Some guys just want to play ball. Julio Franco is one of those guys.
Baseball site “Cut 4” is reporting that the 56 year-old Franco has signed to manage and play this year with the Million Stars of Japan’s semi-pro Baseball Challenge League. Seems we just can’t keep Julio out of the lineup, no matter how long in the tooth he gets.
Franco was born in Hato Mayor, Dominican Republic, in the middle of Dwight Eisenhower’s second term as president. His major league debut came on April 23 of 1982 when he played shortstop for the Philadelphia Phillies. His last game in the bigs came in September of 2007 with the Braves when Franco was 49 years old, well past retirement age, even for knuckle-ball pitchers. He became the oldest regularly playing position player in Major League history.
Franco, an infielder, put up good numbers during his baseball prime. Over his 23 years with seven different big league clubs he collected 2,586 hits, 173 of them dingers, and drove in 1,194. He finished with a lifetime batting average of .298. His best year was ’91 when he hit .341 for the Texas Rangers and was the American League batting champion. Franco hit .300 or better nine times, his last being .309 in 125 games in 2004 at the age of 46.
Franco’s distinguished 23-year Major League career was punctuated by two seasons with the Lotte Marines in Japan. Last summer Franco went nine for 27 as player/manager of the Fort Worth Cats in an independent league. Since the end of his Major League career, Franco has played in Mexico, Japan, and Korea. Start a baseball game anywhere on the globe and Julio is likely to show up. With his cleats.
Either Julio Franco really loves to play baseball, or he has an aversion to legitimate work. In either case, I’m glad he’s still playing. God bless him. Somebody has to hit behind Minnie Minoso.
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