Just as special as the gifts presented to veteran reliever John
Franco on his day was the identity of one of the presenters - Tug
John Franco Day at Shea Stadium was highlighted by a ceremony before
yesterday's 9-4 win over the Giants. The Brooklyn native was honored for
becoming the second pitcher to get 400 saves. Among the presents was a
customized Harley-Davidson motorcycle from his teammates.
The gift was revealed when former Mets reliever McGraw drove it in
from the bullpen. McGraw was the first charismatic lefthanded stopper on
the team to wear No. 45. Franco was given a helmet and leather jacket
bearing the number. "I didn't expect anything like that," Franco
said. "McGraw's one of my childhood idols. I really appreciated that."
Recently retired Lee Smith, the major leagues' all-time saves leader,
flew in from his home in Louisiana. There also were representatives
from Franco's alma maters, St. John's University and Lafayette High
School in Brooklyn.
If Franco has his way, it'll be a while before he uses the
"I've never been on one, so I'll have to take lessons," Franco said.
"I might wait until I retire, but it'll get some use . . . I might drive
it up and down the driveway." Franco said his brother-in-law is a
motorcyle enthusiast whose eyes lit up when the vehicle was presented.
"It's a well-deserved honor," bullpen mate Dennis Cook said.
Franco's wife, Rose, received a diamond and platinum baseball and his
two children were given mountain bikes. "It was a nice, special day for
me and my family," Franco said.
And a relaxing one for the closer. Franco got a final gift when
Brian McRae's grand slam put the game out of reach. "I was blowing
[McRae's homer] over the fence," Franco said. "It would've been nice to
get in [to the game], but I'll take it."