“Pop” Paved the Way
If I were to ask you who were the best black baseball players, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Oscar Charleston might readily come to mind. Chances are it would take you awhile to think of John Henry “Pop” Lloyd. You might never get there. In that case the list would be sorely lacking. Better pick up “The Right Time: John Henry ‘Pop’ Lloyd and Black Baseball” by Wes Singletary.
1. Babe Ruth called Lloyd the greatest baseball player of all time.
During his time in Cuba, Lloyd earned the nickname “Bemba de Cuchara” for the way he scooped up ground balls as if he wielded a mighty serving spoon. He was called the “Black Wagner” for his playing style, which bore more than a slight resemblance to Honus Wagner. Giants Manager John McGraw coveted Lloyd, whose play mirrored his deliberate speech.
2. Lloyd’s stature did not diminish with age; it grew.
At 32 years young, youngsters and peers agreed that there was still “too much Lloyd.” (96, Right) After he was not retained in 1918, Lloyd moved on with his best season well ahead of him. He batted better than .500 in 1928 at age 44. No wonder he said he would stick around “until a lefthander strikes me out.” (51) More than one player was known to remark, Lloyd was old when we first met, but he just kept getting better because he used his wits.
3. Pop’s contributions helped make the game what it is today.
Lloyd’s Hall of Fame plaque lists him as one of the major reasons Yankee Stadium welcomed black baseball in 1930. Younger players “worshipped Pop” for passing along all he knew. (195) Lloyd did not let it bother him that it was Jackie Robinson and not himself or his contemporaries who broke the color barrier. Instead, Lloyd saw his role as preparing the way.
For that, he was right on time.
Sam Miller is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements. During the 2009 season, Miller served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate. Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.