For Irv Noren, Timing Was Everything

In baseball, as in all of life, to be in the right place at the right time is a wonderful thing.

So it was with Irv Noren, one of my early Hollywood Stars’ heroes. Generally remembered as a productive if not spectacular outfielder with the New York Yankees, Noren was the Stars’ 1949 Pacific Coast League Most Valuable Player. That year, the Stars’ finished in first place first with a 109-78 (187 games!) while Noren hit .330 with 29 home runs and 130 RBIs. Noren was also MVP of the Texas League in 1948 when he played for the Ft.Worth Panthers.

Noren still couldn’t crack the lineup of his parent team, the Brooklyn Dodgers. Duke Snider, two years younger, had center field sewed up, Carl Furillo was a right field fixture and Gene Hermanski, a proven .290 hitter.

Since the Dodgers had no room for him, Noren’s big league career began with two solid years with the Washington Senators as an outfielder and first baseman. His 1950 stats: .295, 14 HR and 98 RBIs; in 1951, .279, 8 and 86.

Then, good luck struck. In May 1952, the Senators traded Noren along with Tom Upton to the Yankees for Jackie Jensen, Spec Shea, Jerry Snyder and Archie Wilson.

Yankee manager Casey Stengel foretold of Noren, “This fellow is big, smart and has all of the potential.”

Noren donned pinstripes just in time to be part of World Series championship teams in 1952, 1953 and 1956 and the American League title in 1955. For Noren, his trade represented going over night from the bottom of the baseball barrel in Washington to cashing World Series checks.

The trade was a sweet one for the Yankees, too. Not only did Noren provide a solid left handed bat, he platooned at two positions. Stengel juggled Johnny Mize, Joe Collins and Noren at first base. In the outfield, Stengel’s interchangeable players were Hank Bauer, Gene Woodling and Noren.

As recounted in Jane Leavy’s 2010 biography of Mickey Mantle, The Last Boy, Noren also figured in Mantle’s historic 1953 home run out of Griffith Stadium. At batting practice that day, April 17, 1953, Noren told Mantle he might be able to hit a ball out of the park. “I played there two years,” Noren told Leavy. “I knew the ballpark pretty good. The wind was blowing out a little–not a gale. And I always thought he had more power right-handed.”

At the end of the 1956 season, the Yankees traded Noren to the Kansas City Athletics with Mickey McDermott, Tom Morgan, Billy Hunter and three others in exchange for Art Ditmar, Bobby Shantz, Clete Boyer and three minor league prospects.

From 1957 to 1960, Noren played infrequently for the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers before retiring.

But Noren remained in baseball as a minor league manager and major league coach. While piloting the Hawaii Islanders from 1962-1963, then the Los Angeles Angels AAA affiliate, Noren established a rule that any player who reported sunburned at game time would be fined $50.

Although no longer a Yankee, Noren would have one more taste of World Series money. As a coach for the Oakland Athletics from 1972-1974, Noren cashed three more checks.

Noren played in the 1954 All Star Game and in 1946-1947 was a member of the National Basketball League’s Chicago American Gears where he teamed with the great George Mikan. In 1947, the Gears defeated the Rochester Royals to win the NBL Championship.

Now age 86, Noren lives in Pasadena.

0 thoughts on “For Irv Noren, Timing Was Everything”

  1. I sit unraveling the cord of a Wilson baseball glove used in my youth, whose signature bears the name, Irv Noren. Inside the Neatsfoot oiled glove, still supple and usable, is a baseball from the American League that bears the name of its then President, Joe Cronin. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since either of those two names was printed.
    Even though I was an irregular visitor to Yankee Stadium, watching Noren, who wore the number 25, came easy for he had the fluid grace of a natural baseball player, but with Woodling, Mantle and Bauer in the Yankee lineup, Noren really could never attain any “star” status. Still, he was – by the monetary standards of the day – well remunerated.
    But Noren’s “luck” in picking up World Series checks by being a Yankee despite playing a minor role in achieving victory in the Fall classic, was not his alone: during the time that Yogi Berra was indestructible behind home plate, the number 2 catcher, Ralph Houk, would very rarely get in a game. But the real winner in this regard was catcher #3, Gus Niarhos, whose only real job was to warm up the Yankee relief pitchers. Houk, but especially Niarhos, also hit the jackpot for being at the right place at the right time.

  2. Slender silver can, right?
    That it was – about 8 oz. You would apply it to your glove (only the first baseman and the cather had a “mitt”) and let it soak in overnight. It also had a distinct smell, one that I’ve not detected since I lost touch with baseball and oiling my glove. Sic transit gloria mundi.

  3. I was able to interview Noren via the mail a few years ago and he provided me a few lines about playing on the same BASKETBALL team as Jackie Robinson. Hopefully someone can get him on the phone to describe the entire experience.

  4. My father and Irv were good friends who shared an affinity for thoroughbreds. My father trained at Belmont and would host several Yankees on their days off. Irv was a classy guy and a great family man. On a visit to Yankee Stadium in 1954, he brought my father, brother and I into the clubhouse before a game to meet all of the players. On the way out, Irv gave me one of Enos Slaughter’s old gloves which I still have today, broken webbing and all. That was the year that he chased Bobby Avila for the batting championship, ending up at .319 after a tough September. I can still see him in the batters box, bat held very high. Last time I saw him, it was in his sporting goods store in Pasadena, CA in 1965. Terrific guy!

  5. Irv Noren was my American Legion Baseball Coach when I played for Post 13 in Pasadena, California in ’69 & ’70. Our home field was Brookside Park, a small stadium very well laid out for legion & semi-pro ball and adjacent to the ‘Rose Bowl’. I recall playing the California Angels Farm Team my last year playing legion ball. Those were great days..Irv was a great leader, professional and an inspiration to all who knew him as coach..Ron in NC

  6. I was a Hollywood Star (Coast League) fan growing up and Irv Noren was one of my childhood heroes. He was a great baseball player for Hollywood before going up to the major leagues.

    I also noticed the comments by R. Carnighan . I also played American Legion baseball for South Pasadena at Rosabell Field in the Arroyo Seco near the Rose Bowl during 1953 and 1954. In one of those years we played a playoff game against Van Nuys and a pitcher named Don Drysdale.

  7. @Jack:

    Jack:

    Thank you for sharing you story about Irv Noren. Being an outstanding player in the PCL during the 1950s was a real baseball achievement.

    How did you do against Drysdale? 4 for 4?

    Best wishes

  8. I enjoyed reading your story on Irv Noren. He was a military friend of my Dad and they both played on an Army basketball team as stars. After my Dad’s passing, I found several newspaper articles about their “stardom” as Army basketball players. They kept in contact long after their military days, often golfing together or heading “to the track”.
    I had the fortune of spending time with Irv on several occasions while visiting my parents in Escondido, even golfing with him, and ended up purchasing a ’67 Mustang from him.
    Irv has always been a gentleman and was a true friend of my Dad’s. Oh the stories they would share about their days in the military.
    No doubt, Irv was a very talented athlete who was overshadowed by even more talented athletes during his early career, never really get a chance to “show his stuff”.
    He is someone I will continue to admire and respect, as a gentleman, athlete, and close friend of my Dad.

  9. Irv Noren was a player whom I followed as a boy in DC. I have come across two letters from him, in response my mine to him, from 20 years ago. I told Irv about pestering him for an autograph (which I still have) and waiting patiently to his finishing a conversation with his wife. One of my fondest memories is of when I saw him hit a home run over the distant Chesterfied sign at Griffith Stadium. I hope he is well at age 90.
    Thanks, Irv

  10. In 1954, when I was 11, I attended a Yankee game at the stadium. In the bottom of the third, Irv Noren hit a towering foul ball. I watched it and as it started to descendi I saw it was coming my way. As it got close, abour 5 hands reached over me to catch the ball. I put out my hands below theirs and made a clean basket catch of the ball. It was the biggest day of my life. In about 2005, I located Mr. Noren and sent the ball to him to autograph.. He signed it ” To Michael, Nice Catch, glad it made a greqt day for you. Best Wishes, Irv Noren. He also sent me a photo of his 54 Topps baseball card. Last year while on vacation in Maine, I was in an antique shop and saw an original Bowman baseball card of Irv Noren. I recognized it immediately and it now sits alongside my signed baseball.

    A lasting memory for a young boy and now a 71 year old man.

    Mike King

  11. Irv had a sporting goods store in Santa Ana, California for a while in the 1970’s. “Irv Noren Sporting Goods” I bought a bat from the store. Can anyone shed anymore light on this?

    1. I caught a foul ball off the bat of Irv Noren in 1954 and he signed it for me in about 2004 or 2005. A thoughtful man with a nice Major Lleague career.

      Mike

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