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Needle in the Haystack

So I just spent the past hour and 15 minutes searching for games in which newest Met Julio Franco got a walk-off RBI. It was not an easy process by any means, combing thru a few hundred Retrosheet boxscores and Lexis-Nexis stories before I hit paydirt.

I think the most important thing I learned from this is that Julio Franco has played a lot of baseball. And I don't use the term "a lot" loosely.

In 1982, Franco's rookie season, he played in games in which megastars Mike Schmidt and Pete Rose had walk-off hits. Later in his career, he appeared in contests in which not-so-immortals Doug Frobel and Jerry Willard had their walk-off moments in the sun. He hit two home runs in a Nolan Ryan no-hitter. He's been on dreadfully bad teams (like the 1985 Indians), reasonably average squads (pick a Rangers team from 1990 to 1993), and pretty good clubs (the 2001-2004 Braves)., though he's yet to appear in a World Series. He has played as little as one game in a season (1999 Devil Rays) and as many as 160 (1984-85 Indians).

Baseball's version of Forrest Gump went 13-for-31 against Floyd Bannister and perhaps in 6 months, he'll be teammates with Floyd's son, Brian. If we could coax Floyd's ex-teammate Rich Dotson out of retirement (he quit in 1990), Franco would be a happy man, as he hit .450 in 40 at bats against the White Sox ace. Franco has seen every type of pitch from every type of pitcher. He knows to beware of the submarine styler (he went 0-for-17 against Dan Quisenberry) and has had mixed success against past knuckleballers (7-for-19 against Phil Niekro, but 1-for-12 against Phil's brother, Joe).

Franco claims to be 47, though he may be older than that. He's hit .300 in Butte, Montana, Reading, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma City, in addition to Cleveland, Texas, Chicago, and Atlanta, as well as Mexico, Korea, and Japan. He was once traded for Oddibe"Young Again" McDowell (in 1988) and Von "Purple" Hayes, but he lives a clean life and keeps his body in better shape than most half his age.

Rosa Franco's husband is a former batting champion (1991), has made as many All-Star teams as Paul Lo Duca (three), and has the most singles (1,903) and ground-ball double plays (299) of any active player. He last played third base in 1982, shortstop in 1987, the outfield in 1992, and second base in 1997. He's hit .272 against the Mets but will be getting his first ups for them come April, likely serving as Carlos Delgado's caddy (backing him up at first base), Pedro Martinez's daddy (he's viewed as a good clubhouse presence) and the top righty bat off the bench.

Every so often he might come up in a big spot and the Mets hope he'll deliver like he did on August 20, 1990. It was on that date that Franco got a walk-off hit for the Rangers, a single with the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the ninth inning to give Texas a 6-5 win over Seattle and pitcher Mike Jackson. Speaking of which, it seems like people have been telling Franco to 'Beat it' for quite some time, but Old Man Baseball isn't quite ready to hang them up just yet.

True Metcos know...The oldest player to get a walk-off hit for the Mets is Willie Mays, who was 41 years old (and less than a month from turning 42) when he got one against the Phillies on April 7, 1973.

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