Napoléon "Nap" Lajoie (/ˈlæʒəweɪ/; September 5, 1874 – February 7, 1959), also known as Larry Lajoie and nicknamed "The Frenchman", was an American professional baseball second baseman and player-manager. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Athletics (twice), and Cleveland Naps between 1896 and 1916. He managed the Naps from 1905 through 1909.
Lajoie was signed to the National Leagues's (NL) Phillies in 1896. By the beginning of the twentieth century, however, the upstart American League (AL) was looking to rival the supremacy of the NL and in 1901, Lajoie and dozens of former National League players joined the American League. National League clubs contested the legality of contracts signed by players who jumped to the other league but eventually, Lajoie was allowed to play for Connie Mack's Athletics. During the season, Lajoie set the all-time American League single-season mark for the highest batting average (.426). One year later, Lajoie went to the Cleveland Bronchos where he would play until the 1915 season when he returned to play for Mack and the Athletics. While with Cleveland, Lajoie's popularity led to locals electing to change the club's team name from Bronchos to Napoleons ("Naps" for short), which remained until after Lajoie departed Cleveland and the name was changed to Indians (the team's present-day name).
Lajoie led the AL in batting average five times in his career and four times recorded the most number of hits. During several of those years with the Naps he and Ty Cobb dominated AL hitting categories and traded batting titles with each other, most notably coming in 1910, when the league's batting champion was not decided until well after the last game of the season and after an investigation by American League President Ban Johnson. Lajoie in 1914 joined Cap Anson and Honus Wagner as the only major league players to record 3,000 career hits. He led the NL or AL in putouts five times in his career and assists three times. He has been called "the best second baseman in the history of baseball" and "the most outstanding player to wear a Cleveland uniform." Cy Young said, "Lajoie was one of the most rugged players I ever faced. He'd take your leg off with a line drive, turn the third baseman around like a swinging door and powder the hand of the left fielder." He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937.
By Dean Hanley
Page : 1