Wednesday, December 17, 2008

#256 Tito Francona

Tito Francona by you.
Of all of the "altered" cards I have from 1965, indeed from all sets, this is one of the funniest. I'm guessing that some Phillies fan, or a fan in general who was just itching to have an up-to-date card, got a hold of Tito Francona during the portion of the 1967 season that he spent in Philadelphia. No worries; it's a hatless closeup, so all you have to do is cross out "Cardinals" and write "Phillies". But I guess our anonymous artist was especially possessive of Tito, and felt the need to scrawl his new team's name across the outfielder's forehead! Yipes!

John "Tito" Patsy (yes, Patsy) Francona had a long and colorful history in baseball, beginning with his signing with the St. Louis Browns in 1952. His career was interrupted by military service in 1954 and 1955, meaning that when he made his major league debut in 1956, the team had a new city, name, and colors! Tito didn't seem terribly rusty, as he played 139 games for the now-Orioles and hit .258 with 9 home runs and 57 RBI. He was second on the team in walks (51) and led them in steals with a whopping 11. Despite this strong start, the young outfielder saw a drop in playing time over the next two years, as he bounced from Baltimore to Chicago to Detroit to Cleveland. If he was looking for an encouraging sign during this time, he was twice traded for future Hall of Famer Larry Doby!

It was during his six years as an Indian that Francona became a fan favorite. It certainly didn't hurt that in his first season for the Tribe (1959) he finished fifth in MVP voting, hitting a huge .363 with 20 home runs and 79 RBI in 399 at-bats. He reached double digits in homers in five straight seasons in Cleveland, including his lone All-Star year of 1961, when he hit .301 with 16 longballs and 85 RBI. He also led the American League with 36 doubles in 1960. After he hit .228 in 1963, a 30-year-old Tito had to share time in right field with Chico Salmon, Al Smith, and Bob Chance the following year. He drove in just 24 runs in 270 at-bats and was sent to St. Louis.

Tito spent the last six years of his career much like the first few: with his bags constantly packed and ready to go. His itinerary took him from St. Louis to Philadelphia to Atlanta to Oakland to Milwaukee, as he assumed the role of journeyman reserve. He did get 346 at-bats in 1968 with the Braves, and hit .286. The following year he batted .318 with 42 RBI in just 173 at-bats. In all, Francona's career spanned 15 seasons (1956-1970); he hit .272 with 125 home runs. In 2001, he was named to the Indians' Top 100 roster.

If Tito seems familiar, it's undoubtedly because of his son Terry. The younger Francona was a reserve outfielder and first baseman for a decade, hitting .274 but with much less power than his dad. He's made a name of his own by winning two World Series as the manager of the Boston Red Sox.

Fun fact: The Franconas can be linked by pitcher Grant Jackson, who was briefly a teammate of Tito with the 1967 Phillies and of Terry with the 1981 Expos.
Tito Francona (back) by you.


  1. Great fact about O's Grant Jackson playing with both father and son.

  2. Thanks! BTW, I loved peeking at those wishbooks you posted recently. Great blast from the past :)