When the American League was formed in 1901, Napoleon Lajoie quickly became its first major star. After having spent the previous 5 seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League, he jumped over to the AL upon its formation and promptly responded by batting .426 for the Philadelphia Athletics. He would compile a lifetime batting average of .338 while collecting 3,242 hits, and go into the Hall of Fame in 1937 as a member of its second induction class.
I completed this sketch card in June 2012.
10 random facts about Napoleon Lajoie:
- He won the 1901 American League Triple Crown.
- On May 23, 1901, he became the first big league player to be intentionally walked with the bases loaded.
- The season after debuting in the American League for the Athletics, he would be traded to the Cleveland Bluebirds (now known as the Indians). Lajoie was named team captain, and the team would change its name to the Cleveland Naps at the end of the 1902 season.
- He contracted sepsis from an untreated spike injury in 1905.
- Lajoie and Ty Cobb developed a professional rivalry on the field, as the 2 men were widely considered the best players of their day and were comparable in many regards.
- He was widely considered the best second baseman of his era.
- Among second basemen, Lajoie posted staggering career offensive numbers; in the history of baseball, only Rogers Hornsby and Eddie Collins can compare.
- At the time of Lajoie's retirement in 1916, his career total of 3,242 hits was the second best in Major League history, behind only Honus Wagner's total.
- He died in Daytona Beach, Florida in 1959, at the age of 84.
- In 1999, he ranked number 29 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players.