Nearly a year ago, I began to try to get in touch with former Giants great Monte Irvin. I was, of course, interested in talking to him about his memories of Oscar Charleston. Unfortunately, his health was already in serious decline. Today comes the sad news that he has died. May he rest in peace.
In his memoir, Nice Guys Finish First, Irvin wrote about Charleston and his role in helping Branch Rickey’s Dodgers scout black players–including, perhaps, himself:
“I had already gone to Puerto Rico when I heard that Jackie had signed with the Dodgers. I had gone down there to get back into shape shortly after I was discharged from the Army on September 1, 1945. Branch Rickey announced that he had signed Jackie on October 23rd of the same year. I was very happy for him. I wasn’t jealous of Jackie’s success, but I was envious. I thought, Gee whiz, why couldn’t that be me?
“Most people don’t know that Oscar Charleston was involved in the process of finding a player for Rickey to sign. Oscar was very smart and an astute baseball person. When they had their meetings, he was telling them who was out there, who was signable, and who would probably be able to make it. Oscar was probably working directly under Clyde Sukeforth. Clyde couldn’t have picked a better man to help him than Oscar, and Rickey couldn’t have picked a better man than Jackie Robinson.”