Thursday, July 23, 2015


A Baseball Man

     In his day, Clarence Lloyd was considered one of the best baseball men in America. First as a sportswriter and then as the traveling secretary of one of the sport's most legendary teams, Lloyd saw many of the game's greatest players in an era when the game was played not for the love of money, but merely for the love of the game. This is his story and how he wound up in Dublin, Georgia. 

     Clarence Frederick Lloyd was born on February 4, 1887 in St. Louis, Missouri. Clarence lived on Cass Avenue with his mother, who worked in the home, and his father Henry, who was a native German bartender in a neighborhood saloon. As a boy, Clarence loved to go to watch the St. Louis Cardinals play at nearby League Park, located some twenty blocks from his home. He would often go watch the Browns, St. Louis's entry in the American League, every chance he got. After high school, Clarence took a job as a sportswriter. He got to know some of the players both on the Cardinals and the Browns including enough Hall of Famers to field two teams. 

     Clarence, a 30-year-old sports writer for the St. Louis Star, claimed an exemption from the draft in World War I to look after his widowed mother, who was dependent on her only child to support her. Clarence and his mother Minnie moved from Cass Avenue to Page Boulevard after the war. It was in 1913, when Clarence was introduced to Branch Rickey, the new and exciting young manager of the Browns. Rickey was fired by the Browns in 1915 and was immediately hired by the Cardinals. As general manager of the Cardinals, Rickey built the team into one of the game's premier franchises. 

     After nearly twenty five years with the Cards, Rickey took over the management of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Rickey changed the face of baseball forever, not by building the Dodgers into a perennial power for more than four decades, but by taking the unthinkable risk of signing Jackie Robinson on the team and in the process, breaking baseball's color barrier in 1947. When Rickey took over the management of the cross town Cardinals in 1919, he remembered seeing Clarence around the ball park. 

     As his first hire as the team's new manager, Rickey, considered to be one of the game's greatest general managers of all time, lured Clarence away from his arduous duties as a beat sportswriter for a job as the team's traveling secretary. It was Lloyd's responsibility to take care of every need of the team while they were on the road. He had to coordinate train schedules, meals, hotel rooms and in the process keep both management and the players happy. While the team was at home, Lloyd was working, planning the next road trip. Clarence Lloyd at times found himself at odds with certain club officials. 

     Both Rickey and team President Sam Brendon and his wife, stood behind Lloyd when times were tough. But the players admired him. He got a one-half share of the winnings after the team won the World Series in 1926. Following their loss in the '28 World Series, they voted him a one-half share, the handsome sum of nearly twenty one hundred dollars. 

      Lloyd built a special relationship with the team's best and most unpredictable star, Dizzy Dean. One day, Dizzy, in one of his frequent moments when he was short of cash and way ahead on his salary advances, came up to Clarence and asked for a twenty dollar bill. Lloyd, under strict instructions to only allow Dizzy to have a single crisp one dollar bill a day, asked Dean why did he need twenty dollars. Dean refused to disclose the reason, but finally, and embarrassingly, admitted it was for a gift for his bride. 

     At the height of Dean's superstardom in 1935, team officials ordered Clarence to be Dean's personal secretary. No one, not even Dean's wife or his brother and teammate Paul, could reach Dizzy by phone without the approval of Lloyd. There was a day in Pittsburgh, when Dean was no where to be found. No one, not even Clarence knew where he was. Was he off gallivanting he was prone to do and often, or had something happened to Ole Diz. Dizzy had a personal appearance. Lloyd and Dean's business manager Bill DeWitt were worried. Finally, Lloyd told DeWitt to find a bell boy and open the door to Dean's room. When the door was opened, the boy found Dizzy, snoozing with his radio blaring away. 

     The Gas House Gang was famous for their antics, both on and off the field. Dean and Pepper Martin were the team clowns. They and others frequently impersonated Clarence and told rookies that they were being sent down to the minor leagues. One of Clarence's best friends on the team was Grover Cleveland Alexander, known to his close friends as "Old Pete." When Alexander died in 1951, Lloyd sent in a contribution to a memorial fund and a letter stating that Alexander was " a great athlete, a great competitor and a good friend.

     "Minnie Lloyd continued to live with her son even after he went to work for the Cardinals. On February 19, 1937, Lloyd, a confirmed bachelor of fifty years, married Dorothy McBride Grossman. After Lloyd left the team after the 1937 season, the couple moved to Dublin, where Clarence took a job with Georgia Plywood Company, where he worked for twenty five years and served as the company's president. 

     Minnie Lloyd died at the age of ninety at the home of her son in Dublin on October 9, 1951. Lloyd was honored by the Baseball Writers Association of America when he was given a No. 1 card in 1966. Lloyd served as a sportswriter for the "St. Louis Dispatch" and the "St. Louis Times" before his association with the Cardinals. 

      In May of 1967, the Cardinals honored Lloyd by inviting him to an all-expense paid trip to St. Louis. The occasion was the final game at Sportsman's Park and the first game at Busch Stadium. At that time, Lloyd held a lifetime pass to all major league games, being the second oldest sportswriter in the United States. 

      Clarence loved to swap baseball stories. It's part of the lore of the game. It's what baseball people do. Former Courier Herald sportswriter Bush Perry fondly remembered talking about the old days of the Cardinals, a team they mutually loved. Ernest Oatts, who dubbed Lloyd as "Mr. Abernathy" hailed his friend as a great man of baseball. 

      Just a week before his death on October 9, 1970, Clarence Lloyd and Bush Perry talked for the last time. The subject was baseball. 

     And so, I salute the memory of Clarence Lloyd in the words of the late baseball commissioner Bart Giamati, "It breaks our heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filing the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops, and summer is gone."

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