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John Anthony Franco (born September 17, 1960) is a former Major League Baseball left-handed relief pitcher. During a 22-year baseball career spanning 1984–2005, he pitched for three different National League teams, the Cincinnati Reds, New York Mets, and Houston Astros. His 1,119 career games pitched is a National League record, and ranks fourth in major league history. His 424 career saves ranks fifth all-time in major league history (ranking second when he retired), and remains the most by a left-hander. For 15 of his 22 seasons, he played for the New York Mets, serving as team captain in his final years with the team.
Franco on September 28, 2008, the final game at Shea Stadium
|Born: September 17, 1960|
Brooklyn, New York
|April 24, 1984, for the Cincinnati Reds|
|Last MLB appearance|
|July 1, 2005, for the Houston Astros|
|Earned run average||2.89|
|Career highlights and awards|
Franco grew up in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn. His father, Jim Franco, was a New York City Department of Sanitation worker who encouraged his son's baseball aspirations; Franco honored his father by wearing an orange Sanitation Department work-shirt under his jersey. John graduated from Lafayette High School in Brooklyn and St. John's University in Queens, where he pitched two no-hitters in his freshman year.
John is married to his high school sweetheart, Rose, whom he has known since he was 17. They have three children: J.J., Nicole and Ella.
Throughout his career, Franco supplied tickets to members of the Bonnano crime family of the American Mafia, and on one occasion Canadian organized crime figures, according to FBI documents made public in 2004. There was no suggestion that he committed any crimes, but his behavior was a violation of Major League Baseball rules forbidding contact with known criminals.
Franco was originally selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 8, 1981 in the 5th round of the amateur draft. Before reaching the major leagues, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds on May 9, 1983 with Brett Wise for Rafael Landestoy. Landestoy batted under .200 before retiring the following year while Franco was a star reliever for much of the next two decades. Franco debuted with the Reds on April 24, 1984. Franco was a traditional relief pitcher with a "90-mph fastball and a change-up that breaks away from a righthanded batter like a screwball."
Throughout his six seasons with the Reds, Franco was a successful closer, winning the National League Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award in 1988. He helped the Reds finish second four seasons in a row (1985–1988).
On December 6, 1989, at the age of 29, he was traded with Don Brown to the Mets for Randy Myers and Kip Gross. He remained with the Mets organization until the end of the 2004 season. During his time with the Mets, he won the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award in 1990, became team captain, and remained the closer until 1999, when he moved to a setup role for new closer Armando Benítez. He led the league in saves for the 1988, 1990, and 1994 seasons. He reached the postseason for the first time in 1999 and the World Series in 2000.
On May 11, 1996, in a game against the Chicago Cubs, the Mets held "John Franco Day" to celebrate his 300th career save. In the fifth inning, a brawl that cleared both benches and bullpens resulted in Franco being ejected from the game, along with eight other players.
Injuries caused Franco to miss the 2002 baseball season, but he made a successful recovery from surgery and returned in June 2003. He signed a one-year contract for the 2004 season. He finished with a 2-7 record with 36 strikeouts and a 5.28 ERA in 46 innings.
In January 2005, he was signed to a one-year deal with the Astros, at the age of 44, making him at that time the oldest active pitcher in Major League Baseball. On July 1, 2005, Franco was designated for assignment, and he was subsequently released, which proved to be the end of his baseball career.
Franco was inducted into the Staten Island Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.
Franco has been inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame.
- Pitching record: 90-87
- Saves: 424, fifth most in major league history behind, Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, Lee Smith and Francisco Rodríguez, and the most for any left-handed pitcher.
- Strikeouts: 975
- ERA: 2.89
- Innings pitched: 1245⅔
- Games pitched: 1119
- 4-time All-Star (1986, 1987, 1989, 1990)
- 3-time NL Save Leader (1988, 1990, 1993)
- Postseason record: 2-0, one save, 1.88 ERA in 15 postseason appearances
- New York Mets 3rd team captain (2001–2004)
- Franco, John. "Subject". Italian American Podcast. Italian American Podcast. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
- "A Hometown Hero". Sports Illustrated. May 15, 1989. Archived from the original on December 31, 2013. Retrieved March 8, 2012.
- "Mets induct John Franco into team's Hall of Fame". Archived from the original on June 8, 2012. Retrieved March 1, 2015.
- "Mobster Told F.B.I. Franco Gave Him Tickets, Lee Jenkins & William Rashbaum, NY Times 29 October 2004
- "Feds: Mets' Franco Was a Mob Pal," John Marzulli, NY Daily News, 29 October 2004,
- "Mets' Great Franco Got Chummy With Mob," Jerry Capeci, NY Sun 28 October 2004
- "Video: John Franco on Mets Hot Stove". Retrieved January 28, 2012.
- Miller, Steven. "On Sunday, John Franco became the 26th member of the Mets Hall of Fame in a pregame ceremony. | mets.com". Newyork.mets.mlb.com. Retrieved 2016-03-01.