NEWARK, NJ – Plaques honoring Baseball Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Larry Doby and Monte Irvin and Star-Ledger Sports Columnist Emeritus Jerry Izenberg were unveiled June 6 at the Essex County Government Complex.
The plaques are located along Legends Way, the promenade on the south side of the Essex County Hall of Records, where rows of plaques commemorate people whose contributions shaped and influenced Essex County.
“Being included in our Legends Way is an honor reserved for people who have made a difference in Essex County. It’s a living tribute to our history and constant reminder of those who are responsible for making Essex County the great place it is,” County Executive Joe DiVincenzo stated.
“Yogi, Larry, Monte and Jerry mean a great deal to our country, but we cannot forget that all they accomplished started right here in Essex County,” he pointed out.
“It is a privilege for me to talk about these three men, who were great friends of mine,” Star-Ledger Columnist Emeritus Jerry Izenberg said at the event. The only honoree still living, the columnist shared stories of how he met each icon, funny anecdotes of times they spent together and what each had to overcome to obtain success.
“They each became great friends and what is happening here today, to have them stand side by side, is historic and is long overdue. They made history, but they also shared one thing – they loved the game they played,” he added.
“The accolades given to my father are truly amazing. Thank you so much for keeping his legacy alive,” said Larry Berra.
“I am honored and proud to be part of the ceremony today. To have three guys who, 60 years ago, could have been playing on a field not too far from here, then became lifelong friends. It makes us all proud,” Larry Doby, Jr. said.
“These plaques will be here on these grounds to teach and remind younger generations of these men and their contributions,” said Pamela Irvin Fields.
Dave Kaplan, Director of Programs at the Yogi Berra Museum, said dedicating the three plaques is similar to the mission of the museum – “to inspire young people to live remarkable lives. Today is a wonderful lesson in how to treat people and to understand that the color of someone’s skin is not important.”
A bronze plaque outlining each man’s career was unveiled during the ceremony. The inscriptions for each:
Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra
“I tell the kids, somebody’s gotta win, somebody’s gotta lose. Just don’t fight about it. Just try to get better.” -- Yogi berra
Yogi Berra lived the American dream and became an American folk hero along the way. Born in St. Louis, he joined the Navy during World War II and earned a Purple Heart. In 1946, he played for the minor-league Newark Bears, before becoming one of baseball’s greatest catchers and clutch performers. He anchored the great New York Yankee dynasty, making 15 All-Star and 14 World Series appearances (winning 10), and earning three Most Valuable Player Awards. He later managed the Yankees and Mets to pennants in 1964 and 1973, respectively. Forever popular for his “Yogi-isms,” his life and career inspired the creation of the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center on the campus of Montclair State University. He and his wife raised their family in Montclair.
Berra passed away on September 22, 2015.
Lawrence Eugene Doby
“Kids are our future, and we hope baseball has given them some idea of what it is to live together and how we can get along, whether you be black or white.” -- Larry Doby
Born in South Carolina, where they used old broom handles for bats, Larry Doby, an outstanding center fielder, began playing professional baseball in 1942. At age 18, he joined the Negro League’s Newark Eagles, after four years as a multi-sport star at Paterson’s Eastside High School. In 1946, he completed his naval service and, in 1947, became the first black player in the American League. Playing for the Cleveland Indians, he endured racist jeers and comments with grace and dignity. He was the first player to go directly from the Negro Leagues to the majors and, in 1948, one of the first black players to win a World Series ring. Seven-time All-Star, Negro League and World Series Champion, Baseball Hall of Famer, Doby, in 1978, continued his baseball career by becoming manager of the Chicago White Sox. He and his wife raised their family in Montclair.
Doby passed away on June 18, 2003.
Monford Merrill “Monte” Irvin
“Baseball has done more to move America in the right direction than all of the professional patriots with all their cheap words.” -- Monte Irvin
Monte Irvin was one of the African American baseball players who built the bridge from the Negro Baseball Leagues to the Majors. Born in Alabama, raised in Orange, he was a high school standout in 4 sports. He joined the Newark Eagles of the NBL in 1938, after returning from the service, becoming a 5-time All-Star, and a Negro World Series Champion. In 1949, he became the 2nd black player on the New York Giants and, in 1951, he, Hank Thompson and Willie Mays formed the first all-black outfield. An All-Star, RBI leader, World Series Champion and Hall of Famer, Monte became the first black executive in the majors in 1968 and, after retirement, remained active in Major League events. We are proud to have dedicated Essex County Monte Irvin Orange Park in his honor in 2003.
Irvin passed away on January 11, 2016.
“As print journalists, you’ve got to try to paint as many pictures as you can.” -- Jerry Izenberg
In 1951, as a Rutgers College student, Jerry Izenberg began writing about sports for The Star-Ledger. After serving in the Korean War, he returned to the paper, covering every major sports event for more than a half century, earning the title of Columnist Emeritus in 2007. His columns were never about statistics, instead, a combination of social and political implications of the subject and insight into the character of the person. Erudite and eager to learn, he developed his distinctive style by reading authors such as Ernest Hemmingway and his colleague, Red Smith. One of only two daily columnists to have covered every Super Bowl, he has written more than a dozen books and produced over 3 dozen TV shows. He was also a founder of Project Pride, a recreation and educational program that enriched generations of Newark youngsters. It would be hard to find a resident of New Jersey who did not learn about the world of sports through the eyes of this well-respected Hall of Fame sportswriter.
There are also bronze plaques in the promenade recognizing the late Samuel Brummer, owner of Hobby’s Delicatessen and veteran who landed at D-Day during World War II; the late Cephas Bowles, longtime WBGO Executive Director; the late Larrie West Stalks, former Essex County Register; the late Clement A. Price, Rutgers University History Professor and Newark and Essex County Historian; the late D. Bilal Beasley, Irvington City Councilman and Essex County Freeholder; the late Raymond Durkin, long-time Chairman of the Essex County Democratic Committee and New Jersey Democratic Party; the late Philip Thigpen, Essex County Register and long-time Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman; the late Thomas Durkin, a prominent Essex County attorney; the late Lena Donaldson Griffith, a cultural arts and civil rights pioneer in Newark and Essex County; the late Raymond Brown, a civil rights leader and long-time attorney; and the late Superior Court Justice Thomas “Timmy” McCormack, who was one of the authors of the County’s current Administrative Code and Freeholder By-Laws.