Napoleon Lajoie Leaves Cleveland
Larry “Napoleon” Lajoie was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island September 5, 1874. Lajoie was forced to work in a textile mill to support his family and received littler formal education. He also began playing semi-professional baseball for the local Woonsocket team under the alias “Sandy”, because his parents did not approve of their son playing baseball. “When I told my father I had decided to take the job he was very angry. He shouted that ball players were bums and that nobody respected them, but I was determined to give it a try at least one season,” In 1896 Lajoie joined the Class B New England League’s Fall River Indians as a center fielder, first baseman and catcher. He recorded 163 hits in 80 games, and led the team in batting average, doubles, triples, home runs and hits.
Lajoie was signed to the Philadelphia Phillies of the National League(NL) in 1896. The new, upstart American League (AL) was looking to rival the supremacy of the NL and in 1901, Lajoie and dozens of former NL players joined the AL. National League clubs contested the legality of contracts signed by players who jumped to the other league but eventually, Lajoie was allowed to play for Connie Mack’s Athletics(AL). Lajoie set the all-time American League single-season mark for the highest batting average (.426). One year later, Lajoie went to the Cleveland Bronchos where he has played the past 13 seasons. Lajoie’s popularity led to locals electing to change the club’s team name from Bronchos to Napoleons (“Naps” for short).
On January 5, 1915 Napoleon Lajoie rejoined the Philadelphia Athletics leaving the Cleveland team that bears his name. The Cleveland Naps owner promises to rename the team as soon as possible.