Nap Lajoie was one of baseball’s most famous faces from the moment he broke into the league as a 21-year-old in 1896.
He was so feared offensively that, prior to joining Cleveland, Lajoie became the first player to be intentionally walked with the bases loaded in 1901. Nicknamed “The Franchman”, Lajoie helped the Cleveland Bronchos draw 10,000 fans in his first game at League Park on June 4, 1902. He joined the team at 11-24 and led the Bronchos to a 69-67 season, good for fifth in the American League, for the franchise’s first winning record in the AL. Lajoie led all players with a .378 record and led all AL players after just one season in the league.
Lajoie continued to hit throughout his time in Cleveland,
He has been described as the first superstar in AL history and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1937. batting .339/.389/.452 over 13 seasons. He quite literally became the face of the franchise, as the team renamed itself after him — becoming the “Naps.” He hit over .300 in ten of his 13 seasons and led the league in hits, doubles and batting average on three separate occasions. Lajoie was a player-manager for the Naps from 1905-09 but resigned following the 1909 season to concentrate more on playing.
“Lajoie glides toward the ball and gathers it in nonchalantly, as if picking fruit.” -New York newspaper
His career batting average and RBI totals still rank third all-time in Indians history, but Lajoie was as special defensively as he was at the plate. One New York newspaper once wrote, “Lajoie glides toward the ball and gathers it in nonchalantly, as if picking fruit.”
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1937.
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