When you think of Mets players who grew up in Brooklyn? Well there was John Cangelosi and Lee Mazzilli, Shawon Dunston and Willie Randolph. Joe Torre and who else … his name is escaping me . Oh yeah he is number 26 on the list of the top 50 Mets of all time -he was the Mets closer from 1990 -’2004 and he was the team’s captain for the better part of his tenure there. . You know who I’m talking about – Brooklyn’s finest , John Franco !!!
John Franco was born in Brooklyn New York on September 17, 1960. as a kid, John used to play baseball on the streets of his Bensonhurst neighborhood, while his father, Joe worked as a garbage man with the New York Department of Sanitation. As a teenager, John attended Lafayette High School ( the school that you see in the ending credits of Welcome Back Kotter), where he was a star pitcher. After high school, John would attend St. Johns University in Queens. In his freshman year he threw two no hitters.
In 1981, John was selected in the fifth round of the 1981 amateur draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Two years later Franco would be traded to the Cincinnati Reds along with Brett Wise for infielder, Rafael Landestoy. The Reds got the better end of that deal because Franco turned into a premier closer, while Landestoy would end up retiring after one year wth the Dodgers. Franco made his Major League debut with the Reds in April of ’84.
John would spend six seasons with the Reds as their closer. In 1988 he won the National League Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award after a posting a record of 6-6 with 39 saves and a ERA of 1.57.
On December 6, 1989, John was traded to the Mets – the team that he grew up rooting for. John , along with minor league outfielder, Don Brown to the Mets for reliever Randy Myers ( who would for a period would be one of the most dominant closers in the game ) and pitching prospect, Kip Gross.
John was not a pitcher who dominated opposing batters with a blazing fastball. Instead he relied on his breaking pitches as well as his guts and guile. In 1990, John would win his second Rolaids Fireman of the year award, saving 3 games and finishing with a ERA of 2.93. During his years with the Mets he paid tribute to his father by wearing a orange DSNY t-shirt underneath his jersey.
In 1999 after suffering from a arm injury , he ceded his closer role to the recently acquired Armando Benitez.
He would reach the post season with the Mets in both ’99 and ’00. He pitched well in the ’99 post season, but he had a brutal ERA of 6.75 in the ’00 NLCS.
In the ’00 Subway Series against the Yankees he allowed no runs in 3.1 innings, but the Mets still fell to the cross town team in five games.
John would remain with the Mets until the end of the 2004 season when the Mets didn’t offer him a contract.
That January, John signed one year deal with the Astros. He was 44, and he was the oldest active pitcher in Major League Baseball. Franco would not last long with the Astros, and was designated for assignment that July. He was subsequently released, and he retired immediately.
Since his retirement in 2005 , John has been a guest analyst for Mets games on SNY. He was on hand for the closing ceremonies for Shea Stadium in 2008.
This past month it was revealed that he received less than five percent of the vote for the Hall of fame. He will not be on any future ballots.
In his 14 year Mets career, John had amassed a record of 48-56 with a 3.10 ERA, with 276 saves. He holds the all time saves for a left handed closer, and is currently ranked fourth on the all time saves list.
Tomorrow we will profile one of the most carefree players to ever to wear the blue and Orange.
And with that said…. HERE COMES THE INFAMY !!!
Mets alumni celebrating a birthday today include :
Reserve third baseman from the ’82 season, Tom Veryzer is 58 (1953) .
Back up infielder from the ’92 team, Steve Springer is 50 (1961) .
Reserve first baseman from the ’05 team, Brian Daubach is 39 (1972) .
The New York Mets traded minor league catcher, and third base prospect, Randy Rogers, to the Houston Astros for catcher, Bruce Bochy on February 11, 1981.After retiring from baseball, Bochy would go on to become a successful manager with both the San Diego Padres and last years World Series Champs, The San Francisco Giants
The New York Mets signed free agent utility infielder Jay Bell on February 11, 2003.
The New York Mets signed free agent middle reliever, Ricky Bottalico on February 11, 2004.
The New York Mets signed free agent middle reliever, Tony Armas Jr. of the Pittsburgh Pirates on February 11, 2008.
The New York Mets signed free agent starter / relief pitcher, Hisanori Takahashi on February 11, 2010. Taka was one of the brighter spots of last season. Unfortunately Omar Minaya signed him to a one year contract and he bolted to the Angels when he didn’t get a acceptable contract offer from the Mets.
And while you keep reminding yourself that there is less than a week until pitchers and catchers , just remember that there are just 49 Don Aase days until the Mets open their 2011 season against the Florida Marlins in Miami and only 56 more days until the Mets 2011 home opener against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field.
Mo Vaughn misses the smell of jock straps !!!