By Robert Dominguez
The old and the new converged on this day in béisbol, May 7, when uber-veteran Julio Franco showed he still had something left and rookie Starlin Castro made a Major Leagues debut for the ages.
By 2005 Julio Franco was a grizzled 46-year-old first baseman for the Atlanta Braves playing in his 21st season after breaking into the bigs in 1982 as one of the decade’s initial wave of excellent shortstops from the Dominican Republic.
Anyone who might’ve said Franco had outstayed his welcome thought otherwise after watching him play on May 7 in a game against the Astros. Franco looked like, well, his old self after going 3 for 4 with his first home run of the season to fuel a 4-1 win.
The homer made him the second-oldest player in history to go yard, at 46 years and 257 days old.
He broke his own record a few times after that — he was 48 years, eight months and 11 days old when he hit his final homer in 2007. He retired at the end of that season after 23 years spent in eight different uniforms with a lifetime .298 average and a batting title in 1991, when he hit .341.
On the same day in 2010, Starlin Castro — who at 20 years old was the youngest shortstop in Cubs history as well as the first player born in the 1990s to play in the Majors — made a huge splash in his first game ever.
The baby-faced Dominican native blasted a three-run homer in his first at-bat and added a bases-loaded triple later in the game to key a 14-7 win over the Reds. The 6 RBI in a debut game set a modern record.
Currently with the Miami Marlins, Castro is just 29 years old after 10 years in the Majors with a career total of 1,617 hits, and has a surprisingly legitimate shot at reaching the 3,000-hit plateau.
Robert Dominguez is co-author of “Bronx Bummers: The Unofficial History of the New York Yankees’ Bad Boys, Blunders and Brawls” and writer of the upcoming “El Salón: The Trials and Triumphs of Baseball’s Latino Hall of Famers.”
Photo of Starlin Castro by Gamefreak777 – Public Domain
Photo of Julio Franco by User Dlz28 – Public Domain