By Lontay Greene
Olympic Field sprouted the roots of a baseball team in New York, that would hold as much cultural impact in the Harlem Renaissance as the singers, poets, and writers. The Lincoln Giants entered the scene of Harlem in the year 1911, under the co-ownership of Jess and Edward McMahon.
The Lincoln Giants were not the first baseball team to enter the New York area, but were the first black baseball team to emerge. The Giants shared to city with the neighboring Major League Baseball team, the New York Highlanders, that were the Major Leagues before they were integrated. The New York Highlanders of Manhattan would later become the New York Yankees while the Lincoln Giants would still be a staple in the black and white communities.
You could guarantee on any given Sunday that you would find great crowds meeting on Sunday 136th Street and 5th Avenue of a heterogenous mixing of men, women, and children coming to watch their home town team come play baseball. The Lincoln Giants players were a great mix of the most talented players recruited from other major cities with high African-American populations. There were large crowds of 10,000 or more on the communal Sunday, where it was usually one of the few days that everyone, specifically blacks, would not have to work. Although there were a mixture of blacks and whites, in the middle of racial tension, there were never any reports of fights, altercations, or arrests.
The progression of black culture was projected in Harlem as an example of what the black community stood for. In reaction to that, the Lincoln Giants were a representation of Harlem also, and inherently as the United States. Lincoln Giants baseball of what the Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights Movement, and what the country could represent. In the years nineteen-eleven, nineteen-twelve, and nineteen-thirteen, the Lincoln Giants were in their heyday when they reached their peak success, winning the (unofficial) Eastern Championship three times in a row (nineteen-eleven, nineteen-twelve, and nineteen-thirteen).
This team was assembled by a group of prominent players that were centered on a player by the name of John Henry Lloyd (a.k.a. Pop). John Henry Lloyd was an outstanding ball player that manned the shortstop position for only three years. In those three years, Lloyd was an unmatched figure on the field raking a .475 batting average in his first season in New York. As a baseball player he held an unprecedented career average of .343 and a .450 slugging percentage in a span of over two decades of playing professional baseball around the country. Lloyd is now in the National Baseball Hall of Fame for his amazing talents in the baseball community. His enormous impact in Harlem was key in making the Lincoln Giants out of Harlem gain a sense of integral pride in their community and the amazing social steps forward that were taken as a part of the Harlem Renaissance movement.