident that I vividly recall occurred when I played in an industrial league (semi-pro). I was a member of an all-star team that was scheduled to play the famous Homestead Grays from the Pittsburgh area. At one time, Josh Gibson, the Babe Ruth of the Negro League, played for the Grays. Although with the advent of professional baseballs approval to the Negro League players to participate in established professional baseball, the level of play in the Negro League was on the decline. Robinson, Doby, etc., were already in the major leagues, yet the Grays were still an excellent baseball team.

On the night of the all-star game, a problem arose. The Grays manager informed the officials that one of the vehicles that carried some of the Grays team members had not arrived. The Grays would need, at least, the loan of one player. While most of us did not want to lose the opportunity to play with our own team, there was a possibility that the game would not be played. I indicated that I would participate for the Grays and moved over to their dugout.

The game was played and took its place among the thousands and thousands of games that had been played, and will be played in the future. This may have been the first Negro League team with a white player in the line-up.

Now in my mature years, I am able to have the opportunity to add to my collection of baseball memories. I thank all of the players, managers, coaches, umpires and administrative staff of the EMSBL for giving me a final opportunity to get a few more at-bats. As all of us who have ever put on the uniform, I love the game and do not wish to do anything that would not show proper respect for the game of baseball.

Many people are concerned with the possibility that the game of baseball is on a fatal course. These feelings are fueled by high ticket prices, over-paid players, greedy owners, lock outs and strikes. As long as we all give what we can back to the game and support all of the amateur participation levels, the game will not only survive, but flourish. We need to have the kids playing tee ball, sandlot games, as well as good organized and administered age group baseball.

Yes, baseball is a game for everyone. Even for the well over the minimum voting age. Each mid-week my thoughts look to the weekend games and what baseball events might unfold.