Franco has permanent home in Mets HOF
Brooklyn native and lifelong Mets fan honored on Sunday
NEW YORK -- John Franco was at Citi Field on Friday, when lifelong Mets fan Mike Baxter made a catch to save Johan Santana's no-hitter against the Cardinals. On Sunday, he was the lifelong Mets fan at the center of attention.
The Brooklyn native and 14-year Met became the 26th member of the Mets Hall of Fame in a pregame ceremony.
"It means a lot to me," Franco said. "Growing up in Brooklyn and rooting for the Mets, I was always dreaming about playing for my favorite team. I had an opportunity to play for my favorite team and now being in your favorite team's Hall of Fame with guys that were my heroes -- the [Tom] Seavers, the [Tug] McGraws, Tommie Agee, Bud Harrelson. To be on the wall with those guys means a lot to me."
Franco is the first inductee since 2010, when Frank Cashen, Dwight Gooden, Davey Johnson and Darryl Strawberry were inducted. Gooden and Strawberry were among those in attendance for Franco's induction, along with former teammates David Cone, Al Leiter, Bret Saberhagen, Todd Zeile and others. Franco said his entire family and former St. John's University teammates were also on hand.St. John's gave him with a Red Storm jersey and the Mets presented him a plaque while current players looked on from the dugout along with manager and friend Terry Collins.
"I happened to be with the Dodger organization when John Franco was drafted and signed," said Mets manager Terry Collins. "He's been a great friend of mine for many, many years and it was a well-deserved honor. He was a great pitcher and I never liked to face him when I came in with the other clubs. I'm very happy for him and very proud of him. He's certainly very deserving."
The left-hander saved 276 games for the Mets, which is a franchise record, and leads all lefties in all-time saves with 424. He led the league in saves in 1988 with the Reds, then again in '90 and '94 in New York.
He saved the first of his league-best 33 games in '90 in his Mets debut, and considers the game among his favorite Mets memories. He closed for the Mets from the time they acquired him via trade until the 2000 season, when he became the setup man for Armando Benitez.
The Mets went to the World Series that season, and Franco said the playoff run, highlighted by a called strike three against Barry Bonds in the National League Division Series was one of the best memories of his career in New York.
This year's Mets squad reminds him of his 2000 team, he said.
"I just told David [Wright] now, this team reminds me a little bit of the 2000 team where no one really gave us a chance," he said. "We had one superstar in Mike [Piazza] and they have David. We had [Mike] Hampton and Leiter, and they have [Johan] Santana and [R.A.] Dickey and [Jon] Niese and everyone else. Everybody is contributing. Guys are getting hurt and guys who come up are doing their job. They're a bunch of scrappers, blue-collar guys."
Franco has a role within the organization as a team ambassador, but said he does not see that role expanding any time soon. His son, J.J., whom the Mets drafted out of high school in the 42nd round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, plays second base for Brown University, and Franco said he enjoys traveling to see his games.
He will continue to help the Mets when needed, though, like he did in September by tutoring reliever Bobby Parnell. He likely shared lessons he learned from former Mets pitching coach Dave Wallace, who Franco said was instrumental to his career.
Franco's years in Cincinnati were instrumental as well, as he said he perfected his signature circle changeup there. But even there, playing with Cincinnati-area natives Barry Larkin and Paul O'Neill, he thought of New York.
"Those guys were from the Cincinnati area and they were playing at home," Franco said. "I always wanted the opportunity to play at home."
Steven Miller is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.