In 1908, Cleveland’s American League team – then known as the Naps in honor of player-manager Napoleon Lajoie – came agonizingly close to the American League pennant, losing to the Tigers by a half-game because of a game Detroit had no interest in making up (the rule was changed in the offseason).
The following year, the Naps stumbled out of the gate, and 109 years ago this week, the team’s manager and namesake stepped aside.
On August 17, 1909, with the Naps sitting at 57-57 for the year in fourth place, Lajoie announced his resignation, which came as a surprise to owner Charles Somers and president John Kilfoyl, who hastened to say that Lajoie would remain a player for the team.
The New York Times reported that the team was riven with factionalism and infighting, which might have contributed to poor play, but the Plain Dealer said he was “a bigger man because of his resignation.”
In a very Cleveland-centric Hall of Fame vote, three former members of the American League franchise are elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America as part of the second class elected.