Nap Lajoie

Napoleon Lajoie
Inducted to the Hall of Fame in: 1937
Primary team: Cleveland Indians
Primary position: 2nd Baseman

“Lajoie was one of the most rugged hitters 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.” Cy Young

Napoleon Lajoie, hitter extraordinaire, sublime fielder, manager and executive, has been described as “the first superstar in American League history.” And indeed, to concentrate on his hitting or his fielding is to miss his all-around talent as a player.

Lajoie broke in with the Phillies in 1896, hitting .326 in 39 games, and would hit over .300 for the next six full seasons. His watershed season was 1901, when he was in the midst of controversy, having signed with the Athletics in apparent violation of the reserve clause. He played for the A’s in that one season before league president Ban Johnson transferred him to Cleveland. But what a season it was!

Lajoie won the Triple Crown, leading the league with a .426 batting average, 14 homers, and 125 runs batted in. He also led the league in runs, hits, and doubles.

In Cleveland, Lajoie literally became the face of the franchise, when the fledgling club, which had been known as the Bronchos, renamed itself after him—the “Naps.” Lajoie would hit over .300 ten of the next 13 seasons, also leading the league in hits, doubles, and batting average three times. Lajoie was a player-manager for the Naps from 1905-’09, but resigned to concentrate on playing. He returned to the Athletics at the end of his career for two seasons.

For his career, Lajoie batted .338, topping the .300 mark 15 times and leading the league five times. He cranked out 3,242 hits, 657 doubles, scored 1,504 runs, and drove in 1,599. Lajoie swung the bat so hard, that on three separate occasions in 1899, he literally tore the cover off the ball—shades of “The Natural.”

As a fielder, Lajoie was special to watch. “Lajoie glides toward the ball and gathers it in nonchalantly, as if picking fruit,” commented a New York newspaper. Connie Mack elaborated: “He plays so naturally and so easily it looks like lack of effort. Larry’s reach is so long and and he’s fast as lightning.”

Following his major league playing career, Lajoie played briefly for Toronto, was a playing manager in Indianapolis, and was commissioner of the Ohio-Pennsylvania League.

Lajoie had fun playing baseball as well, according to Tommy Leach: “What a ballplayer that man was. Every play he made was executed so gracefully that it looked like it was the easiest thing in the world. He was a pleasure to play against, too, always laughing and joking. Even when the son of a gun was blocking you off the base, he was smiling and kidding with you. You just had to like the guy.”

"You don't always need stars to win. You don't always need greatness. Sometimes spirit, determination, fight will do as well. "
Nap Lajoie

Career stats

ESSENTIAL STATS
Year Inducted: 1937
Primary Team: Cleveland Indians
Position Played: 2nd Baseman
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Birth place: Woonsocket, Rhode Island
Birth year: 1874
Died: 1959, Daytona Beach, Florida
Played for:
Philadelphia Phillies (1896-1900)
Philadelphia Athletics (1901-1902)
Cleveland Indians (1902-1914)
Philadelphia Athletics (1915-1916)
Managed:
Cleveland Indians (1905-1909)
CAREER AT A GLANCE
GamesG
2480
At BatsAB
9589
RunsR
1504
HitsH
3242
Doubles2B
657
Triples3B
163
Home RunsHR
82
RBIRBI
1599
Stolen BasesSB
380
WalksBB
- -
Batting AverageBA
.338
OPSOPS
- -
On Base %OBP
.380
Slugging %SLG
.466