Monte Irvin, 91, still thinking

Sometimes I wish we wouldn't go looking for trouble ...

    Two years after Jackie Robinson broke into the majors, the Giants introduced their first two African Americans, Monte Irvin and Hank Thompson, in July 1949. Two years later, Willie Mays arrived, and the three formed the majors' first all-African American outfield.

    Now, the Giants, an organization with a rich tradition in diversity, have no outfielders who are African American. No infielders or catchers or pitchers, either.

    For the first time in their San Francisco history. In terms of Opening Day rosters.

    Irvin, 91, said he isn't surprised, 61 years after breaking the Giants' color barrier.

    "Just happened to be that way. It's not designed that way," Irvin said in an interview with The Chronicle on Friday. "That's going to happen unless you get more participation with youngsters coming up."


    With Randy Winn a Yankee, Fred Lewis a Blue Jay, Emmanuel Burriss on the disabled list and Darren Ford a prospect who might rise quickly, the Giants are at a rare point in their history without African Americans. The Cardinals and Royals also opened the season without African Americans.

    Irvin, who'll be honored by the Giants on June 26, said it's not overly significant.

    "The reason we had an all-black outfield in '51 is Don Mueller got hurt, so Hank Thompson was a legitimate replacement," Irvin said. "So what? People talk about, 'You're the first to do this. You're the first to do that.' Don't dwell on race all the time.

    "Everyone says we have our first African American president. Has there ever been a Jewish president? An Italian president? They don't say a damn thing about that. You think we're still fighting the Civil War or something. If you want to mention it in passing, OK. But don't dwell on it.

I enjoy being reminded that someone who's 91 years old can still think so clearly.

I don't enjoy a definition of "African American" that doesn't have room for Juan Uribe, Edgar Renteria, Eugenio Velez, and Guillermo Mota ... all of whom were born in the Americas and can presumably trace their not-so-distant ancestors to Africa.

Yeah, I know ... this definition allows for only players with dark skin who were born in the United States of America. With that in mind, I will refer you back to Monte Irvin's clear thinking.