100 Greatest Phillies: 36 – Nap Lajoie

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Thu, February 19, 2009 04:00 PM | Comments: 17
100 Greatest Phillies, Posts

Nap Lajoie
Second Baseman

Career w/Phillies: .344 AVG / 32 HR / 458 RBI / 87 SB

Napoleon Lajoie. One of the greats. Maybe the greatest second baseman ever. And he began his career as a Phillie. His Phillies career wasn’t too shabby, either, as he broke in at age 21 and hit .326 in limited time. His big years started in 1897, when he hit .361 and drove in 127 at age 22. The next season he again drove in 127, but hit a pedestrian .324. Though his power would dissipate, his slick hitting would continue, as he’d score a .378 and .337 averages in his final two Phillies seasons. Also a base thief, he accumulated 20 or more steals three times. He was among league leaders in home runs, hits and doubles as a Phillie, before deciding to play for the Athletics in response to a National League salary cap. Playing for the other Philly team he hit .426 (an AL record) in 1901. After that unreal season, the Phillies obtained an injunction to bar Lajoie to play for another team except the Phillies. But the injunction was only valid in Pennsylvania, so Lajoie was sold to the Cleveland franchise, who became popular because of Lajoie. Without Nap, the Cleveland Indians may have never happened.

Comment: Darn. Thanks to a salary cap, the Phillies went without potentially its greatest player ever. Instead, the Phils got a few amazing years out of baseball’s first star. Because of his otherworldly play, Lajoie deserves respectful placement on the list.

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About Tim Malcolm

Tim Malcolm has written 1947 articles on Phillies Nation.

  • Posts: 0 Jim

    Great post and review. His 1901 year was also a Triple Crown.

    So popular was he in Cleveland that the team changed its name from the Bronchos to the Naps a year after his arrival. The team name stuck until they changed it to the current Indians. I know that has nothing to do wiht his philly career or philadelphia in general, its just cool. Maybe we should change the phils name to the Cole Trains or something

  • Posts: 0 Mark

    What a player. Man I remember going to the games and watching this guy play. He played with passion. I even got his autograph. Class act.

  • Posts: 0 Georgie

    Mark, are you time-traveling with Dutch? Let me know if you find the “Lost” island.

  • Posts: 0 Mark

    Yes, I have. Jack is going back.

  • Posts: 0 Rick

    Great post Tim! Very interesting! We’re really getting into “GREATS” territory now.

  • Posts: 1650 Tim Malcolm

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    Yeah. From like 40 on out it’s a veritable who’s who of greats.

  • Posts: 0 eric

    I got to cover some of the old ballfields in the Brewerytown section for a piece I did as a senior at Temple last year. While there isn’t much left of the fields, there were a few old timers who had parents that were Phils fans in Nap’s time. It was very cool talking to them, hearing how players lived close to the fields, rode horse and buggy to the games and really advanced the game so early.

  • Posts: 579 Brian Michael

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    Since the injunction was only valid in PA, Nap was not allowed to even play in the state. When his teams traveled there, he stayed at home or went fishing in Florida.

  • Posts: 0 Sean P.

    Found this story on wikipedia… so not sure if its totally true, but still very interesting.

    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 went for a triple and another batted ball landed for a cleanly hit single, Lajoie had six subsequent “hits” – bunt singles dropped in front of third baseman Red Corriden, who was playing closer to shallow right field on orders of manager Jack O’Connor. Lajoie also laid down a seventh 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.

    Nap Lajoie on a 1911 American Tobacco Company baseball card.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 single game twice in his statistics, 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.

  • Posts: 0 mets09

    I think you guys may have the future greatest second basemen ever playing now.

  • Posts: 0 Griffin

    Sean P, thanks for the story. Good stuff.

    mets09, you may be right, we’ll have to wait and see how many years Utley plays at 2B.

  • Posts: 0 Tom G

    Problem with the story…a third basemen playing closer to right field…does the story mean to say, Left?

  • Posts: 0 Kevin Millwood

    Where am I on this list?

  • Posts: 0 Joel

    One of the all-time greats. Even was in the first class elected to the hall fo fame.

  • Posts: 0 Joe O'Phillie

    Lajoie just missed out on being a member of the first group in the Hall of fame. He came 6th on votes behing the initial 5 of Cobb, Ruth, Wagner, Mathewson and Johnson. Pretty good company, huh?

  • Posts: 0 Bruce

    It will be most interesting to see the remaining list (35) of “greatest Phillies” who made greater contributions for the team than HOF Lajoie.

  • Posts: 0 Chuck P

    Lajoie only played 5 seasons as a Phillie and he deserves to be on the list but not higher than this. Certainly one of the greatest in Indians’ history. I have a tough time ranking Lajoie higher than other lifers… but that’s my years’ of service bias showing (Puddin’ Head). I think that guys who were loyal to the franchise are more deserving than guys that left for a payday. Lajoie fits that bill…

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