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World Series 2001
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10/13/2001 03:20 AM ET
Age irrelevant to Franco
By Jesse Sanchez
MLB.com
Julio Franco rounds the bases after his third-inning home run
ATLANTA -- Moments after Atlanta swept the Houston Astros in the NLDS, Braves first baseman Julio Franco stood in front his locker, smiled, and gloated like the kid he claims to be.

There was good reason for his boyish grin.

On Friday, his solo homer in third inning gave Atlanta a 3-0 lead. He singled to lead off the eighth and scored on Chipper Jones' two-run homer to push Atlanta ahead 6-2 and seal the win and the three-game sweep.

All this from an ageless wonder who is 43-years-old, according to Total Baseball, the official encyclopedia of Major League Baseball, and three years younger according to the Atlanta Braves' post season media guide.

"I'm going to tell you this, my brother is 43 and we're not twins. My older brother is 65," he said. "I'm 40 years old. How's that? If you guys want to say that I'm 45 or 55, that's fine. It doesn't bother me. I don't feel 40 years old. A lot of people are asking how old I am, it doesn't matter, I feel great."

Franco doesn't really care about his age because he's going to the NLCS and he feels like a 10-year-old, anyway

"My ability to play ball didn't get me here. I thank the Lord who gave me the opportunity to be here because he gave me all the talent," he said. "There's a lot of superstars that are home and want to be in my position."

Franco signed with Atlanta as a free agent Aug. 31 and hit .300 in 25 games at first base, making his age a non-issue.

"We didn't know what to expect to be honest when we got Julio," Atlanta Manager Bobby Cox said. "But I tell you what, he's one of the reasons we are here. Without him, I'm not so sure we get here."

"That guy can hit. He's always been able to hit," Jones said. "He came the last two months of the season and played outstanding defense. He's made some key plays and you can't say enough about the guy. People talk about his age, but he's out there just as nimble and as quick as anybody. I'm glad we went out and got him."

Franco has amassed a career .301 batting average in almost 1,900 games, mostly with Cleveland and Texas. He bounced around leagues in Korea, Japan and Mexico during the mid-90s and came close to returning to the big leagues for good in 1999 with Tampa Bay. He failed miserably, managing one at-bat, a strikeout, in his only game with the Devil Rays before being released.

"Retirement was never in my head," said Franco, who won the AL batting title with Texas in 1991. "I knew there was something left in me. I always thought that I'm not there yet, but in my prayers I would ask God to give me the opportunity and I will take advantage of it. I know that I can pinch-hit off the bench or play defense in the eighth or ninth inning."

Franco spent most of the last two seasons in the Mexican League. A stint that proved very beneficial when posted a .437 average with 18 home runs and 90 RBIs in Mexico City and caught the eye of the Braves, Diamondbacks, and Phillies earlier this season.

Nobody knows exactly where, but Franco will go down in the MLB annals as one of the oldest players to hit a home run in the NLDS.

It's a feat, like his age, that he's not concerned with.

"I'm not thinking about my goals or my stats. I'm here to win," he said. "I always had the ability to put good will on the ball and my faith in God brought me back. Obviously, my prayers have been answered."

Jesse Sanchez is the site reporter for texasrangers.com.