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Napoléon "Nap" Lajoie [la-ZHWAH, or often la-ZHWAY, per the Canadian French pronunciation; or, as he himself usually pronounced it, LAJ-a-way] (September 5, 1874February 7, 1959), also known as Larry Lajoie, was an Americanmarker major league baseball player of French Canadian descent from Woonsocket, Rhode Islandmarker. In his career as a second baseman he was considered one of the greatest players of the fledgling American League in the early 20th century, and the most serious of Ty Cobb's challengers.

Lajoie was elected to the Baseball Hall of Famemarker in 1937.

Playing career

Lajoie started his career in the National League with the Philadelphia Phillies in . In , in response to a league-wide salary cap of $2,400 per year, he jumped to the crosstown Philadelphia Athletics, owned by former Phillies' part-owner Benjamin Shibe and managed by Connie Mack. Lajoie's batting average that year was .426, still a league record. The same year Lajoie became the second Major Leaguer to be intentionally walked with the bases loaded after Abner Dalrymple in 1881. Only four other players have done it since: Del Bissonette in 1928, Bill Nicholson in 1944, Barry Bonds in 1998, and Josh Hamilton in 2008.

The next year the Phillies obtained an injunction barring Lajoie from playing baseball for any team other than the Phillies. However, a lawyer discovered the injunction was only enforceable in the state of Pennsylvaniamarker. Mack responded by trading Lajoie to the then-moribund Cleveland Bluebirds, whose owner, Charles Somers, had provided considerable financial assistance to the A's in the early years. Lajoie arrived in Cleveland on June 4, and proved to be the shot in the arm the Bluebirds needed, drawing 10,000 fans to League Parkmarker in his first game. He was named team captain a few weeks later, and at the end of the season the team changed its name to the "Naps" in his honor.

For the remainder of and most of , Lajoie and teammate Elmer Flick traveled separately from the rest of the team, never setting foot in Pennsylvania so as to avoid a subpoena. The issue was finally resolved when the leagues made peace through the National Agreement in September 1903.

Lajoie won three batting titles and might have won a fourth if he had not contracted blood poisoning from an untreated spike injury in . With Cobb's arrival in the Majors in 1905, however, Lajoie faced real competition.

Rivalry with Ty Cobb

The Lajoie-Cobb rivalry reached a peak in 1910, when the Chalmers Auto Company promised a car to the batting leader (and MVP) that year. Cobb took the final two games of the 1910 season off, confident that his average was high enough to win the AL batting title unless Lajoie had a near-perfect final day.

Lajoie, a far more popular player than Cobb, was allowed by the opposing St. Louis Browns to go 8-for-8 in a season-ending doubleheader. After a "sun-hindered" fly ball went for a triple and another batted ball landed for a cleanly hit single, Lajoie had five subsequent "hits" – bunt singles dropped in front of third baseman Red Corriden, who was playing closer to shallow left field on orders of manager Jack O'Connor. Lajoie also laid down a sixth bunt that was muffed for an error—officially giving him a hitless at-bat and dropping his average. O'Connor and coach Harry Howell then offered a new wardrobe to the official scorer, a woman, if she changed it to a hit. She refused, and the resulting uproar resulted in O'Connor and Howell being kicked out of baseball for life.



As it turns out, Lajoie's average is not the only one tainted by controversy; Cobb's average might have been inflated by counting a game twice in his statistics when one day he went 2-for-3, as researchers discovered 70 years later. In the end, the Chalmers Auto Company avoided taking sides in the dispute by awarding cars to both Cobb and Lajoie for their thrilling batting race.

Legacy

Lajoie ended his career in and with a return to the Athletics, finishing with a lifetime .339 average. His career total of 3,242 hits was the second best in Major League history at the time, behind only Honus Wagner's total. Lajoie's 2,521 hits in the AL was the league record until Cobb surpassed it in . Among second basemen, Lajoie posted staggering career offensive numbers; in the history of baseball, only Rogers Hornsby and Eddie Collins can compare.

Lajoie was among the second group of players elected to the Hall of Fame in 1937, being inducted when the Hall opened in . He died in Daytona Beachmarker, Floridamarker in 1959, at the age of 84.

In 1999, he ranked number 29 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was a nominee for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

Lajoie is mentioned in the poem "Lineup for Yesterday" by Ogden Nash:

See also



References

  1. Lee Allen in The American League Story


External links




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