Julio Franco’s professional baseball career has always amazed me. I mean, the guy didn’t retire from pro ball, albeit overseas, until he was 57-years-old. Of course, at Cream City Central, we’re a sports page dedicated to interesting Wisconsin sports stories, so you may be wondering why am I talking about Julio Franco? Frankly, it’s because I was today years old when I learned he played for the Milwaukee Brewers.
In 1997, Franco was granted his release mid-season by the Cleveland Indians, and the Brewers saw this as an opportunity to bolster their outfield depth. With the Brewers, Franco played in 42 games and registered 177 plate appearances. He batted .241, which for Franco’s standards, was pretty low but he still had an incredible OBP of .373. He also added 4 home runs, 19 RBIs, 7 stolen bases, and 22 runs. The Brewers did not re-sign Franco after the 1997 season and he didn’t find constant work in the major until the 2002 season with the Braves.
When I learned Julio Franco played for the Brewers, I immediately went to his baseball-reference page because, well, it’s Julio Franco and he has an awesome baseball-reference page. To my surprise, I saw that Franco has not been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This actually made me upset because Julio Franco should definitely be in the baseball Hall of Fame not just because of his accomplishments as one of the oldest players in history but because throughout his career he accumulated some mind blowing stats.
Julio Franco’s MLB career lasted from 1982 through 2007. He recorded 2,507 hits, 1,285 runs, 1,194 RBIs, 407 doubles, 281 stolen bases, and 173 home runs. He ended up with an outstanding career batting average of .298 with an OBP of .365. When it comes to how his numbers compare to other Hall of Famers, it’s actually remarkable. Franco has more career hits than Ted Simmons, Ernie Banks, and Reggie Jackson. He has scored more runs than Carlton Fisk, Ozzie Smith, Harmon Killebrew and registered more RBIs than Craig Biggio, Roberto Alomar and Tony Gwynn. Julio Franco has hit more doubles than Ryne Sandberg, Johnny Bench, and Joe DiMaggio, which is just incredible company to be in. Finally, when it comes to Franco’s career .298 batting average, this is better than Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez, and Al Kaline. It’s crazy how Franco has such a good career batting average considering he played until he was 48 years-old.
Speaking of 48, when Franco played for the New York Mets as an everyday player, he became the MLBs oldest starting position player of all-time. At 48, he also became the oldest player to ever hit a home run in a game. One of Franco’s most ridiculous longevity stats is, according to MLB.com writer Matt Monagan, Franco was the only active player to face a pitcher who also faced Ted Williams.
Throughout his career, Julio Franco won 5 Silver Slugger Awards, made 3 All-Star games, won 1 batting title, and won 1 All-Star game MVP over Sandy Alomar, Wade Boggs, and Dennis Eckersley. The best stretch of Franco’s career came from 1984 through 1997 when he was considered one of the league’s best outfielders/infielders. He was even considered one of the best defenders in the league during that time. That’s a very long time to be thought of as one of the best.
The most indicative stat, the one that I think should put Franco into the Hall is that throughout his entire professional career, where he spent time in the MLB, Minors, Mexican League, Japanese Nippon League, Dominican Winter League, South Korean League, and United Baseball League, Franco had over 4,000 career hits. By having over 4,000 career hits he joins only 7 other player all-time on this list. The 7 players include Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Derek Jeter, Ichiro, and Jigger Statz. The only players on that list that aren’t in the Hall of Fame are Pete Rose, for obvious reasons, and Jigger Statz.
If you take the numbers out of it, considering Julio Franco played in the MLB until he was 48 and played in professional leagues until 57, that should be mind blowing enough to put him in the Hall. Now, when you add the numbers, especially with how they stack up against other Hall of Famers, Franco should easily be in the Hall of Fame. So why isn’t he? I don’t know. However, I can’t wait for the day when former BREWER, Julio Franco, rightfully makes the Baseball Hall of Fame.