Julio Franco finally called it quits. The oldest player to hit a home run in the majors announced his retirement from baseball after a 23-year career in the major leagues and stints in his native Dominican Republic, South Korea, Japan and Mexico.
“It was the hardest decision in my life,” Franco was quoted as saying in an interview published Saturday. “I always said I would be the first one to know the exact moment. I think the numbers speak for themselves, the production speaks and this is the right moment. I understand that my time has passed and the great men and athletes know when to say enough.”
The 49-year-old infielder announced his retirement on Wednesday night to his Mexican league team, the Quintana Roo Tigers. The league posted the news on its Web site the next day.
Franco last played in the majors last year, when he played in 55 games with the New York Mets (40) and the Atlanta Braves (15). He batted .222 with one home run and 16 RBI in 90 at-bats.
Franco hit his last major league home run against Randy Johnson on May 4 last year. At 48, he became the oldest player to homer in the majors.
The Dominican retired with a .298 average, 2,586 hits and 173 home runs in 23 seasons in the majors with eight teams.
Franco began his professional career in 1980 with the Escogido Lions in the Dominican winter league, and debuted in the majors in 1982 with the Philadelphia Phillies.
He also played for the Cleveland Indians, the Texas Rangers, the Chicago White Sox, the Milwaukee Brewers and Tampa Bay Devil Rays.