Dihigo, Lloyd blazed trails en route to Cooperstown

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Samantha Burkett

Two men who were both considered by many to be the greatest players in baseball history never played a day of Major League Baseball.

Martin Dihigo and John Henry “Pop” Lloyd were elected to the Hall of Fame on Feb. 3, 1977. Exactly six years after the Committee on Negro League Veterans was created, Dihigo and Lloyd became the eighth and ninth players elected before it was absorbed by the Veterans Committee.

Dihigo was born in Cuba and played all nine positions, but primarily pitched and played second base. He spent 12 seasons in the Negro Leagues as one of the most versatile players in the game and also starred in Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.

“He was the greatest all-around player I know. I say he was the best player of all time, black or white. He could do it all,” said Buck Leonard.

Dihigo posted more than 260 victories as a pitcher and played in both winter and summer ball for most of his career. In 1938, he went 18-2 and led the league with a 0.90 ERA, while also winning the batting title with a .387 average. Nicknamed “The Immortal” in Cuba, he is the only player to be inducted to the American, Mexican and Cuban baseball halls of fame.

Lloyd was considered the greatest shortstop in Negro League history. Often compared to Honus Wagner, Lloyd was known for his big bat and skill at place-hitting and bunting.

“I am honored to have John Lloyd called the black Wagner,” said Honus Wagner. “It is a privilege to have been compared to him.”

Lloyd hit over .400 several times during his 25-year career. A consummate gentleman off the field, Lloyd was an aggressive base runner and strong fielder on it.

One of the most sought-after players in his generation, Lloyd jumped teams often and became a player-manager at the end of his career. Mentoring young players, Lloyd earned the nickname “Pop” and was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame.

It was fifty-seven years before their election, on Feb. 3, 1920, that the Negro National League was founded in Kansas City, Mo., by former player, manager and owner Rube Foster, who also went on to Hall of Fame induction.

The Hall of Fame Class of 1977 also featured Ernie Banks, Al Lopez, Amos Rusie and Joe Sewell.


Samantha Burkett is a freelance writer from Fairport, N.Y.

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series