I had the unfortunate task of being a Cleveland Indians fan throughout my childhood and up through much of the 1980s. The Indians were never very good and typically served as the farm team for the more successful clubs. Julio Franco became a Cleveland Indian in this fashion when he was traded to them from Philadelphia along with Manny Trillo, George Vuckovich, Jay Baller and Jerry Willard in exchange for rising star Von Hayes. Hayes went on to have a productive 12-year career, but this was a trade the Indians actually won as Julio Franco went on to have one of the most productive careers ever playing for a staggering 25 seasons.
He was an outstanding shortstop for the Cleveland Indians up through 1988 when he was traded to Texas for three players including Oddibe McDowell. The thing I always liked about Franco was his unique batting stance where he held the bat wrapped around his head and then put his entire body into a fluid and level swing. He was an extremely well balanced player who could do a little but of everything. He could hit the occasional homer, going deep more than 10 times in a season 8 times. He was a terrific defender though he never won a gold glove with Cal Ripken around at the same time. He could steal bases compiling 281 steals over his career, with most of them coming in the '80s.
I was so disappointed when he was traded to Texas and of course he had his best seasons in the years just following the trade, making the All-Star team three consecutive years in 1989-1991. Most thought his career was near its end in 1994 when he was traded to the White Sox at the age of 35, but he went on to play 10 more seasons with a couple of years off in between. He became a super-sub for the Atlanta Braves through the bulk of the 2000s, finally retiring at the tender age of 48. Julio Franco played his best baseball in the 1980s finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting in 1983 and compiling 19.0 WAR as Cleveland's everyday shortstop from 1983 to 1989. He had an amazing career.
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