LAST WEEK theBraves released 48-year-old Julio Franco, whose career has been as interestingas it has been lengthy.
JUNE 23, 1978
The Phillies sign 19-year-old Dominican shortstop Franco as a free agent.
OCT. 24, 1981
Nationals reliever Beltran Perez is born.
APRIL 23, 1982
A 155-pound Franco goes 1 for 4 against the Cardinals in his big leaguedebut.
APRIL 25, 1982
Franco walks against Jim Kaat, who faced Ted Williams on the final day of the1959 season. (Franco was the last remaining player to face a pitcher who facedWilliams.)
After being traded to the Indians, Franco arrives in Cleveland with no coat,$5,000 stuffed into a sock and one question, "Where are thecasinos?"
NOV. 23, 1983
In his first full season, finishes second to Chicago's Ron Kittle for AL Rookieof the Year.
Finds a Muscle magazine in the Cleveland clubhouse and soon becomes a fitnessfanatic.
APRIL 19, 1985
After beating the Yankees with a homer, Franco repairs to a friend's joint inthe Bronx: "The next day was my brother's birthday. After the game, webegan to celebrate." Franco misses the next day's game. "Back then Iwas wild," he says years later. "Very wild."
Mild-mannered Tribe manager Doc Edwards tells the team he won't return in 1990if Franco—who has a habit of bringing his rottweiler and snake to thestadium—is still on the team. Franco is soon traded to the Rangers.
AUG. 13, 1991
Ron Kittle plays his last game.
DEC. 29, 1991
Attends church with his brother in the Dominican Republic and becomes aborn-again Christian. He soon swears off booze, cigarettes and the fast life:"I didn't think I'd live to be 30."
DEC. 28, 1994
Signs to play in Japan. He plays five seasons in Japan, Korea and Mexico,costing himself a shot at 3,000 big league hits. Still he has no regrets abouthis time in Japan (below): "People [there] respect their elders."
AUG. 31, 2001
Braves G.M. John Schuerholz signs Franco, who had been hitting .437 in Mexicobut had just one major league appearance since 1997. Manager Bobby Cox'sreaction: "My God, is he still around?"
APRIL 6, 2004
Still a Brave, Franco becomes, at 45, the oldest regular nonpitcher in history,surpassing Cap Anson.
FEB. 28, 2006
During a breakfast interview with The New York Times, Franco ingests 20 eggwhites, part of his six-meal, 5,000-calorie-a-day, junk-food-free diet: "Iwalk by bakeries, see things that look good, smell good, but I know I don'tneed that cheesecake."
APRIL 20, 2006
Now a Met, Franco becomes, at 47, the oldest player to hit a major leaguehomer.
SEPT. 30, 2006
A sculpted, 210-pound Franco homers off Beltran Perez.
The Waiting Game
Between the time he hit his 499th and 500th home runs,Alex Rodriguez endured an 0-for-21 slump, went to the plate 37 times and hadonly three hits. That's the second-highest number of plate appearances forthose who have reached the milestone over the last 60 seasons. No slugger hit499 and 500 in consecutive trips to the plate, but three came close.
[The following descriptive text is displayed in a diagram.¬†Please seehardcopy or pdf.]
Batting Average: 1.000 .000 .000 .333 .000 .167 .000.333 .143 .375 .300 .091 .286 .273 .238 .238 .148 .107 .163
Plate Appearances: 1 1 1 3 3 7 7 8 8 9 14 14 15 19 2327 33 37 59
Willie Mays, 1965
Mark McGwire, 1999
Ted Williams, 1960
Eddie Mathews, 1967
Barry Bonds, 2001
Frank Robinson, 1971
Mike Schmidt, 1987
Reggie Jackson, 1984
Willie McCovey, 1978
Ernie Banks, 1970
Rafael Palmeiro, 2003
Frank Thomas, 2007
Hank Aaron, 1968
Sammy Sosa, 2003
Eddie Murray, 1996
Ken Griffey, 2004
Mickey Mantle, 1967
Alex Rodriguez, 2007
Harmon Killebrew, 1971
CHART BY SLIM FILMS
TONY TOMSIC (FRANCO WITH SNAKE)
CHRIS WILKINS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES (FRANCO IN JAPAN)
BILL VAUGHN/CAL SPORT MEDIA (FRANCO WITH BRAVES)
COURTESY OF THE PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES (FRANCO WITH PHILLIES)
CHUCK SOLOMON (RODRIGUEZ)
RONALD C. MODRA/SPORTS IMAGERY/GETTY IMAGES (SCHMIDT)
RICH PILLING/MLB PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES (JACKSON)
TSN/ICON SMI (AARON)
JOHN IACONO (GRIFFEY)