Jay Franklin

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John William Franklin

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Biographical Information[edit]

Jay Franklin was picked second overall by the San Diego Padres in the 1971 amateur draft, out of a high school in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, where he had gone 28-1 with 363 strikeouts in his career. He had a great first professional season, going 8-1, 3.12 in 14 starts for the Tri-City Padres of the Northwest League, pitching 104 innings and striking out 134 batters. He was among the NWL leaders in ERA (4th, between Dave Freisleben and Don Kreke), wins (tied for 4th with Kreke) and strikeouts (1st by 23 over Freisleben). On August 30, he threw a 7-inning no-hitter against the Medford Giants. He and Robert Wolf were the NWL All-Star pitchers. Still, he was only 18 years old and this was only low A ball, but the Padres decided to use him in the big leagues that September.

He made his big league debut on September 4, 1971, pitching a couple of innings in relief against the Atlanta Braves. The Padres were down, 11-7, and Jay was already their 6th pitcher of the game. He did well, though, allowing a hit while striking out two opponents, Sonny Jackson and his fellow pitcher Jim Nash. He made another relief outing on September 8th against the Cincinnati Reds; He again came into the game in the 8th, with the Padres down 3-1. He retired the Reds in order that inning, but issued a leadoff walk to Woody Woodward in the 9th, who eventually scored on an error. At that point he had given no earned runs in 3 1/3 innings and had generally pitched well, but he then sat on the bench until September 21st, when he was given a start against the Braves. Hank Aaron hit a solo homer off him in the bottom of the 1st, then in the 2nd, he walked Mike Lum and allowed a two-run shot to Darrell Evans. He allowed yet another homer, to Ralph Garr, to lead off the 3rd, then was lifted in favor of Mike Caldwell after allowing a walk and a double. Neither runner scored, but the Braves ended up winning the game, 5-2, and he was saddled with the loss. It was the last appearance of his big league career.

Franklin missed the entire 1972 season after injuring his elbow in spring training. He was back in 1973, pitching for the Alexandria Aces of the AA Texas League, but he hurt his shoulder trying to compensate for his weak elbow. He went 4-6, 3.92 that season, then followed up with a record of 8-10, 4.80 with the same team in 1974. He tied for 9th in the TL in losses. Back for a third go at AA in 1975, he went 6-9, 5.13 (tying for 10th in the league in defeats), as a return to The Show appeared increasingly unlikely. He did better in 1976, now with the Amarillo Gold Sox of the same Texas League, but was still only 7-5, 4.15. In 1977, the Padres finally promoted him to AAA, with the Hawaii Islanders of the Pacific Coast League and he had an 8-4 record, but with a 5.16 ERA as a swingman and was released after the season, ending his professional career. He later explained that he had always been a dominant pitcher growing up, and was never able to adjust after he lost his fastball.

He had trouble adjusting to life after baseball, and things were made worse by the fact that he felt that he had let everyone down by not becoming the star baseball player he expected he would be. He wife left him with their three children, and he began to experience bouts of paranoia and was institutionalized a few times. His father committed suicide in 1988, then his close friend from Padres days, Clay Kirby, who was also from northern Virginia, died suddenly of a heart attack in 1991. He became a chain smoker and overeater, although after being a problem drinker, he managed to lick at least that problem. Medication has improved his mental health issues, but he lives in a group home on limited income, his only pleasure being going to the racetrack from time to time to bet on the horses.

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