Napoleon Lajoie (1874-1959)
Philadelphia Phillies 1896-1900
Philadelphia Athletics 1901-1902; 1915-1916
Cleveland Naps 1902-1914
Career WAR: 107.4
Best Season: 1904 .376/.413/.546/.959 203 OPS+ 49 2B 15 3B 102 RBI 8.6 WAR
Known For: One of the best all-around players of his era, and on the short list of best second basemen of all time. He was the American League’s first triple crown winner. The active only player in baseball history to have a team named after him.
The Bad: From his SABR Bio:
During his career, Lajoie also had some famous run-ins with umpires. In 1904 he was suspended for throwing chewing tobacco into umpire Frank Dwyer’s eye. After one ejection, Lajoie, who stubbornly refused to leave the bench, had to be escorted from the park by police. And in 1903, Nap became so infuriated by an umpire’s decision to use a blackened ball that he picked up the sphere and threw it over the grandstand, resulting in a forfeit.
“He plays so naturally and so easily it looks like lack of effort. Larry’s reach is so long and he’s fast as lightning, and to throw to at second base he is ideal. All the catchers who’ve played with him say he is the easiest man to throw to in the game today. High, low, wide — he is sure of everything.” – Connie Mack
Importance beyond numbers: It is said that Lajoie may have single-handedly brought legitimacy to the new American League when he jumped from the Phillies to the A’s in 1901. The reason he jumped: after being assured that he and teammate (and fellow H-B HOF’er) Ed Delahanty were making the same salary, Lajoie saw one of Big Ed’s checks and discovered he was making about $400 less. The Phillies ultimately obtained an injunction that stated the only team Nap could play for in Pennsylvania. He responded by signing with Cleveland.
Innovator of baseball uniforms: Lajoie broke from the norm of his fellow players and purchased a new mitt prior to each season. His most important contribution to the aesthetic of the game, however, was the league rule enacted when Nap almost had to have his leg amputated due to an infection caused by the blue dye in his socks. So began use of white sanitary socks under the team-colored socks.
WGOM Voter Comments:
In 1912, Nap Lajoie batted .368 and finished in fourth place., 41 points behind Ty Cobb. Crazy – davidwatts