Did the Mets' Negro League throwbacks predict the World Series matchup?
Look at that photo! That picture, taken during the June 28 Mets-Pirates matchup, appears to show New York outfielder Eric Young Jr. wearing a jersey emblazoned with the names of the 2014 World Series participants: the Royals and the Giants. Clearly, this is the work of some Photoshop prankster operating deep in the netherworld of the internet, right?
Wrong. Not only is that photo real, but it happens to be really, really cool. Check your sundials: it's story time.
That jersey honors the Brooklyn Royal Giants, a Negro League team that operated from 1905 to around 1942. They aren't the most storied of the Negro League clubs, certainly, but they did see their fair share of fantastic ballplayers -- even a few Hall of Famers.
One such legend was John Henry "Pop" Lloyd -- a speedy shortstop who hit roughly .343 with a .450 slugging percentage. He was a terror on the basepaths as well, swiping around 133 bases (extant Negro League stats are mostly incomplete). He is considered one of the best shortstops in Negro League history, and is remembered as a class act both on and off the field. He was called "the black Honus Wagner" during his lifetime -- a nickname that spread so wide and far, even Wagner himself commented on it:
Lloyd's time with the Royal Giants wasn't too lengthy -- he played for over 10 different teams in his career, managing four of them as well (including the Royal Giants) -- but he did serve two separate stints with the club.
As a player, Lloyd was brilliant at placing the ball. One of his greatest skills was his mastery of the bunt -- an aspect of his game that would have him fitting in quite well on our remaining postseason teams. That skill, along with his leadership and character, earned him a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977.
Oh, and that Mets-Pirates photo up top? That's Young scoring a run after stealing both second and third base in the second inning. He'd follow that up with another steal in the fourth and, of course, a bunt in the sixth.
Pop Lloyd, the Royals and the Giants would all be proud.