John Henry `Pop` Lloyd

by Editorial Staff--Editorial Interns | Aug 10, 2015
John Henry `Pop` Lloyd The quintessential shortstop -- great hands, an accurate arm, could perform the double play with ballerina grace and slug for average and power. John Henry Lloyd--they called him "Pop" because he was the granddaddy of them all. He tutored the best and beat the rest.

Lloyd has been described as a left-handed, line-drive hitter, who used a closed stance. He held the bat in the cradle of his left elbow, and would uncoiled from his comfortable stance to unleash a controlled attacked on the white sphere. Lloyd ran with long smooth strides, deceiving opponents who did not realize his dangerous speed, until it was too late.

The tall, angular man with the Dick Tracy chin was a non-drinker, never cursed and was viewed as a gentleman. His peers claimed Pop was a complete professional, on and off the field. Cum Posey, owner of the Homestead Grays, added: "Lloyd is the Jekyll and Hyde of baseball -- a fierce competitor on the field, but a gentle, considerate man off the field."

The nomadic Lloyd started his barnstorming career with the semi-pro Macon Acmes in Georgia, as a catcher. The following season, he joined the Cuban X-Giants of Philadelphia as a second baseman. The highlight of the season was against Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics for one game city title. The Giants lost, but Pop spanked Mack's pitchers for four hits. Lloyd was often compared to Honus Wagner. Connie Mack, who saw some of the best players during 50 years of active ownership was quoted as saying, "You could put Wagner and Lloyd in a bag together, and whichever one you pulled out you couldn't go wrong."

After one season with the Cuban X-Giants, he joined the Philadelphia Giants under the mentorship of Sol White for the next three years. In 1910, he joined Rube Foster's powerhouse Leland Giants, who compiled a 123-6 record. He later went to the Lincoln Giants, where he hit .475 (1911) and .376 (1912). In 1910, Lloyd played in Cuba with the Habana Reds, along with stateside stars Bruce Petway, Grant "Home Run" Johnson and Pete Hill. The Reds played a series of exhibition games against Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers. Cobb hit .369 in five games, but was unable to steal a base against catcher Petway, claiming he would never played against blacks again. Meanwhile, Cobb's average was surpassed by Pop Lloyd at .500 (11 for 22), Grant Johnson hit .412 and Petway hit .388.

The popular Lloyd spent 12 seasons in Cuba, playing for the Reds, Habana, Fe, and the Almendares teams. In Cuba, he earned the nickname "El Cuchara", the shovel, because of his propensity to scoop up handfuls of dirt when charging for grounders. In a dozen seasons of winter ball, he compiled a batting average of .331 and led the leagues in triples twice and stolen bases once.

Foster enticed Lloyd to join his Chicago American Giants team in 1914. From 1914 to 1917, Lloyd batted clean-up for one of the dominate independent teams of the Midwest. These teams consisted of some of the greatest players ever to play America's game: Oscar Charleston, Bingo DeMoss, Louis Santop, Pete Hill, Ben Taylor, Bruce Petway, Bill Monroe and pitchers, Cyclone Joe Williams, Cannonball Dick Redding, and Frank Wickware. The Giants won the colored championship honors in 1914 and 1917.

Approaching the age of 35, the old man signed with the Brooklyn Royal Giants as player-manager. The youthful Lloyd played three abbreviated seasons for the Royal Giants, before going to the Columbus Buckeyes in 1921. Now 37, Lloyd led the new Columbus franchise in game played, hits, doubles and stolen bases, while hitting a solid .336.

The eternal youngster, Lloyd hit .387 (1922) with the Bacharach Giants, before moving on the Hilldale Giants to hit .386 (1923). Back with the Bacharachs in 1924, he led the league with an astonishing .433 average, setting a record with 11 consecutive hits. He re-joined the Lincoln Giants out of New York in 1926. There, Old Man river just keep flowing with averages of .349, .375 and an incredible .564 average at the age of 44, to win another batting title. That same year, he added the home run crown of 11 round-trips to his resume.

In 1931, now 47, Pop finished his career with his old friends, Clint Thomas and Red Ryan on the New York Black Yankees. He retired the following year with the hometown Bacharach Giants, playing mostly at first base.

In 1938, many years after Lloyd's career was over, Ted Harlow, a St. Louis sportswriter paid Lloyd the ultimate compliment, when asked "Who was the best baseball player in the history of the sport?" He replied, "If you mean in organized baseball, my answer would be Babe Ruth; but if you mean in all baseball, organized and unorganized, I would have to say it is a colored man named John Henry Lloyd."

After retiring from professional baseball, Lloyd coached and played semi-pro ball with the Johnson Stars, later known as the Farley Stars, (named after State Senator "Hap" Farley) until 1942, when he turned 58. In his later years, Lloyd worked as a janitor at the Atlantic City post office and school system. Always having a love for children, he served as the Little League commissioner for many years. On October 2, 1949, as Jackie Robinson was being named the Most Valuable Player in the National League, Atlantic City rewarded their foster father with the dedication of a $125,000 stadium--Pop Lloyd 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."

After a two-year illness, suffering from arteriosclerosis, he died on March 19, 1965. His wife Nan was his only surviving family member. He was buried in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Former diamond star and basketball magician Bill Yancey said, with a bit of awe in his voice, "Pop Lloyd was the greatest player, the greatest manager, the greatest teacher. He had ability and knowledge and, above all, patience. I did not know what baseball was until I played under him on the Lincoln Giants."

In 1977 Lloyd received baseball's highest honor in his election to the National Baseball Hall Of Fame.

Reference and public domain information collected from "The Negro Leagues Book" and other sources. 2015. All rights reserved. This article or parts thereof may not be reprinted or reproduced by any other party without the express written consent of For more information, please call 856-797-9910.

For more South Jersey History, visit our South Jersey History page.

Article continues below


Author: Editorial Staff--Editorial Interns



Timber Creek’s Leary heads to Illinois

One of Us

The Weekender

Hometown Flavor

Hoop Dreams

Symon Says

Food & Drink: Raise a Glass

Off the Ice

Rewarding Work

Dig This

The Berlin Cemetery

A Southern Mansion

Fire on the Morro Castle

Pine Barrens Fire of 1936