John Franco is a former Major League Baseball left-handed relief pitcher.
During a 22-year baseball career, Franco 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. 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 Relief Man of the Year Award in 1988. He helped the Reds finish second four seasons in a row (1985 - 1988).
Following the 1989 season, he was traded with Don Brown to the Mets, where he would remain until the 2004 season, for Randy Myers and Kip Gross. 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 2, 2005, Franco was designated for assignment, and he was subsequently released, which proved to be the end of his playing career.
Franco is among a handful of major league pitchers to utilize a screwball.
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.