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Franco marks 25th anniversary of debut

Franco marks 25th anniversary of debut

NEW YORK -- Twenty-five years has its way of blurring memories. So it is with Julio Franco, who, on the silver anniversary of his big-league debut, can't dig out details of the night that became the intro to an epic.

But the scraps of memory that do exist are historical artifacts, the last remnants of a banner day. No pictures, no souvenir balls, no jerseys -- just dusty recollections.

"Back then, you were so excited, you didn't think about those things," Franco, 48, said. "The greatest thing that I remember from that day is about 2 o'clock, I looked into Veterans Stadium. The first time you go in the Vet you go, 'Wow.' It's a pretty amazing ballpark."

And Phillies fans must have been equally wowed when Franco strode to the plate and lashed a single to center in his first Major League at-bat. A shortstop at the time, Franco was in the lineup because Mike Schmidt had strained his rib cage days before, so starting shortstop Ivan De Jesus was filling in at third base.

So April 23, 1982, became Franco's night to shine, batting seventh against a Cardinals team that went on to win the World Series. It was one of just 29 at-bats the 23-year-old Franco would receive that year and one of only eight hits.

Of course, more than 8,500 at-bats followed in the next 25 years, along with 2,566 more hits -- and counting. And all that success has dulled the embarrassment of what happened right after that historic hit. Safely on first, Franco darted for second and was promptly gunned down to end the inning. The Phillies lost, 9-2.

"There's not too many guys that can say they're here 25 years later," Franco said of the gaffe. "So I'll take that."

And it remains a clear memory of a day that has long since faded away.

"Brain cells don't go that far," Franco joked. "If I could remember things from 25 years ago, that'd be kind of scary."

Anthony DiComo is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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