Skip to main content
Original Issue



TERRY FRANCONA got his first check from the Indians in 1988, when he played 62 games, and they started paying him serious money when he became the team's manager in 2013. But the Tribe's first contribution to his bottom line came decades earlier: "The youngster," the caption of a 1959 AP photo of Terry and his mother five months after he was born, noted, "already has a $350 bank account, gifts from the Indians for two of papa Tito's game-winning hits."

For Tito Francona, who died last week at age 84, no year was bigger than 1959. He batted .363 as the Indians made a charge at the AL pennant, which they lost by five games to the White Sox. That average would have been good enough for the batting title, but he was 34 plate appearances short of the minimum to qualify. For much of his 15-season career, the lefthanded-hitting Francona was a platoon player, killing righties and sitting against southpaws. When he played every day, he shone, leading the AL in doubles in '60 and making the All-Star team with a .301 average in '61.

John Patsy Francona was born in Aliquippa, a football hotbed in western Pennsylvania, and he was a star halfback for nearby New Brighton High. Before embarking on his baseball career, he worked weekends in the same steel mill where for 50 years his father was a welder. "He's my dad, always my dad," Terry told The Boston Globe in 2004. "Never my coach. Never. I'm sure he's very responsible for how I feel about the game.... I really try to respect the people in the game itself, and I know I got that directly from him."