Lajoie, Nap

▪ American athlete
in full  Napoleon Lajoie 
born Sept. 5, 1874, Woonsocket, R.I., U.S.
died Feb. 7, 1959, Daytona Beach, Fla.
 American professional baseball player who was one of the game's best hitters and an outstanding fielder. Lajoie had a .338 career batting average, the 2nd highest ever for a second baseman, with 3,242 hits, the 13th highest total in major league history.

      Lajoie began his career with the National League's Philadelphia Phillies in 1896, and after five seasons he moved over to the Philadelphia team—the Athletics—in the new American League. His .426 batting average with the Athletics in 1901 is the highest ever recorded in the American League. A lawsuit was filed to keep Lajoie from leaving the National League, and in 1902 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court barred him from playing with any team other than the Phillies. A compromise was reached, and Lajoie was allowed to play for another American League team, the Cleveland Bronchos (Cleveland Indians), but he was required to stay out of the lineup when Cleveland played in Philadelphia. Lajoie's performance in 1902 rejuvenated the Cleveland team, and the next season the club was renamed the Naps in tribute to Lajoie. He played more than half of his 21-year career with Cleveland before returning to the Philadelphia Athletics for two seasons (the injunction against him playing in Philadelphia was lifted in 1903).

      In 1910 the popular Lajoie was involved in a race for the batting title with the relatively disliked Ty Cobb (Cobb, Ty). Lajoie and Cobb were neck and neck for much of the year, and there was confusion in the process of determining batting averages. Cobb, assuming he had won the title and the new car that accompanied it, did not play in the last two games of the year. Lajoie did play and had eight hits in nine at-bats, although six were bunts with the opposing team's third baseman ordered to play deep. Even so, Cobb officially won the title by .001, but both players were given cars in an attempt to limit controversy. Over 70 years later, it was discovered that two hits were incorrectly credited to Cobb in 1910, but attempts to award the batting title to Lajoie were rejected by commissioner Bowie Kuhn. Lajoie was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., in 1937.

Milton Jamail
 

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Universalium. 2010.

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