- September 17, 1960
- 5' 10"
- 170 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 4-24-1984 with CIN
- Allstar Selections:
- 1988 RR, 1990 RR, 2001 LG
John Anthony Franco (born September 17, 1960 in Brooklyn, New York) is a former Major League Baseball left-handed relief pitcher. During a 21-year baseball career, He pitched from 1984-2005 for three different National League teams, the Cincinnati Reds, New York Mets, and Houston Astros. His 1,119 career games pitched is an NL record, and is ranked third in major league history; his 424 career saves ranked second in major league history when he retired, and remain the most by a left-hander. For 14 of his 20 seasons, he played for the New York Mets, serving as team captain in his final years with the team.
Franco grew up in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn. His father, the late 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.
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; however, 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.
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 in front of Armando Benitez. He reached the postseason for the first time in 1999 and the World Series in 2000.
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 is among a handful of major league pitchers to utilize a screwball. He also most recently appeared on the television show Pros vs Joes.
On March 29, 2009, Franco threw the ceremonial first pitch in the first game played on Citi Field, a Big East college game between St. John's (his alma mater) and Georgetown.
Pitching record: 90-87
Saves: 424, 4th most in major league history behind Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera and Lee Smith and the most for any left-handed pitcher.
Innings pitched: 1245⅔
Games pitched: 1119
4-time All-Star (1986, 1987, 1989, 1990)
Postseason record: 2-0, one save, 1.88 ERA in 15 postseason appearances
New York Mets 3rd team captain (2001–2004)
Inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame
- John Franco