Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Herman Franks, 95, MLB Catcher and Manager (1914-2009)

Herman Franks, pictured left with Willie Mays in Santurce, Puerto Rico, died March 30, 2009 at the age of 95 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Franks played for the St. Louis Cardinals, Brooklyn Dodgers, Philadelphia Athletics and New York Giants over parts of 6 seasons from 1939-1949, compiling a .199 batting average in 403 career at-bats. He lost three-and-a-half years of his career due to his Naval service in World War 2. His playing career was overshadowed by his success as a coach and a manager at the major league level.

In Joshua Prager's book, "The Echoing Green", Franks was reportedly involved in relaying stolen signals from a hole in the New York Giants scoreboard to the hitters during the 1951 "Shot Heard 'Round The World" playoff between the Giants and the Dodgers. Franks managed what is arguably known as the best Winter League team ever, the 1954-55 Santurce Crabbers. The team featured an all-star Major League and ex-Negro League lineup including: Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Bob Thurman, Bus Clarkson, Don Zimmer, Ron Samford, George Crowe, Valmy Thomas, Ruben Gomez and "Toothpick" Sam Jones. Franks went on to manage the Giants to four straight second place finishes (1965-68) and the Chicago Cubs to a .497 record (1977-79).


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