If anybody ever earned the right to be a name dropper, it was 1949 Pacific Coast League MVP, Irv Noren. I'm not saying he is one, or has ever been one, but it would have been understandable if he were one.
First the numbers.
Noren was named the league MVP in ‘49 after hitting .330/.398/.535 with 29 HR and 130 RBIs in his first year in Triple-A, playing for the Hollywood Stars, earning himself a shot in the big leagues.
The left-handed hitting outfielder went on to play eleven seasons for the Senators, Yankees, Kansas City A's, Cardinals, Cubs and Dodgers, making the 1954 AL All-Star team with a .319/.377/.481 season, 138 OPS+. He was also a part of three world championship teams (two of which he played for and the other he contributed to during the regular season) while playing for the Yankees.
Overall, Noren hit .275/.348/.410, OPS+ 105, in 3505 major league plate appearances covering 1093 games.
Now for the names.
Before his big league career, he played forward in the National Basketball League (a predecessor to the NBA). While playing for the Los Angeles Red Devils in the 1946-47 season, he was teammates with Jackie Robinson - yes, that Jackie Robinson.
"We were good friends," Noren said to The Post-Journal earlier this year. "He's probably the best athlete I've ever seen."
He also played for the NBL's Chicago America Gears, where George Mikan was a teammate.
"He was a good fella,'' Irv said of Mikan in the same newspaper story. "He didn't want anybody to shoot but him.''
In the major leagues, Noren was roommates with Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle. And Joe DiMaggio once gave him advice about playing center field. When he and Mantle palled around during Noren's days with the Yankees, they often met Jackie Gleason and Danny Kaye at the Stage Deli in Manhattan. Can you imagine some of the stories those deli workers told?
That brings me to my favorite part - the stories.
One day, after the 1954 season ended, Mantle saw a group of boys playing pickup baseball in a sandlot and he encouraged Noren to pull over. He did, giving the boys a memory they would never forget. You can read more about it in the newspaper article referenced above.
Then there's the story on Baseball Reference about how Noren fined players $50 if they showed up too sunburned when he was the manager of the Hawaii Islanders in 1962-63. According to the site, one player walked off the plane carrying a snorkel and flippers. Apparently that didn't go over well with Noren, prompting him to create the new team rule about sunburns. Makes you wonder about some of the other rules he came up with that we never learned about, doesn't it?
Noren, who is on Baseball Almanac's top 100 list of oldest living players, will turn 89 later this month.