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Eight Degrees of Julio Franco
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Me and Julio Down By the BallYard
A Birthday Greeting for Julio Franco
Happy Birthday on August 23rd to Atlanta Braves 1st Baseman Julio Franco. Julio will reportedly (his actual age is subject to debate) turn 47 Tuesday and I decided to invite some special guests to the party.
Considering that Julio made his major league debut back in 1982, it’s easy to see how some youngsters of today might think he was around for ole Abner Doubleday’s first test run at inventing baseball. My 6 year old son Carson was shocked to find out that baseball was actually older than Julio. And it is – but not by much. In fact our guests today will show you that Julio goes back farther than you could ever imagine.
Our first guest would be the late Tug McGraw. Tug was coming to the close of his fine career in 1982 when the Phillies brought up the 23 year old Franco in late April. Julio hit .276 in 29 AB’s before Philly dealt him to Cleveland. Tug went 3-3 with a 4.31 ERA in 34 appearances that year.
If Tug were able to attend this bash, he might bring along his teammate from the 1965 Mets, Warren Spahn. The Hall of Fame lefty was struggling to the end of his playing days with a 4-12 record and a 4.36 ERA in 20 games. Spahn is best remembered for his days as a Brave where he burst upon the scene with a 21-10 record in 1947.
Spahn probably gained some valuable pitching insight from a teammate on the ’47 Braves named Si Johnson. Johnson was completing his second season after returning from World War II, and it was to be his final year. Johnson won 101 games in the big leagues, but lost 165 – so maybe Spahn just ignored his advice.
Johnson was a teammate of man with a story worth hearing. Wally Pipp was in his final season with the 1928 Reds when Johnson got a 3 game cup of coffee. Pipp is most famous for his headache that gave Lou Gehrig the chance to play that he did not relinquish for the next 2,130 games, but he had a solid career with a .281 career average and over 1900 hits.
In 1916, Pipp was in his second year as the regular 1st baseman for the Yankees, driving in 93 runs. Meanwhile a utility man named Roy Hartzell was struggling for playing time in what would be the final year of his ordinary career. Hartzell hit only .188 in 64 at bats, the worst since his early days in the league with the St. Louis Browns.
It was with the Browns that Hartzell was a teammate of Jack O’Connor in 1907. O’Connor’s career had spanned 20 years at the time, and his experience in the relatively young game was preparing him for a run as Browns manager in 1910.
O’Conner undoubtedly hearkened back to his days with the 1887 Red Stockings, where as a youngster he was a teammate of Charley Jones. While O’Connor got only 42 at bats that year, Jones was a model batsman and perfect example for a young hitter, batting .390 that season.
Charley Jones had come a long way since playing for the 9-56 Red Stockings in 1876. That record had to be particularly tough for Jones’ teammate, Charley Gould. See, Gould had been a member of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings who won 130 consecutive games over the course of two years after becoming the FIRST professional baseball team.
And there you have it. Julio Franco’s 2005 birthday party guests which link our birthday boy to the beginnings of professional baseball in eight easy teammate-induced steps. Nine innings in a game, nine players on the field. Only seems right that Julio celebrate with eight other friends to make it an even nine.
Happy Birthday, Julio!
1887 Red Stockings
1876 Red Stockings
1869 Red Stockings
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How about that youthful looking young shortstop prospect on the left? And 23 years after his debut in 1982 with the Phillies, Braves first baseman Julio Franco is still going strong at, ahem, 47 years young. And how long has Mr. Franco been around? Long enough that with eight connecting moves, The Powdered Wig takes you all the way back to Charley Gould of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, America’s first professional baseball team. Gould is in the back row, second from left. The Red Stockings photo is courtesy of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings Vintage Base Ball Club. We would like to give special thanks to Larry “Knuckles” Phillips for granting The High Court permission to use the photo and for identifying the aforementioned Mr. Gould. You can visit the Red Stockings at www.1869Reds.com.