The New York Mets gave Julio Franco the boot yesterday.
And that makes me a little melancholy.
I realize this isn't the most earth-shattering news for any of my readers of "The View from Flying Colors", but it's big-time sad news for me.
You see, Julio Franco is nearly 49 years old---and until yesterday, was still on the roster of a Major League Baseball team, the first place New York Mets, to boot. But Julio's dismissal at the All-Star break isn't a huge surprise. After all, he was hitting an anemic .200 this season as the Mets' primary pinch-hitter. Not many major league players keep their jobs with an average that skirts the Mendoza line, but I have been rooting for Julio Franco to play forever.
Because at nearly 49 years young, Julio Franco was the closest major leaguer to my age (just a wee couple of years older, thankyaveddymuch).
I always dreamt of being a major league baseball player, ever since my dad and grandfather gave me the gift of the love of baseball when I was a toddler. I played Little League, I played baseball in junior high school... but never played high school ball. I picked up City League softball upon my graduation from college and have been playing every year for almost 30 years.
My Dad passed away almost nine years ago. In his later years, even when I was into my early 40s, Dad and I would watch baseball games at the Oakland Coliseum or on TV--- and he would lament to me about not making me throw left-handed when I was a kid learning to throw a baseball. "That way," he'd say, "you could still be a southpaw reliever in the majors because they pitch forever."
I remember, when I wasn't even 10 years old, Charlie Finley, then the owner of the Kansas City Athletics (and later our Oakland A's), pulled one of his stunts by activating 59 year-old Satchel Paige to pitch in a late season game. Satchel, who was one of the greatest Negro League pitchers of all time, still had it, and if I recall correctly, pitched a scoreless inning.
The hopefully temporary end of Julio Franco's career is perhaps even more meaningful than a one-time stunt, because Julio has been playing pro ball for something like 25 years now. Earlier this season, he became the oldest player ever to hit a home run in a major league game.
In a small way, Julio Franco has allowed me to live a bit vicariously through his long career.
I'm sure I speak for a more seasoned generation of baseball fans---and especially long-in-the-tooth wanna-be major league players--- when I say that I dearly hope another team picks up the contract of Julio Franco. As long as he's playing, even if it's just to warm the bench and occasionally pinch-hit, I feel I still have a tiny chance of being on the field myself.
I guess you can call me Joe "Field of Dreams".