Just a brief note to note the passing on this date in 1959 of Napoleon Lajoie, one of the greatest hitters who ever played the game, and one of my favorites.
Lajoie was born in 1874 in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and started his career with the Phillies in 1896. When he found out he was not being paid as much as Ed Delehanty, as he had been promised, he jumped to the upstart American League, the Philadelphia A’s, in 1901, almost single-handedly gaining them major-league status. The Phillies owner managed to get an injunction from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that prevented Lajoie from playing in that state for any team other than the Phillies, so Lajoie moved the next season to the Cleveland club, and did not play whenever Cleveland played the Athletics in Philadelphia. With Lajoie in their ranks, the Cleveland club was known at the “Naps”.
Lajoie captured four (or maybe five – depending upon how you look at the 1910 batting race) batting titles, won the first triple crown, and hit .426 in 1901, the highest mark of the modern era. He was also a slick fielder, leading the league several times in put outs, assists, double-plays, and fielding percentage. Also, the SABR biography reports, on three separate occasions in the 1899 season, “he managed to literally tear the cover off the ball.” I’d like to know more about that.
Good game, Napoleon.