This Week in Baseball History: May 3 – 9

Bartolo Colón, Julio Franco and Kerry Wood headline this week.


May 4, 2007 – Julio Franco: Oldest Home Run Hitter


Julio Franco was old. Really, really old. Like “oldest regular position player in MLB history” old.

In 1997, the 38-year-old Franco seemed like he was destined for retirement. His hitting had declined over the previous couple seasons, from hitting .319/.406/.510 (137 OPS+) with a top-10 MVP finish in 1994 to a .270/.369/.360 (91 OPS+) in 1997.

But Franco did not see a future without him swinging a bat. From ’98 to ’00, Franco went on a worldwide tour as he hopped from Japan (.290/.379/.464 in 562 PAs) to Mexico (.423/.541/.656 in 414 PAs) to South Korea (.327/.403/.509 in 549 PAs), as he reestablished himself a solid contact hitter.

This career renaissance caused the Atlanta Braves to sign the 41-year-old Franco in 2001. Over the previous three seasons, Franco had just one MLB at-bat. But in Atlanta, Franco hit just as well as he had done upon his debut two decades prior.

In five seasons with the Braves, Franco averaged .292/.365/.428 (106 OPS+) with 32 R, 6 HR, 34 RBIs, and 53 K:27 BB over 267 PAs. With every at-bat, Franco seemed like he set a new MLB record for someone of his age.

On June 27, 2005, Franco became the oldest player to hit a grand slam with a blast off Valerio De Los Santos (great name, by the way).


The following season, Franco shifted his talents to the rival Mets, who used him as a high-contact, pinch-hit bat. But Franco could still squeeze out some power every now and then. On April 20, 2006, Franco porched a home run into the right field seats at Petco Park to become the oldest player ever (age 47) to hit a home run.


Unfortunately for the 47-year-old Julio Franco, he would not hold that record for long. Why? Because a 48-year-old Julio Franco broke it the very next season.

On May 4, 2007, Franco and the Mets made the trip to Arizona to face Randy Johnson and the Diamondbacks. And in the second inning, on an 0-2 fastball from the “Big Unit,” Franco made a big splash.


A historic home run that extended Franco’s “Oldest Player to Hit a Homer” record. And it happened in a historic matchup, too. The combined age of Franco and Johnson? 92 years and 125 days. The second oldest batter vs. pitcher AB of all time. Who had the oldest? None other than Franco and Roger Clemens at 93 years and 246 days.

Oh yeah, Franco also stole a base that game. That made him the second-oldest player to ever steal a base after the 49-year-old Arlie Latham.


May 5, 1904 – 1st Modern Perfect Game by Cy Young


Back in 1880, a baseball rarity happened: two perfect games within five days. One by Lee Richmond and the other by John Ward. Except at that time, no one had ever done that before and baseball writers didn’t really have a name for it.

But those games happened in the 19th century, an era where baseball was growing and developing into the game that we know and love today. The mound wasn’t even 60 feet, 6 inches at the time (it was changed to that distance in 1893)! The first ever perfect game in the World Series era belongs to none other than Cy Young.

From the Cleveland Spiders to the St. Louis Perfectos to the Boston Americans, Young was one of baseball’s biggest stars as the sport transitioned into the modern era. His expert control as a sheer workhorse helped Young establish numerous all-time records that will never be broken: 511 wins, 315 loses, 749 complete games, 7356 IP, and 29,565 batters faced.

On May 5, 1904, the 37-year-old Young and the Americans headlined a marquee matchup against Rube Waddell and the Philadelphia Athletics. The Hall of Famer Waddell, who was a decade younger than Young, was perhaps the game’s best strikeout pitcher. His 8.3 K/9 from ’03 to ’04 towered above all other starters, with second place belonging to Christy Mathewson at 5.87.

The Hunting Avenue Grounds were filled to capacity as fans were eager to see two legends at work. As Young later described it to sportswriter Francis J. Powers, this day is without a doubt the best game of Young’s long career.

“A pitcher’s got to be good and he’s got to be lucky to get a no-hit game,” Young said. “But to get a perfect game — no run, no hit, no man reach first base — he’s got to have everything his way.”

27 up, 27 down. It was as easy and clinical as a perfect game should be. Young fanned eight, with 13 batters recording infield outs and just six batters managing weak outfield fly outs. And it all happened in one hour and 23 minutes—the shortest perfect game ever.


May 6, 1998 – Kerry Wood Strikes Out 20


Many of you may be familiar with game score, an early sabermetric attempt at quantifying each pitching performance. Points are added for each out/strikeout and removed for each hit/walk/run. Just how hard is it to get a game score of 100 or more? There are just 16 instances of that happening in a nine-inning game. That makes it rarer than a perfect game (23 times).

Who holds the best game score ever at 105? A young phenom named Kerry Wood.

Wood grew up in the Dallas suburbs, and his standout performance in high school during his senior year (14 – 0, 0.77 ERA, 159 K in 81 innings) made the Cubs select Wood with the fourth pick in the 1995 MLB Draft. Scouts had wanted to find the next Roger Clemens, whose decade of dominance emphasized the importance of an overpowering pitcher in the steroid era. To Cubs scouting director Al Goldis, Wood fit the part. “I haven’t seen a guy throw like this in 10 years,” Goldis said.

He mixed in a devastating curve to compliment his high-90s fastball. Back then, pitchers who threw that fast were few and far between. But Wood struggled to control his stuff in the minors. In his first full professional season in 1996, Wood had a 10.7 K/9 and 5.5 BB/9 across 114.1 IP in A+. The next year in AA and AAA, those stats jumped up to an 11 K/9 and 7.8 BB/9 in 151.2 IP.

Despite Wood’s obvious control issues, the Cubs salivated over his enormous ceiling. And perhaps prematurely, the Cubs promoted Wood to the majors at the beginning of the 1998 season.

Wood’s April was a reflection of his performance in the minors. In his first four starts, Wood had a 5.89 ERA and 1.47 WHIP over 18.1 IP with 25:12 K:BB. Before his fifth major league start on May 6 against the Astros, Wood felt disgusted with his pre-game warm-up session.

“I don’t think I threw any strikes warming up,” Wood later recalled. “I actually shut it down early and flipped the ball to [pitching coach] Phil Regan and said, ‘We’re done. I’m loose. It’s only going to get worse.'”

The ’98 Astros were a terrifying lineup as well. They finished the year with the second-best team wRC+ (113) thanks to a core of Craig BiggioDerek Bell, and Jeff Bagwell. This lineup featured some of the premier batters in the NL. Wood made them look like high schoolers.

In the first inning, Wood dismantled those three hitters and struck out the side. His stuff was so lively that the catcher just simply missed Wood’s first pitch of the game.


The next inning, Wood added two more strikeouts before Dave Clark became the first Astro to put the ball in play by flying out to CF. Ricky Gutiérrez singled to lead off the third with a weak dribbler the barely made it onto the outfield grass.


That would be Houston’s only hit.

Wood kept mowing the Astros down. As Hall of Famers Biggio and Bagwell later described it, there was nothing they could do.

“I never felt bad about the game,” Bagwell later said. “He was genuinely better than us.”


At the end of the sixth, Wood had 12 Ks. He then got seven straight strikeouts to tie the NL record. With one out in the ninth, Biggio avoided infamy by grounding out to short.

Just one more out before the game was over.

Bell steps up to the plate. With Wrigley Field in an uproar, Wood fans Bell on a curveball that magically dives away from the plate for No. 20.


His final line: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 20 K, and 0 BB on 122 pitches. In my opinion, the most dominant game ever thrown. If you want to watch all 20 glorious strikeouts just to understand how untouchable Wood was, here you go:



May 7, 2016 – The Bartolo Colón Home Run!


Babe Ruth’s called shot. Joe Carter’s World Series walk-off dinger. Bartolo Colón’s impossible blast.

Three immortal home runs. You could not tell the story of Major League Baseball without mentioning these historic moments.

Colón had a long career, but most of it happened in the American League. Between his debut in 1997 and age-40 season in 2013, Colón played just half of a season in the NL (2002 with Montreal). This unfortunately meant that we almost never saw Colón at the plate.

During that span, Colón somehow had 10 hits (all singles) in 104 PAs with 1 R and 5 RBIs. His line? .104/.112/.104 with a -43 OPS+. Yes, a negative OPS+.

Then, in 2014, something glorious happened: the Mets signed Colón. Finally, Colón’s regular at-bats would give us the answer to one of baseball’s greatest what-ifs: could Colón and his prodigious athleticism turn him into a two-way star?


His first two seasons with the Mets said no: 133 PAs, 10 hits. But there was one big development there: two of those 10 hits were doubles. Finally, we started seeing glimpses of Colón’s power potential.

But the 43-year-old Colón failed to fully harness his strength during the beginning of the 2016 season. In his first four starts, Colón went 0-for-9 with 6 Ks. Where, oh where had your power gone, Bartolo?

May 7, 2016. A date that no Met fan will ever forget. They visited San Diego to take on “Big Game” James Shields. I never really understood why Shields had that nickname.

In the second inning, Colón had his first at-bat. Shields threw the first pitch, a high fastball for a ball. Colón displayed absolutely zero intention of swinging. The next pitch was another fastball that nicked the inside part of the zone for strike one. Again, the bat looked glued to Colón’s shoulder.

Shields must’ve thought that this would be an easy out, so he grooved the next pitch, a 90-mph fastball, right down broadway. Then, the impossible happened.


After 22 years and 349 plate appearances across the minors, majors and postseason, “Big Sexy” hit the first home run of his professional baseball career. Mets announcer Gary Cohen is exactly right: “This is one of the greatest moments in the history of baseball!”


Photo By John Cordes/Icon Sportswire | Feature Graphic Designed by James Peterson (Follow @jhp_design714 on Instagram & Twitter)

Alex Kleinman

Journalist who loves the Yankees and the Bears. One gives me strength, the other leads me to existential dread. When I'm not obsessing over baseball, you can find me at a concert, hiking in a National Park or chasing my dog, Frankie, who has probably stolen one of my socks.

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