Lloyd, John Henry “Pop” 1884
John Henry “Pop” Lloyd 1884–1964
Negro League baseball player
Never fully allowed to showcase his talent against the white professional major league baseball teams in official contests, John Henry “Pop” Lloyd spent 23 years playing for the storied Negro League, where his skill for the game became legendary. Lloyd used incredible baseball savvy, combined with unbridled talent, to become one of the best shortstops to grace an infield for any league, black or white. His tireless dedication to the sport, and uncontested master of it, forced comparisons to some of the game’s greatest players.
John Henry “Pop” Lloyd was born April 25, 1884 in Palatka, Florida, just outside Jacksonville. According to a biography appearing in Blackball Stars: Negro League Pioneers by John B. Holway, Lloyd’s father died when he was an infant, and Lloyd was forced to drop out of grade school to work as a delivery boy. He did so as a porter in a railroad terminal. According to Holway, Lloyd also played baseball for the Jacksonville Old Receivers in 1905. For African Americans of that time, playing baseball in the South meant playing for obscure teams with colorful names, making very little, if any, money and traveling a lot. It was not unusual for players to bounce from Florida to Georgia, to Alabama to Cuba and back. And Lloyd did just that.
Lloyd’s list of baseball addresses changed by the year. In 1906, Holway said Lloyd played for the Cuban X-Giants in Florida. In 1907, he joined the Philadelphia Giants. According to statistical information found at www.execpc.com, Lloyd’s early seasons were a blinding success. At the web site, it is reported that Lloyd was part of the 1910 Leland Giants, a team that, with Lloyd’s help, compiled a 123-6 record. The following year, he headed to the New York Lincoln Giants and hit .475. He later played for the Havana Reds, the New York Lincoln Giants (1911), the Chicago American Giants (1915), Leland Giants (1915), the Brooklyn Royals (1918), the New York Bacharach Giants (1921), the Hillsdale Daisies (1923), back to the Bacharachs (1924), back to the Lincolns (1926) and back to Cuba for one last season. During those years, Lloyd established himself as the premier player of his time, despite the fact that Negro League teams were not allowed to play against the professional white teams of the National and American leagues. In 1915 with Cuba, Lloyd led the league with a .393 batting average and 24 hits. He never hit below .270 until his last two seasons of professional ball. He hit .361 in 1920 with Brooklyn, .400 for Atlantic City in 1924, .373 for Cuba in 1925, and .365 in 1927.
Born John Henry Lloyd on April 25, 1884 in Palatka, FL; died March 19, 1965 in Atlantic City, NJ; married: wife, Nan.
Careen Played for a number of teams, including the New York Lincoln Giants, American Giants, Brooklyn Royal Giants, New York Bacharach, Harlem Stars, Macon Acmes, New York Black Yankees, Columbus Buckeyes, Cuban X Giants and the Kansas City Mon-archs
Award: Inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, NY, 1977.
Toward the end of his career, Lloyd had his most outstanding season.
In 1928 the 44-year-old Lloyd overcame pitchers with a .564 batting average, unheard of in other professional leagues. He stole 10 bases, hit 11 home runs and added 84 hits. The most notable difference was that Lloyd’s season was only 37 games in length. Stretch those averages out over the modern 162-game schedule and Lloyd’s performance is record-breaking and worthy of Most Valuable Player honors. Not typically known for hitting home runs, Lloyd relied mainly on his ability to get the hit, which he often did. His hitting stats remain phenomenal: 40 hits in only 28 games in 1912, 25 in 27 games in 1917, 13 hits in nine games in 1920, 83 in 63 games the following season, 40 hits in 28 games in 1926 and his jaw-dropping 84 hits in only 37 games during the 1928 season. And if being a dynamic player and consistent hitter was not enough, Lloyd was also given the nod to manage a couple of teams.
In 1921 the nation’s first black league was established, and Lloyd was asked to manage the new team in Columbus, Ohio. “The team was one of the weakest in the circuit, but Pop hit .337 before the club folded and he traveled east again to rejoin the Bacharachs,” Holway wrote. Two years later, in 1923, the Eastern Colored League was born and Lloyd again was asked to manage. Holway wrote, “The Hilldales had a powerful club… Lloyd and Frank Warfield sparkled as the double-play combination… Lloyd hit .333 as they easily outclassed the rest of the league.” In addition to playing outstanding baseball, Lloyd educated younger players, boosting their confidence and, ultimately, their batting averages. Holway quoted Bill Yancey, a rookie shortstop who played with Lloyd. “’I was just a kid, and he was the great Lloyd I’d heard so much about, and he’s the one who taught me to play shortstop.’ Yancey remembered his first time at bat against the legendary Cyclone Williams. It gave Bill the shakes until Lloyd gently reminded him that Williams had to get the ball over the plate just like any other pitcher. It calmed the boy down considerably.”
If Lloyd was the premier hitter of his time, he was also the consummate, all-around baseball player. A piece on Lloyd found at www.negro-league.columbus.oh.us supports such claims and sums up Lloyd’s ability accurately. “Perhaps the greatest player ever to come out of the Negro Leagues is the beloved and venerable John Henry Lloyd. ’Pop’ Lloyd played shortstop, and was a complete ballplayer who could hit, run, field, throw and hit with power, especially in a clutch. The tall, rangy superstar was the greatest shortstop of his day, black or white, and with the exception of Honus Wagner in his prime, no major leaguer could compare with him.”
Former teammates and opponents praised his intense skill and talent and his caring and gentle demeanor. Lloyd was described as a kind and friendly man. Despite tense racial climates and the fact that Major League Baseball would not let the best African-American players, many putting up superlative statistics to their white counterparts, be recognized with the professional white teams. Negro League teams often played on the roads, behind circus productions, on dirt fields, and generally before an audience consisting of local residents. The white leagues played in professional parks with groomed green grass and before thousands of adoring fans who came from all over to cheer loudly. And still, Lloyd remained positive, enthusiastic, and constantly in love with the game itself, ignoring the ugliness surrounding it.
In Holway’s book, former teammates are said to have shown great admiration for Lloyd. ‘“He was a gentleman,’ agreed first baseman Napolean” Chance “Cummings. ‘Everyone who knew him liked him. He was a man practically everybody could get along with.’” And those who had to play against him, especially pitchers, gave the legendary left-hander the respect he earned. ‘“We dreaded to see him come to bat,’” shuddered pitcher Sam Streeter in Holway’s book. ‘ “Everything he hit was just like you were hanging out a clothesline. And hard? Mmmmmm-hmmmmm! ’”
When his career was finished, Lloyd’s stats stood up against his white counterparts. He finished with a career .342 batting average, 988 hits, 11 doubles, 51 triples, 78 stolen bases and 26 homers. Conversely, in 29 games against white big leaguers, Lloyd hit .321 with 34 hits. For all his efforts and amazing contributions to the game, Lloyd was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York in 1976. Holway quoted Lloyd himself as answering the question of whether he was born too soon for the game. “’No,’ he once said. ’I don’t consider that I was born at the wrong time. I feel it was at the right time. I had a chance to prove the ability of our race in this sport, and because many of us did our best for the game, we’ve given the Negro a greater opportunity now to be accepted into the major leagues with other Americans.’”
Lloyd played his final season in 1942, at the age of 58. According to information found at www.execpc.com, he coached and played semipro baseball with the Johnson Stars, later knows as the Farley Stars. He also served as Little League commissioner for many years in Atlantic City. “On October 2, 1949, as Jackie Robinson was being named the Most Valuable Player of the National League, Atlantic City rewarded their foster father with the dedication of a $125,000 stadium at Indiana and Huron Avenues. It bears the name” ‘Pop’ Henry Lloyd’ and an inscribed plaque: To a great ball player and a fine man.’ “Holway wrote that Lloyd worked as a janitor in an Atlantic high school where he was a favorite with students.
After a two-year illness, Lloyd died on March 19, 1965. At www.execpc.com, Yancey is quoted as eulogizing his former teammate and mentor: ‘“Pop Lloyd was the greatest player, the greatest manager, the greatest teacher. He had the ability and knowledge and, above all, patience. I did not know what baseball was until I played under him.’”
Holway, John B., Blackball Stars: Negro League Pioneers,
"Lloyd, John Henry “Pop” 1884." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 23, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/lloyd-john-henry-pop-1884
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