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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
Napoleon Lajoie: King of Ballplayers
Format: Paperback|Change
Price:$29.95+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

on August 20, 2014
This book is better than a great many similar volumes I have read. Baseball history is a rich ground for scholarly research and exposition, and because the game has been (as it largely continues to be) such a fecund American cultural barometer and unifying cultural strand, baseball history books are more than just a pleasant read when they are done well.

This book is done well, without becoming overly dry or scholarly; spouting endless facts and references that would be more apropos in an encyclopedia or bibliography. While there is plenty of support and good photographs, the book also stands well just as a read; I feel that you really get to know Lajoie as a person. I had been well aware of him statistically before; I hadn't been aware of some of his foibles, such as the early career discipline problems and drunkenness with Ed Delahanty, so I really do have a better picture of him outside of the statistics.

Put shortly, this is a fun, informative, factual book to read, and well worth the money.
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on November 4, 2014
Lajoie is kind of a forgotten ballplayer for a number of reasons, most of which are covered in this excellent biography. He never made it to the World Series or even came very close during his playing career. He was a quiet leader for the most part, unlike some of his more angry contemporaries like John McGraw, Ty Cobb, or Johnny Evers. He had no memorable nickname like some of his peers. His name was, and still is, hard to pronounce correctly. His career also ended with the horrible Philadelphia Athletics in 1915/16, probably one of the worst major league squads of the deadball era. Despite all of this Lajoie was an outstanding ballplayer, an offensive and defensive giant. He played a roving second base and often ticked off his right fielder, future Hall of Famer Elmer Flick, because he roamed so deeply into right field to make plays. He was the third ballplayer to reach the 3000 hit mark after Cap Anson and Honus Wagner.
The biography also gives insight into other players of the era; Lajoie's teammates and competitors. This was a huge transitional period in baseball and Lajoie was in the middle of many of the developments of the time. He was one of the first and most important players to jump from the National League to the brand new American League in 1901. The ongoing court case from that move is covered in detail. He and Ty Cobb were the two finalists in the controversial 1910 Chalmers Automobile batting championship.
I recommend this book if you enjoy reading about this period in baseball history. Lajoie was an interesting character and well worth rediscovering. I also strongly urge you to also look at Johnny Evers: A Baseball Life by Dennis Snelling and Norman Macht's two volume biography of Connie Mack. These are some of the best recently published books about baseball's deadball era.
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on February 23, 2017
Thoroughly enjoyed this well written history of one of the greatest baseball players of all time and also of the early decades of modern baseball. LaJoie was a phenomenal all around position player, maybe the greatest second baseman of all time, even including Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins and Joe Morgan. He received substantially more votes in the 1936 and 1937 Hall of Fame balloting than Hornsby. LaJoie was generally regarded by players and fans alike as the greatest player of his era, maybe rivaled only by Honus Wagner, the greatest in the other league. Lajoie was the best fielder as well as the best hitter and he was also a great base runner. His lifetime batting average over 21 seasons was ,338, he had over 3200 hits, including 163 triples and 657 doubles. He stole 380 bases. He hit .426 one year and over .380 a couple of other seasons. He scored over 1500 runs and was one shy of 1600 runs batted in. He had at least 3 batting championships and regularly led the League in slugging. Shoeless Joe Jackson said LaJoie was the greatest hit-and-run hitter. LaJoie was so dominant and so well liked that the Cleveland team was named the Cleveland Naps during LaJoie's career with Cleveland. The writing and research are excellent and I highly recommend this book especially for any baseball fans. gcm
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on July 26, 2017
Writing on Lajoie are hard to find. So few books available. David Fleitz provided great information from birth to his passing. This is an enjoyable read and being an Cleveland fan, is a must for any Tribe fan.
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on February 9, 2014
If you like to read about the early history of the American League and its struggles to compete with the National League - you'll love this well written book. Napoleon Lajoie was not only one of the best baseball players of all time, but perhaps the biggest star the new American League was able to sign from the National League. Nap is still regarded as one of the greatest hitters of all time.
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on July 24, 2013
"Larry" Lajoie was a French-Canadian American from New England who was, along with Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb, one of baseball's greatest star in the era just before WW1. He was big, strong and fast man who set the standard for all second baseman's who came after him. The winner of 3 American League batting titles, the "Great" Napoleon lost his fourth by a matter of a few disputed decimal points to Cobb after batting .384. Read this book and relive the glory years of the deadball era in baseball.
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on August 8, 2013
This book is informative about his playing style, etc., but I would like to have seen more interviews with family members or others to get a picture of the man himself. I know he didn't have children, but did have nephews/nieces who might have contributed memories/stories about Nap. Overall, definitely worth reading.
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on June 4, 2014
David Flietz, biographer of Cap Anson and Joe Jackson, begins this first full-length biography of Napoleon Lajoie by citing Total Baseball and Baseball Rating, which rate Lajoie the greatest and second greatest player respectively of all-time. After compiling Lajoie’s life, the author concludes that he was the greatest player of the era dating from 1896 to 1913, eluding that he was not near the greatest of all time. After all, Lajoie was injury prong, only playing in 140 or more games five times out of a 21-year career and driving in 100 or more runs four times. He also never came close to equaling the number of battling titles won by Ty Cobb or Honus Wagner.
Lajoie was a natural born athlete—a powerful hitter and a graceful fielder at second base or wherever else he played on the diamond. His hitting philosophy was simple: swing at the first good pitch whether it is a strike or not. He was a notorious bad-ball hitter, even stepping over the plate (which is now illegal) to strike the pitch. He hated to walk, and did so less than any member of the 3,000-hit club. His fearsomeness as a batter led one manager to intentionally walk Lajoie with the bases loaded. It was better to give up one run than two, three, or four.
Of particular interest is Lajoie’s jump to the American League’s Philadelphia A’s of Connie Mack from the National League Philadelphia Phillies. While his presence in the American League helped legitimize the rival league, it led to a lengthy court battle over the reserve clause, which Lajoie won in the end, mainly because the two leagues made peace and the Phillies withdrew their injunction against him. In the interim, Lajoie moved to Cleveland, where, the author argues, he single handily saved that franchise from collapsing. He was so beloved there that the team’s nickname became the “Naps.” In his later years, he signed a guaranteed four-year contract with Cleveland that omitted both the reserve and the ten-day clauses.
Written in an engaging and fast-paced prose, the book contains numerous anecdotes about Lajoie’s career as well as other colorful figures of this era, men like Connie Mack, Joe Jackson, and Ed Delahanty. His time as Cleveland’s manager was neither a catastrophe nor a rousing success. It is hard for a naturally gifted player to become a successful manager, though a few have. Whiel playing for the Phillies he came under the influence of the hard-drinking Ed Delahanty and could have followed his friend’s path, but in the end he chose to live a quiet, private life off the field. The chapter on his year as player manager of the minor league Toronto team at age 42 is intriguing. The book is greatly enriched by the inclusion of a plethora of photographs, Lajoie’s career stats, and “Lajoie’s Nine Commandments of Hitting.”
I would have liked to see more information on his relationship with his wife, Myrtle, and assume from the author’s silence that the couple had no children. Also, the last 40 years of his life is covered in a mere seven pages.
This excellent biography, however, is not without flaws. On page 1, the author asserts that Lajoie had 145 RBIs in 1901 when the correct number is 125. 145 was the number of runs he scored that year. Second, endnote six in Chapter 3 appears on page 22, when it belongs on page 24. Third, when talking about the 1916 season, he writes on page 228 that the A’s won only 36 games, but two pagers later he asserts that they were victors 38 times. While authors make such mistakes, a good editor limits them. Also, almost all citations are for quotes, leaving the reader wondering where the other information is located in the event he or she wants to read further. These are minor points in an otherwise fine piece of scholarship.
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on July 5, 2014
As soon as this very interesting book arrived in the mail, my husband grabbed it and said he was so glad someone had finally written Nap Lajoie's story to celebrate his remarkable baseball career. He raved about the book, read me passages, and told me so many details of the book that I felt I was re-reading it when I was finally able to wrest it away from my spouse. Well-written and filled with excellent stats and stories, this book would even capture the interest of readers not as interested in baseball as my family. Lajoie may not have a bio pic I the works, but hopefully this book will introduce young fans to a legend who should be remembered with the other baseball greats.
A copy of this book was received in exchange for an honest review.
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on January 8, 2017
It's an absolute shame that Nap has not held in the consciousness of baseball fans through the years. Though I've lived my life in baseball and am a Cleveland fan, I was floored to learn of his importance beyond the Cleveland franchise. He may have been the most important player in influencing the two league set-up we take for granted.
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