John Franco – 1985 Topps Sans ‘Stache
Before John Franco returned to his hometown to pitch for the New York Mets and grew his trademark mustache he made a name for himself in Cincinnati as one of baseball’s top closers.
Once Franco, made it onto the Reds big league roster in 1984, he shared the closer duties with Ted Power, who rotated between the starting rotation and the closer role. According to the RedLeg Nation blog, Franco benefited from manager Pete Rose’s switch to the modern usage one-inning usage pattern for the team’s closer.
Franco went 12-3 in 1985 and recorded 12 saves in 67 games, while Power had 27 saves. The following season with Power in the starting rotation Franco began to cement himself as one of the game’s top closers. He secured 29 saves in 1986 and 32 in 1987.
Franco recorded a career high 39 saves in 1988. For his career, he recorded 424 saves which is fourth all-time behind Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera and Lee Smith and the most for any left-handed pitcher.
Throughout his six seasons with the Reds, Franco was tabbed as an National League All-Star three times (1986-87, 1989) and won the National League Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award in 1988.
Franco is eligible to be enshrined into the baseball hall of fame in 2011. The only stiff competition he faces from other players in their first year of eligibility is Houston Astros infielder Jeff Bagwell.