Nothing But Balls
Sports From a Different Perspective…

What A Career: The Long and Winding Road for Julio Franco

In 2004, I was fortunate enough to get tickets diresctly behind the Atlanta Braves dugout, at PNC Park for a Pirates game. They are by far the best seats I have ever had at a professional sports event. Towards the far side of the dugout from home plate, a group of three players and one coach congregated to watch the game. Upon the top step were star third baseman Chipper Jones, Backup catcher Eddie Perez, and Utility player Julio Franco. Franco, who was well past the twilight of his career was in excellent shape. In fact, I am pretty sure his arms were as big as my head in circumference. In about the 7th inning the kid behind me asked “Mr. Franco” for a ball, and he willingly grabbed a ball and tossed it to him. About the same time, Chipper was at bat and hit a long fly ball to right field. Upon being caught, I said loudly, so it could be heard,  “Eddie would have had it.” Jokingly saying this, I am not sure that Perez has any home runs in his career. Still through all of this, the most impressive site was the 44 year old ballplayer and his ripped physique.

The oldest position player to ever play in Major League Baseball was designated for Assignment by the Mets on July 12th, 2007, most likely ending Julio Franco’s illustrious career. In fact, he may be the best ballplayer, that the average fan does not know. Even if they did, most likely it would be because of his longevity and not because of his career.

It all began for Franco with the Phillies in 1981 at shortstop. As a top prospect, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians along with four other players for Von Hayes. In 1982, Franco finished second in Rookie of the Year voting posting solid numbers. He hit .273 with 80 runs batted in and .306 on base percentage that year. He then went on to win four consecutive silver slugger awards, given to the best hitter at his position, from 1988 to 1991. Also from 1989 to 1991 the second baseman made the all star roster, as a Texas Ranger, and in 1990, when he knocked in two runs to win the game, he was elected Most Valuable Player in that game.

His best season came in 1991 finishing as the American League Batting Champion, batting .341. However, after his career season the numbers slipped. He then rebounded in the 1993 season and again in 1994 when he won his fifth and last silver slugger, batting .319 on pace for 100 RBI’s and hit 20 home runs. The season was cut short becuase of the strike, which is when Franco made his first stint in Japan, in which he had an excellent season, winning a fielding award. In 1996 he was back on a Major League roster, but got injured and after a sub-par season he was once again in Japan.

In 2000 he was playing in the Mexican league for the Devil Rays and then was signed in 2001 by Julio Franco to be an utility player for the Atlanta Braves. Upon this, he began to break records for being the oldest position player to do many things. In 2006 and 2007, playing with the Mets, Franco became the oldest player to hit a grand slam, steal a base, and pinch run.

These acheivements seem to overshadow his career numbers which makes him stand out as the best hitter from el Rupublica Dominicana. In the history of the Majors, he obtained 2,576 hits, the most among dominican players, as well as 1,186 RBI’s, 173 home runs, and 281 stolen bases. Also, Franco shares the destinction of being one of three baseball players to have over 4,200 hits in all forms of professional baseball. That honor is also bestowed on greats, Ty Cobb and Pete Rose. Franco continues to be the best hitter ever from the Dominican, at least until Vladimir Guerrerro breaks all these records in his hall of fame career.

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3 Responses to “What A Career: The Long and Winding Road for Julio Franco”

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    Great Point, Excellent Post, Great Blog, Cool Info


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