Posts Tagged ‘John Henry Lloyd’

The Lincolns

February 16, 2017
Lincoln Giants jersey from 1910

Lincoln Giants jersey from 1910

When we think of Negro League teams, most think of the later Negro League teams such as the Crawfords, the Grays, or the Eagles. But way back before the founding of the first of the famous Negro Leagues, the Negro National League of the 1920s, there were other leagues and other teams. One of the more dominant of the early 20th Century teams was the Lincoln Giants of New York.

There is a bit of question about their origins. Their Wikipedia page indicates that an ancestry can be traced back to Nebraska in the 1890s, but doesn’t indicate how they got to New York. More conventional sources indicate that Jess McMahon (of the current WWE wrestling McMahon’s) was a prominent sports promoter in New York with extensive interests in Harlem. In 1911 he joined with Sol White to form the Lincoln Giants. It was a formidable team that immediately began to dominate black baseball in New York. With Hall of Famers John Henry Lloyd, Louis Santop, Smokey Joe Williams, and the likes of Spottswood Poles, Bill Pettus, and Cannonball Dick Redding (God, I love old-time nicknames) they dominated Eastern black baseball into 1914. In 1913 they played an unofficial black championship against the pride of the Midwestern black leagues, the Chicago American Giants, led by Rube Foster. The exact number of games and wins in the series is in some question, but there is agreement that the Lincolns won the series.

the 1911 Lincoln Giants

the 1911 Lincoln Giants

By 1914, McMahon was in financial trouble. He sold the Lincoln Giants, but retained the contracts of several of the big stars. He formed a new team, the Lincoln Stars, and competed directly with his old team. The Stars lasted to 1917, folded, and most of the remaining former Giants went back to their old club.

According to the Seamheads website, the Lincoln Giants were still doing well in the 1914-17 period, but fell off some due to the loss of many of their stars. By this point Smokey Joe Williams was doubling as ace pitcher and manager. It was the height of his Hall of Fame career. But the team ran up against a formidable foe off the diamond. Nat Strong (see my post “The Schedule Man” of 20 August 2015) controlled scheduling for black baseball in New York at the time and the Lincolns wanted to play more games than Strong was willing to schedule. They attempted to schedule some games without going through Strong, and were thrown out of the existing league structure in New York. Barnstorming followed.

With the founding Foster’s Negro National League, the eastern teams found it to their advantage to form their own league, the Eastern Colored League, in 1923. The Lincolns were a significant member of the league. They never won a league championship, finishing as high as third in 1924. By 1928 the ECL was on life support. A changing economy, weak teams, chaos at the top of the league (again another story for another time), and the dominance of Foster’s NNL, caused it to collapse.

The remnants of the ECL formed a new league, the American Negro League in 1929. It lasted one year. The Lincoln Giants held on one more year in a declining economy and finally folded after the 1930 season.

During their existence, the New York Lincoln Giants were dominant in the East. They won unofficial championships most of the decade of the 19-teens and led Strong’s New York league most years (which is why they thought they could challenge him). They provided Eastern black baseball with some of the greatest players of the era in Lloyd, Wood, Santop, Redding, and later Hall of Famer Turkey Stearnes. Not a bad legacy.

the 1911 version of the Lincoln Giants cap

the 1911 version of the Lincoln Giants cap

A Glimpse at Reality Through Fantasy

February 7, 2017
John Henry Lloyd in Cuba

John Henry Lloyd in Cuba

February is Black History Month in the US and I generally spend the entire month looking at black baseball. This month I wanted to finish the posts on the 1948-50 Boston Red Sox, so I’m starting this year’s look just a little late.

I’m in a Fantasy Baseball league. Kevin, our commissioner, wanted to add in Negro League players (we’re replaying the 1911 season) and because the statistics were really sparse, he had to jury rig a system that would allow the black players to function within the rules of the league but not tip play balance either for against them. As neither he nor I (nor anyone else for that matter) knew if what he’d done would work, I ended up with an experimental all black team. The idea was to find out how well each player functioned without teams (other than mine) having to figure out how to work with experimental statistical information. So far I’m in first place with about a dozen games to play which says a lot more about the quality of the work our commissioner did and the quality of the players than it does about my managerial and general managerial abilities.

I’m telling you this because it reinforces one of the primary problems when dealing with black baseball before 1950. The statistical information is spotty. In the case of my fantasy team John Henry Lloyd only has enough information available to get him into about 50 games of a 154 game season. Pete Hill gets about 75 games. Louis Santop can make about 100 games. All three are Hall of Famers. And some of the statistics are quite simply a best guess (or at least close to it–Kevin did a great job figuring out how to add the player’s information in to the existing system). And this brings up one of the greatest problems with trying to deal with the black leagues of the era.

Exactly how good were these guys? Frankly I don’t know and neither does anyone else. I, and everyone else, can make educated guesses and the working around of stats in something as unimportant in the grand scheme of things like a fantasy league can provide a glimpse of what almost all of our parents and grandparents missed. But ultimately, it is only a glimpse.

And that’s what I can provide here; a mere glimpse. I hope you’ll enjoy this year’s glimpses (many of which are short biographies of players on my fantasy team).

The Bacharachs

February 19, 2015
Bacharach Giants Logo

Bacharach Giants Logo

If you ask most people to name a Negro League team, odds are you’ll get the Monarchs or the Grays or the Crawfords. A few might know the American Giants or the Eagles. One of the better teams that’s mostly unknown today was the Bacharach Giants.

Originally the Duval Giants of Jacksonville, Florida, the Giants’ owners Henry Tucker and Tom Jackson moved the team to Atlantic City in 1916. Atlantic City mayor Harry Bacharach (who is a character on television’s “Boardwalk Empire”)  was looking for ways to improve the city economy and Tucker and Jackson agreed to move the team. In honor of the mayor, the team was renamed the Bacharach Giants, a name it kept until its demise. As far as I can tell, Bacharach never owned any part of the team but was supportive of them. They made money initially, but by 1918 were in trouble as World War I took away fans and money.

In 1919 they relocated to New York becoming the New York Bacharach Giants. By then they were so well-known as “Bacharach Giants” that they retained the team nickname despite have left both New Jersey and Harry Bacharach. They did poorly in New York and by 1922 were back in Atlantic City (and the name stayed around despite Bacharach no longer being mayor). They became associated members of the Negro National League, meaning that they could play sanctioned games against the NNL teams, but were not eligible for the pennant. This worked well by allowing the Bacharach Giants to both play the premier teams of the era but to also barnstorm around the East Coast making money.

In 1923 the Eastern Colored League was formed with the Bacharach Giants as a charter member. They finished fourth in both 1923 and 1924. Finishing fourth again in 1925 led to major overhaul of the team. Manager John Henry Lloyd was traded and shortstop Dick Lundy took over the team. A line up featuring Oliver Marcell at third, Red Ferrell in the outfield, and pitchers Arthur “Rats” Henderson, and Red Grier led the Bacharachs to the ECL title in 1926.

After two successful Colored World Series (renamed Negro World Series in 1942) matchups, the NNL and ECL hosted a best of nine series in 1926. The Bacharachs faced the Chicago American Giants (Rube Foster’s old team). The Series last 11 games (two ties) and Grier, in game three, tossed the first no-hitter in postseason play, but the American Giants won game 11 by a run. It was Grier’s second no-hitter of the season (the other against the Elite Giants).

The Bacharach Giants repeated as ECL champs again in 1927 and again faced the American Giants in the postseason series. This time they lost in eight games, but again a Bacharach pitcher, this time Ferrell (who now pitched more than he played the outfield), tossed a no-hitter. In 1928 they were in second when the ECL folded due to financial difficulties.

In 1929 a number of Eastern clubs formed the American Negro League. It lasted one season and the Bacharachs again became a barnstorming independent team. By 1930 they were in deep trouble and there is debate about what happened next. One source says they folded, another that they were sold. Either way the team resurfaced in Philadelphia in 1931. Still called the Bacharach Giants they remained independent until 1934 when they joined the newly revived Negro National League. They stayed two seasons then returned to independent play. They hung on into 1942 when they finally disbanded.

Over the life of the team some truly great players wandered through the Bacharachs. Hall of Famer John Henry Lloyd played short and managed the team. Dick Lundy and Oliver Marcell spent most of the 1920s in Atlantic City (and both have solid cases to join the Hall of Fame).  “Cannonball” Dick Redding pitched for them before they joined the Eastern Colored League.

For a very short time the Bacharach’s were a top-notch Negro League team. They produced great players, but were never able to stand at the top of the Negro Leagues. They are, in short, a fairly typical Negro League team.

 

The Black Wagner

August 6, 2014

 

John Henry Lloyd

John Henry Lloyd

I’d normally hold this post until my usual look at Negro League baseball in February, but with all the hoopla over Derek Jeter’s retirement and his continued passing of greats like Carl Yastrzemski and Honus Wagner on the all-time hits list, I’m beginning to see a lot of lists trying to fit Jeter into the pantheon of shortstops. You’ve probably seen a few of these. They rank the top 10 (or 5 or 20) shortstops and place Jeter where they think he fits on the list. I’ve seen him number one (which is silly) and as low as ninth (which is also silly). But all these lists (at least the ones I have  seen) manage to leave out one man: John Henry Lloyd.

Lloyd was born in Florida in 1884. He was a superior ballplayer and by 1906 had gotten the attention of the Cuban X-Giants, one of the premier black teams in the country. He was quick and agile, a natural shortstop who could hit. That made him much in demand so he wandered a lot from team to team. It wasn’t that people didn’t want him, it was, as he said, “where the money was.” He played with the Philadelphia Stars from 1907 through 1909 then spent years with the Leland Giants, the Lincoln Giants, and finally with Rube Foster’s American Giants. (Do you note a pattern with the use of the name “Giants” for Negro League baseball in the era?). In 1912 he became manager of the Lincoln Giants and in 1913 led his team to a win over the American Giants in an early version of the Negro World Series (which began officially in 1924).

He spent time also in Cuba beginning in 1907. Between 1908 and 1930 he spent at least parts of 12 seasons playing in Cuba. His team won three championships (1912, 1925, and 1926). He is credited with hitting .329 in Cuba, but the records are sketchy.

Equally sketchy are the US stats. Baseball Reference credits him with hitting .340 and slugging .452 in 810 documented games. Per 162 games, they credit him with 32 doubles, 11 triples, four home runs, and 23 stolen bases. Those numbers are admittedly very incomplete. By way of proof, his Wikipedia page lists his batting average as .343.

He stayed in baseball, coaching local teams as late as 1943. Lloyd died in 1964 (that’s on his gravestone, some reports state his death occurred in 1965) in Atlantic City, New Jersey. His turn in the Hall of Fame came in 1977.

How good was he? It’s tough to tell, but contemporary reports compare him to Wagner. When told of the comparison, Honus Wagner said he was honored to be considered in the same category with Lloyd. That’s a good enough endorsement for me.

 

 

John Henry Lloyd's final resting place

John Henry Lloyd’s final resting place

My Best Negro League Roster

February 28, 2011

A friend of mine who reads this blog called me up the other day. He suggested I post what was, in my opinion, the best Negro League team. I went into a long discourse about why that wasn’t possible because of lack of stats and collaborating info and anything else I could come up with to get out of it. He finally cut me off with a simple, “Wing it.” So for the edification of anyone who happens to run across this, and to cap a long group of Negro League posts, here’s my list of the best Negro League players, with appropriate caveats (You knew those were coming, didn’t you?).

First, I took only guys who played the majority of their careers in the Negro Leagues. In other words guys like Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby were out, as were Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks. Second, I did a 25 man roster with a manager and an owner, and a couple of special add ons. I included 2 players at each infield position, 6 outfielders, 3 catchers, and 8 pitchers (at least two of which had to be left-handed). I know that almost no Negro League team ever actually had 25 men on its roster and that if they did they weren’t aligned as I’ve aligned my team. But this is the way I wanted to do it. I have an aversion to comparing players in the pre-mound era with those whose career is mostly after the advent of the mound and the 60’6″ pitching distance.  I simply think the game is so different you can’t compare players (feel free to disagree). That led to a real problem for me, Frank Grant. I think he is probably one of the half-dozen or so greatest black players ever, but that’s unquantifiable to me. So I had to leave him out, and wish I didn’t.

So here we go. All players are listed alphabetically by position. That means there is no indication that I think the guy listed first is better, although he may be a lot better. Don’t expect a lot of surprises, and keep the snickers to yourselves.

Catcher: Josh Gibson, Biz Mackey, Louis Santop. This was actually pretty easy. There seems to be a consensus between statheads, historians, and old Negro League players that these three were head and shoulders above the other catchers in Negro League play. Fleet Walker was also a catcher, but I don’t think he was the quality of these three and he also fails to meet the post-mound criteria. Sorry, Fleet.

1st Base: Buck Leonard, Mule Suttles. There were two problems here. The first was the necessity of leaving out Buck O’Neill. I don’t suppose there is a more important Negro Leaguer (except for Jackie Robinson), but the information on him makes it evident that he wasn’t really at the top of the line of Negro League first basemen. The second problem is that Mule Suttles spent a lot of time in the outfield. But it was common for Negro League players to do “double duty” in the field, so Suttles at first isn’t actually a bad idea.

2nd Base: Newt Allen, Bingo DeMoss. I think I had more trouble settling on the second basemen than on any other position (OK, maybe pitcher). First, I wanted to put Grant in, but just couldn’t because of the problems mentioned above. I also think it might be the weakest position in Negro League play. The list of truly great players here is awfully short. I think these two are probably the best, but I could be talked into someone else.

3rd Base: Ray Dandridge, Judy Johnson. Again an easy pick. There seems to be universal agreement that Dandridge was a fielder unlike any other in the history of the Negro Leagues, and that Johnson could outhit anyone who played the position. Who am I to argue with universal agreement?

Shortstop: John Henry Lloyd, Willie Wells. Lloyd was an easy pick. If Honus Wagner, the greatest shortstop who ever shortstopped, says he’s pleased to be compared with Lloyd, I’m gonna take him at his word. Wells was also pretty easy. Again there seems to be a consensus among the sources that he was a terrific shortstop.

Outfield: Cool Papa Bell, Willard Brown, Oscar Charleston, Martin DiHigo, Turkey Stearnes, Christobal Torriente. First, I didn’t worry about getting two each Right, Center, and Left. I ended up with two Right Fielders (Brown, DiHigo), one in Left (Stearnes), and the rest are Center Fielders. One of the things about studying and researching for this list is how quickly you find out Bell is seriously overrated. Now I don’t mean to imply Bell wasn’t a heck of a ballplayer; he was. He may have been the very best Negro League outfielder ever. But there seems to be this idea that he was just head and shoulders above the others (Charleston and Torriente). From what I read, I just don’t see that. Maybe he was better, but if so not by much. Certainly he wasn’t better by the amount a lot of people seem to want to think. It reminds me of what I call the “Derek Jeter Aura”. Is Jeter the best shortstop who started his career in the last 15 or so years? Yes. Is he the  greatest since the position was invented (as some would have us believe)?  Not even close, but try telling that to legions of his fans. And Bell seems to be running through that same situation. Personally, I think Charleston was better (and again that’s a personal opinion, not bolstered by much in the way of facts) and I’m not sure that DiHigo wasn’t the finest Negro League outfielder of the lot (or maybe he wasn’t, it’s tough to tell). I am fairly sure that DiHigo is the most under appreciated of the lot.

Pitcher: Ray Brown, Andy Cooper, Leon Day, Bill Foster, Luis Mendez, Satchel Paige, Joe Rogan, Hilton Smith. This may have been the hardest of the lists to determine. First, there aren’t a lot of really good left-handed pitchers in the Negro Leagues, so finding two (and one-quarter of the list being left-handed didn’t seem unreasonable) became a pain. Next, there were more than six righty’s that had to be considered. I hated to leave any off, but this list is my best guess.

Manager: Rube Foster. OK, he had to be here somewhere. He seems to have been a better pitcher than manager and a better manager than executive, but the founder of the Negro Leagues ought to be here.

Owner:  Cum Posey. I said that both second and pitching caused me the most problem. That’s true of players, but finding the best owner to put on the team was almost a nightmare. Who do you take? J.L. Wilkinson owned the most famous team (the Monarchs), Effa Manley of Newark was probably the most famous owner, Gus Greenlee owned the best team (the Crawfords). I looked at all of them and chose Posey, the man who owned the Grays. I think the Grays were the most consistantly successful team in the late 1930s and throughout the 1940s. I decided that made Posey the owner.

One of a kind: Double Duty Radcliffe. Radcliffe was known to pitch one game of a double-header, then catch the other game. You have to be kidding me. 

Post Negro League Career: Charley Pride. One of the great things about being married to my wife is that every morning I get to “Kiss an Angel Good Morning.” Now I may be wrong about this, but “Just Between You and Me,” as far as I can tell, Pride had the best non-sports related career of any Negro Leaguer.

A Charley Pride baseball card

The musical information shown here tells me this card is a fake, but I just couldn’t resist putting it up for show and tell.

Here’s hoping you’ve learned something from this sojourn into the Negro Leagues and black baseball in general. Failing that, I hope you enjoyed them. With the end of Black History Month, I’ll think I’ll take up something else.

The Dutchman vs the Peach

January 19, 2010

By general consensus the two great position players of the Deadball Era are Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner. Two people more unalike is tough to imagine. Wagner was from the Pennsylvania coal fields. He was quiet, dignified, admired by his teammates, apparently relatively free from racism (when told John Henry Lloyd was being called “The Black Wagner”, Honus was supposed to have said he was honored to be compared with Lloyd). Cobb, on the other hand, was from Georgia. Quiet would never describe him. He was brash, angry, violent, tolerated rather than liked by his teammates, and violently racist. The did have one thing in common, they were great ballplayers. For fans who wanted to see both in action against each other, there was a problem. Wagner (“The Flying Dutchman”) played in the National League while Cobb (“The Georgia Peach”) played in the American League. The only way they could be on the same field in an meaningful game would be in the World Series. In 1909, that finally happened.

Cobb’s Detroit Tigers swept to the American League pennant by 3.5 games over the A’s. Led by Cobb, who hit league leading numbers of 377 in batting, 107 RBI’s, and 9 homers to become the second American Leaguer to win the Triple Crown (Nap LaJoie in 1901), the Tigers had future Hall of Famers Sam Crawford and manager Hughie Jennings on the team. The leading pitchers were George Mullin (29 wins) and Ed Willett (22 wins).

The Pittsburgh Pirates, who knocked off the Cubs by 6.5 games, had Wagner who led the league in hitting at 339 and in RBI’s at 100, along with a league leading 39 doubles. They also had future Hall of Famer and manager-left fielder Fred Clarke and got good seasons from Bill Abstein (1st base), Dots Miller (2nd base), and Tommy Leach (center field). The pitching was led by Howie Camnitz (25 wins) and future Hall of Famer Vic Willis (22 wins).

It was a good series, the first to go the full compliment of 7 games (The 1903 Series was a best of nine. There was a game 7, but it was the penultimate game.) The Pirates won all the odd numbered games, the Tigers the even numbered games (what are the chances of that?). Neither Wagner nor Cobb were the stars. Cobb hit only 231, stole only 2 bases, but led the team with 5 RBIs. Wagner did better hitting 333 with 6 stolen bases and 2 RBIs. But the big stars were Clarke who hit both Pirates home runs and tallied 7 RBIs with only a 211 batting average, Leach who hit 360, and an obscure pitcher named Babe Adams who won 3 of the Pirates 4 games (13 game winner Nick Maddox won the other game). Adams put up a 1.33 ERA and struck out 11 in 27 innings. He pitched three complete game victories, including game 7.

When the Series ended, Pittsburgh had its first championship, the Tigers had lost 3 World Series’ in a row. Neither Cobb nor Wagner would ever make it back to a Series as a player. Both men would be in the initial Hall of Fame class.