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A young Julio Franco leads Cleveland Indians

June 12, 2010
Julio Franco Cleveland Indians 1985 Topps No. 237

Julio Franco Cleveland Indians 1985 Topps No. 237

More than two and-a-half decades before Julio Franco would become the oldest position player in Major League Baseball history, he was traded from the Philadelphia Phillies to the Cleveland Indians in a five-for-one player deal.

The aging Phillies with first baseman Pete Rose, third basemen Mike Schmidt and ace hurler Steve Carlton shipped Franco, Manny Trillo, George Vukovich, Jay Baller and Jerry Willard to Cleveland in exchange for highly touted prospect Von Hayes on December 9, 1982.

Franco with his long swing blossomed in the American League. He hit over .300 in every season from 1986 to 1989. He also averaged over 20 stolen bases per season from 1983 through 1991. When Franco switched from shortstop to second baseman in 1988, he won four straight Silver Slugger Awards.

Franco’s best years didn’t come until after he was traded to the Texas Rangers following the 1988 season in exchange for Pete O’Brien, Oddibe McDowell and Jerry Browne.

Julio Franco Cleveland Indians 1985 Topps No. 237 back

Julio Franco Cleveland Indians 1985 Topps No. 237 back

He was named to three straight all-star games from 1989-91. In the 1990 All-Star game, Franco came to bat in the seventh inning against Cincinnati Reds reliever Rob Dibble. Franco drove a 101 mph fastball to the right-center field fence for a double, scoring the only runs of the game.

In 1991, Franco had his only 200-hit season and won the American League batting title with a .341 average.

Following stints with the Chicago White Sox and the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japanese Pacific League, Franco rejoined the Tribe for the 1996-97 seasons. In 1996, he batted .322 with 76 RBIs even in an injury-shortened season, and played in his first postseason appearance.

Franco was released by Cleveland in August 1997. He was quickly signed by the Milwaukee Brewers.

Following a couple of months with the Brewers, Franco went on to play for the Chiba Lotte Marine again, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and South Korea’s Samsung Lions.

Then in 2001 Franco’s success with Mexico City’s Angelopolis Tigers opened the way for his contract to be purchased by the Atlanta Braves at the age of 43-years old. He played for the Braves until 2005. The next two seasons were spent with the New York Mets. In 2007, Franco was the oldest active player in the major leagues at the age of 49. Later in the season, he was released and went back to Atlanta where he lasted just 13 games before being sent down to the minor leagues after being promised a September call up.

He is also 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

Franco began the 2008 season, his 31st in pro baseball, as a first baseman for the Quintana Roo Tigers in the Mexican League. On May 2, 2008 he announced his retirement from professional baseball.

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