It's fame day for clean-up man John Franco
A few days before being immortalized as one of the Mets' all-time greats, John Franco, as was customary during his 21-year baseball career, returned to his roots.
Thursday afternoon, Franco visited with New York City Department of Sanitation workers at the BK-11 building in Brooklyn, where his late father, Jimmy, used to work. Jimmy died on the job of a heart attack in October 1987. His name is on a small plaque on the side of the building, among others who died on the job, in what is called the Memorial Garden.
Tonight, John Franco will get his name on a plaque inside Citi Field, as he'll become the 26th member of the Mets Hall of Fame. A pregame ceremony will take place on the field beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Franco said he'll have close to 200 family and friends in attendance, including his former teammates from St. John's and the Mets.
"I grew up rooting for the Mets,'' the Bensonhurst native said. "You have your heroes as Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and now you're on the same wall as them. It's truly an honor and I'm humbled by it.''
To Franco, it's also an honor to be part of the sanitation department family. Throughout his career, underneath his jersey, Franco wore the orange work T-shirt his father had on the day he died.
Now Franco is trying to sell orange sanitation T-shirts with his name and No. 45 on the back, with the proceeds going to a scholarship fund for children of sanitation workers who've died on duty. The shirts can be purchased on his website, johnfranco45.com.
"Just like it's an honor to be associated with the sanitation department, it's an honor to be associated with the New York Met organization,'' he said.
Franco was a Met for 14 years and compiled 276 of his 424 saves with the organization. He is fourth on the all-time saves list and first among lefthanders. He was a four-time All-Star, the last coming in 1990, his first year with the Mets. He and Tug McGraw are the only relief pitchers in the Mets Hall of Fame.
Franco had a 1.88 ERA in 15 postseason appearances with the Mets in 1999 and 2000. He said his fondest memory as a Met was striking out Barry Bonds on back-to-back days in the 2000 NLDS.
Franco, who still works as a consultant for the team, sees similarities between the 2000 NL champion Mets and this year's squad. Mike Piazza was the 2000 team's lone superstar, Franco said, and compared him to David Wright on this year's team. And that team was anchored by the pitching of Mike Hampton and Al Leiter, he said, much as this one is by Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey.
"It kind of reminds me of that,'' he said. "There's a bunch of scrappers and a bunch of hard workers and they're under the radar. Nobody's expecting them to do well and they're doing well. I'm very proud to say I'm part of the Mets organization.''
And also very proud to be a part of the sanitation department family.
A true New Yorker.