06 Jun ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE DIVINCENZO DEDICATES BRONZE PLAQUES IN HONOR OF YOGI BERRA, LARRY DOBY, MONTE IRVIN AND JERRY IZENBERG Three Baseball Legends Star-Ledger Columnist Emeritus Influenced the World, but Began their Professional Careers in Essex County
Newark, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. paid tribute to the legacies of Baseball Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Larry Doby and Monte Irvin and Star-Ledger Sports Columnist Emeritus by dedicating four bronze plaques on Monday, June 6th 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.
“Yogi Berra, Larry Doby and Monte Irvin each have strong ties to Essex County. They either were born or lived here, started their baseball careers here and influenced generations with their athletic accomplishments and generosity to others. They played during a golden age of baseball, helped modernize the game and unified people of all races and ethnicities through their tough play, calm demeanor and the integrity they had in their professional career and personal lives,” DiVincenzo said. “Jerry Izenberg influenced and entertained generations of readers with his columns in the Star-Ledger. Outspoken and direct, Jerry was not afraid to share his opinions and always did what was best for the people of Newark and Essex County,” he said.
“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,” the County Executive 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. 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.
“It’s wonderful that the County Executive made this possible, and 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.”
The dedication of the plaques was well received by local officials, who extolled not only the three men’s accomplishments on the playing field, but the character and leadership they exhibited off of it.
“These three men are among our greatest athletes of all time – and they are all connected to Essex County,” Sheriff Armando Fontoura said, recounting a conversation he had with another sheriff about celebrities who lived locally.
“This is a very esteemed group of individuals who epitomize athleticism and, more importantly, the virtues of humanity,” Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Leroy Jones said.
“I want to thank County Executive DiVincenzo because these types of events that he hosts make us proud to be in Essex County and Newark,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said. “You are teaching us our history and reminding us how great we were and how great we can be,” he noted.
“We all know Yogi Berra, Larry Doby and Monte Irvin had unbelievable prowess as baseball players, and the careers they had were unparalleled,” Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson said. “But what I am most proud to honor them for their contributions to our community, their philanthropy and their duty to our children,” he added.
“Monte Irvin means such a great deal to the people of Orange. We recognize his leadership and legacy and the contributions he made both during and after his days of playing baseball,” Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren said.
“We are in awe of the magnificent people that Essex County has nurtured throughout its history. We thank the County Executive for his vision in selecting these three accomplished men,” said Freeholder President Britnee Timberlake, who was accompanied by Freeholder Vice President Brendan Gill, and Freeholders Lebby Jones and Rufus Johnson.
A bronze plaque outlining each man’s career was unveiled during the ceremony. They are, in alphabetical order, as follows:
Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra
The plaque for Berra begins with his quote: “I tell the kids, somebody’s gotta win, somebody’s gotta lose. Just don’t fight about it. Just try to get better.” It continues with “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
The plaque for Doby begins with his quote: “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.” It continues with “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
The plaque for Irvin begins with his quote: “Baseball has done more to move America in the right direction than all of the professional patriots with all their cheap words.” It continues with “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.
The plaque for Izenberg begins with his quote: “As print journalists, you’ve got to try to paint as many pictures as you can.” It continues with “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.”
Several buildings and open spaces in the Essex County Government Complex have been named after prominent people who have influenced the development of Essex County. The plaza in front of the Hall of Records and a bronze statue honor Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; the park next to the Historic Courthouse and statue in front of the Hall of Records honor Barringer High School graduate and U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.; a plaza in front of the Essex County Veterans Courthouse and a statue honor Civil Rights pioneer Rosa Parks; the plaza in front of the LeRoy Smith Public Safety Building and a statue honor the late Congressman Donald M. Payne, who was the first African American Congressman in New Jersey; the plaza at the south entrance of the Veterans Courthouse and a statue honor former New Jersey Governor and Essex County Prosecutor Brendan Byrne; and the plaza in the Essex County Veterans Memorial Park and a statue honor the late Jorge Oliveira, a 10-year veteran of the Essex County Sheriff’s Office who was killed while serving his country in Afghanistan. The Veterans Courthouse and the Essex County Veterans Memorial Park are named as a tribute to the men and women who have defended our country and freedoms while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. The Essex County LeRoy F. Smith, Jr., Public Safety Building is named for LeRoy Smith, a Newark resident who served as Deputy Director of Emergency Medical Services for the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey for 38 years before retiring in 2007. In Brennan Park is a monument recognizing the late Charles Cummings, who served as the official Newark historian and librarian with the Newark Public Library for over 40 years. The plaza in front of the Historic Courthouse is named for former Essex County Prosecutor James Lordi.
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.