"Now I feel like my life in baseball is complete," Irvin told the sellout crowd.
Irvin's jersey will be revealed right next to that of the great Willie Mays. Mays was a roommate of Irvin's and also a big brother figure. Irvin also received a video message from MLB commissioner, Bud Selig.
"It's my pleasure, Monte, to congratulate you for the retiring of your No. 20 by the San Francisco Giants," Selig said. "You have represented baseball on the field and off the field in remarkable fashion."
Irvin, along with Mays and Hank Thompson, formed the first all-black outfield in 1951, making history in the process. That season, Irvin batted .312 with 24 homeruns, and led the league with 121 RBIs, which is a pretty amazing track record.
"Major League Baseball would not have been the same if not for Monte Irvin," managing partner Bill Neukom said.
Irvin was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1973. He established himself first in the Negro Leagues, which got the attention of the Giants. He was a five-time All-Star in the Negro Leagues before joining the ranks of Major League Baseball, where African Americans had been traditionally excluded.
"I couldn't aspire to become a major leaguer because the door was closed," Irvin said. "After World War II, I knew there was a chance. We rooted for Jackie because we knew that was progress. ... I was just happy he was successful because it made it easier for the rest of us who came after him."
The greatness of the Negro Leagues is one of the most inspirational, yet tragically sad stories in all of sport. For decades, great players in the Negro Leagues could have surely beaten the heck out of even the greatest players in Major League Baseball, but they never received the credit they deserved. For every Jackie Robinson or Monte Irvin, there are 50 other guys who could have played in the MLB, but there wasn't enough room for them to be there.
The gravest tragedy for the Negro Leagues is that due to the history of economic discrimination and inequality, African Americans could not provide the business market necessary for the Negro Leagues to compete for the very best talent. The only reasons for players to leave the Negro Leagues to play with less capable athletes in the MLB was because of the money. Had America not spent hundreds of years enslaving African Americans and keeping them from having access to wealth, black fans could have provided the financial support necessary for great athletes like Mays, Robinson and Irvin to stay right where they belonged. Back then, white was defined as better, and that's just not the truth.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the author of the new book, "Black American Money." To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.