One Of The All-Time Greats

By Tony McClean
Updated: November 19, 2007
John “Pop” Lloyd

NEW HAVEN, CT. — Our look back at great Negro Leaguers continues with a look at the original “Pops” of baseball.

No, not Hall of Famer Willie Stargell. We’re talking about John “Pop” Lloyd, one of the league’s greatest shortstops and managers.

Born on April 15, 1884 in Palatka, Fla., Lloyd’s well-traveled Negro league career began in 1905, when he was a catcher for the Macon Acmes.

He played second base for the Cuban X-Giants the following year but for the bulk of his career, Lloyd played shortstop.

He was often compared to Honus Wagner, the Hall of Fame shortstop of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Connie Mack of the Philadelphia A’s, who spent 50 years in the game, said, “Put Lloyd and Wagner in the same bag and whichever one you pulled out, you wouldn’t go wrong.”

Later in his career, Lloyd moved back to second base and then to first base. Although he played during the deadball era when home runs were rare, he was one of the best long-ball hitters of the day. Additionally, he was a skilled bunter, had good bat control, and could run the bases well.

Playing winter baseball in Cuba, Lloyd and his Havana Reds excelled against the Detroit Tigers and the Philadelphia Athletics. In 1910 he batted .500 against the Tigers in 12 games. Lloyd became a player-manager in 1911, often staying only one season with a team.

With the New York Lincoln Giants in 1930, he played in the first Negro league game at Yankee Stadium in New York City against the Baltimore Black Sox.

During his career Lloyd played with about a dozen Negro league teams, including the Brooklyn Royal Giants, the Philadelphia Hilldales, and the Atlantic City Bacharach Giants. When asked why he played for so many teams, Lloyd replied, “Where the money was, that’s where I played.”

Beginning in 1918 when he became the playing-manager of the Brooklyn Royal Giants, Lloyd jumped from one team to another until he settled with the Daisies in 1922.

The next year, Lloyd hit a sensational .418, leading Hilldale to its first pennant.

He left the team to join the Bacharach Giants after he was fired due to some quarrels with the Daisies owner. John stayed with the Giants for 2 years before returning to New York in 1926 to manage/play with the Lincoln Giants.

He was forty-four when he hit a league-leading .564 for the New York Lincoln Giants in 1928 while also leading the league with 11 HR and 10 SB in a 37-game schedule.

The left-handed hitter, who was called “Pop” in his later years, finished with a Negro league batting average of .350. In Cuba, where he was known as el Cuchara (“the Shovel”), Lloyd hit over .320.

After moving to Atlantic City, N.J. upon his retirement, Lloyd became active in Little League baseball. Throughout his career he was praised by many people include the major league players and coaches.

Many baseball historians say that he was one of the best black players ever, but even the mighty Babe Ruth, disregarding his race, said he was the greatest baseball player of all time!

In 1949, Atlantic City named a baseball stadium for him. Lloyd was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977. His Hall of Fame plaque reads: “Batted over .400 several times…managed more than 10 seasons..instrumental in helping open Yankee Stadium to Negro baseball…personified best qualities of athletes both on and off the field.”

John Henry Lloyd died on March 19, 1965 in Atlantic City, N.J.

NOTE: The African-American Registry and The Negro League Baseball Players Association contributed to this story.