It’s a sad day around the world of baseball as the ageless wonder, Julio Franco has announced his retirement after 23 seasons in the majors and almost 30 years in professional baseball around the world. Franco, who holds the record as the oldest player to hit a home run in the big leagues, retires ostensibly at the age of 49, he announced in a statement from Mexico where he was currently playing.
Franco’s amazing career took him around the majors, playing for 7 teams, as well as several years in Japan, South Korea, the Dominican and Mexican leagues. Originally coming up as a basestealing shortstop, stealing 32 bases in his first full season in 1983, Franco later transitioned as he aged to a (semi) useful corner infielder, even playing some third base last year with the Mets before they released him and he briefly was picked up by the Braves once more. During his career he was a three-time All-Star, a 4 time Silver Slugger winner and was the runner up for 1983 Rookie of the Year to the immortal Ron Kittle. At one time in his career Franco played at every position in the infield besides catcher and pitcher. In 1991, Franco bested Wade Boggs for the American League batting title hitting a robust .341.
From his wikipedia page, here are a list of some of the records he holds,
Franco is the oldest player ever to hit a grand slam, a pinch-hit home run, two home runs in one game, and to steal two bases in a game. On April 26, 2006, Franco became the second-oldest man in Major League history to steal a base, behind only Arlie Latham, who accomplished the feat in a token appearance at age 49 with the New York Giants in 1909. On July 29, 2006, against the Atlanta Braves, Julio Franco became the oldest player ever to pinch run, when he came in for Carlos Delgado after Delgado was hit by pitch. On September 19, 2006, a day after the Mets clinched the division title, Franco started at third base in a game against the Florida Marlins. This was Franco’s first start at the position since his rookie year, an astonishing 24 years between starts at the position.
Famous for his legendary workout routines and eating a raw egg every morning, Franco ends up with 2586 MLB hits and a combined total of over 4200 hits counting his stints in South Korea, Mexico, Japan and the Dominican, joining Pete Rose and Ty Cobb as the only players to ever have that many combined hits in professional baseball history.
Now that he is retired, I just have one simple request, for years there have been rumor after rumor that Franco’s listed age was not his actual age, that in fact he was older than he admitted. When he came up as a young prospect this wasn’t such a big deal, but now that he’s retiring, it is time for him to come clean. I want to truly marvel at this man, and he should get his due. If he truly has been hiding his true age and he is in his mid 50s (as I suspect) then he should be truly celebrated for being the oldest player in the history of the game. If he was able to play this game at such an age than he is a marvel and deserves the recognition therein.
“It was the hardest decision in my life,” Franco said in an interview published Saturday in the Mexican Sports Daily Record. “I always said I would be the first one to know the exact moment. I think the numbers speak for themselves, the production speaks and this is the right moment. I understand that my time has passed, and the great men and athletes know when to say enough.”
Indeed and you are just such a great man. You will be missed Julio, you were a constant for my entire life as a professional baseball player and have accomplished some incredible feats across the years. So congratulations on a wonderful career and a life seemingly well-lived, long live Julio Franco!