Napoleon “Nap” Lajoie (1874-1959) is one of baseball’s all-time greats in many categories, including the much-vaunted best names department. The pronunciation of the name Lajoie is hard to track down with any certainty. I personally have heard “Lazaway” or “Lazshwa” the most. It is definitely not “La-joy” though. However you pronounce his name, Nap has some of the most incredible numbers in baseball history.
A second baseman by trade (a position generally known for its solid, but weak-hitting, defenders), Lajoie smacked 3,242 hits in his career, while amassing a .338 batting average and 1,504 career runs. As if that wasn’t enough, he tacked on a batting title and a Triple Crown for good measure. Lajoie was also only the second player in league history to be intentionally walked with the bases loaded (4 more players have done so since). The first to achieve the feat was Abner Dalrymple. The third – Del Bissonette. Now that’s a trio worthy of being mentioned on this blog! Lajoie is, not surprisingly, a member of baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Nap is also the only player that I know of to have a team named after him. Now that’s an incredible distinction! I can’t even recall any other team being named after any individual person, for that matter. That’s probably a good thing – I don’t think the New York Lettermans or the Los Angeles Fergusons would get over too well. But hey, the Concord Conans kind of has a nice ring to it! (Don’t even get me started on the Lexington Lenos). Anyway, back to seriousness. Due to the AL’s Cleveland team being stuck with a bunch of terrible – and unpopular – names (such as the Bluebirds and the Blues – ok, the Blues isn’t that bad but it’s hard to take a ball club seriously with the name Bluebirds!), a newspaper conducted a naming contest for the team. “Naps” was chosen as the winner, obviously due to the team’s star player being – of course – Nap Lajoie. The Cleveland Naps are now better known as the Cleveland Indians.
To close, I’d like to quote an Ogden Nash poem about Lajoie. This is part of Nash’s excellent Line-Up for Yesterday series:
“L is for Lajoie,
Whom Clevelanders love,
With glue in his glove.”
You know you’re legit when Ogden Nash writes a poem about you. Oh yeah, and batting .426 in a season doesn’t hurt either.