The Obit For Herman Franks

Baseball legend Herman Franks dies at 95

By Jay Drew,
The Salt Lake Tribune

Published in the Salt Lake Tribune from 4/1/2009 - 4/2/2009

Price native and East High standout Herman Franks became one of the first Utahns to make a Major League Baseball roster.

But the colorful, often-gruff, baseball man, who at age of 95 died of congestive organ failures Monday night at his Salt Lake City home, was most known for his work as a manager of the San Francisco Giants and for coaching four future Hall of Famers: Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry.

"He wasn't the most talented ball player around, but he was smart, and knew how to handle a team," said his son, Dan Franks, of Salt Lake City. "He enjoyed every minute of it, and baseball gave him some lifelong associations, which he cherished. He just loved the game."

Franks was born in 1914 to Italian immigrant parents. He moved to Salt Lake City with his mother where he starred athletically at East High.

In baseball circles, Franks was perhaps best known as a mentor to Mays, and in 1998 Franks told The Salt Lake Tribune he believed the player known as the "Say Hey Kid" was the best in Major League Baseball history.

"Willie Mays was Herm's guy," said Marc Amicone, general manager of the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees. "Herman Franks was part of a special group of guys who helped baseball become the American Pastime. Baseball was his life, and there aren't too many of those guys left."

Mays and Franks were partners in several business ventures, including a department store in West Valley

City called Thrift City, and Franks often advised Mays on financial matters.

"We were good friends, good friends with the whole family, really," Mays told the San Francisco Chronicle . "He helped a lot of guys out in business. He was friendly with most everybody he knew."

Monsignor Joseph Mayo of Salt Lake City's Cathedral of the Madeleine, who became Franks' close friend in his later years, said Franks was a living legend who "used to regale everybody with his baseball stories until his final days ... He had his marbles all the way to the end."

Franks managed the Giants for four years, from 1965 to 1968, and guided the National League team to four second-place finishes. After a nine-year absence from the game at a national level, he managed the Cubs for three years, from 1977 to 1979.

He finished with a 605-521 record as a major league manager.

Dan Franks said his father, who became an astute businessman, left the managerial jobs on his own terms.

"He was a tough, direct, blunt guy. He could be brusque, and sometimes people took that the wrong way," Dan Franks said. "But he was also softhearted and generous, and a loving father, and he always wanted to help people out."

Franks coached under Leo Durocher after his playing days as a catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals and Cubs, among other major league teams, and developed part of his managerial style from that legendary baseball figure.

"He was fun to be around," said Amicone, noting that Franks spoke to a group of youngsters during a Major League Alumni Clinic just last summer at Franklin Covey Field. "He had great baseball stories, because he knew everybody."

Dan Franks said his father was also proud of his association with the great Jackie Robinson, who broke the baseball color barrier. They were teammates in Montreal in 1946.

"He made it a long way coming out of Price, Utah," Dan Franks said.

Locally, a sports complex near SLC's Liberty Park bears Franks' name, and he was admitted into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame in 1974.

Mayo said Franks always made it a point to credit Catholic Bishop Duane G. Hunt for buying him a bus ticket to Houston where he got his first pro baseball tryout. Hunt died 49 years ago Tuesday.

He left the University of Utah during his freshman year in 1932, signing a professional baseball contract at age 18. He was a catcher for six years in the majors, and hit .199 with three home runs in 188 games, appearing in his final game in 1949 for the New York Giants.

Franks never forgot his roots, returning to Salt Lake City when seasons concluded.

"I was a good receiver. I had a good arm," Franks told the Salt Lake Tribune recently. "I wasn't a good hitter. I was good at handling pitchers. But I loved the game, and I always wanted to stay in it as a coach or manager."

After 1941, Franks entered the U.S. Navy and spent four years in Hawaii during World War II before returning to the major leagues and the Philadelphia Athletics in 1947.

He is survived by his wife, Amneris, and three children: Dan, Herman Jr. and Cyndi Wright.

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Friday at St. Ambrose Catholic Church, 1975 S. 2300 East, Salt Lake City.

Herman Louis Franks Sr.

Published in the Salt Lake Tribune from 4/1/2009 - 4/2/2009

"Nino" Herman Louis Franks, Sr. passed away peacefully surrounded by his loving family on March 30, 2009 at his home in Salt Lake City, Utah at the age of 95.

He was born on January 4, 1914 in Price, Utah to Italian immigrant parents, Edith Dozzi and Celeste Franks. He is survived by Ami, his wife of 60 years; his three children, Dan (Michele), Herman (Lauri), and Cyndy Wright (Michael), along with seven grandchildren: Rachel, Danny, Michael, Janie, David, Lauren, and Aaron.

Herm was raised in Salt Lake City attending East High School where he was an outstanding athlete lettering in baseball, basketball, football, and track.

After a year at the University of Utah, he broke into professional baseball as a catcher with the Hollywood Stars in 1932. Eventually he was acquired by the St. Louis Cardinals where he joined the major league club in 1939.

Herm went on to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1940-41 where he started a long-term association with Leo Durocher. He served as a lieutenant in the Navy during World War II for three and a half years. He played for Montreal in the International League during 1946 and in 1947 became a player-manager for the St. Paul Saints, the Dodgers' triple A team in the American Association.

Late in the 1947 season he returned to play in the majors with the Philadelphia Athletics where Herm met and married Ami in 1948. He went on to coach the New York Giants under Durocher from 1949 through 1955 during which the Giants won the National League Championship in 1951 and 1954 and the World Series in 1954.

He retired from baseball after the 1955 season to Salt Lake City and was involved in several business activities including being general manager of the Salt Lake City Bees of the Pacific Coast League.

In 1965 Herm was named manager of the San Francisco Giants where he remained for four years achieving the best overall record in the Major Leagues for that period.

Again he returned to business interests off the field, but was drawn back to baseball in 1977 to manage the Chicago Cubs for three years. He was also the Cubs general manager for the year 1981 before finally retiring from baseball. Herm is a member of the Utah Sports Hall of Fame, The Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame, and the East High School Hall of Fame.

Along the way he enjoyed hunting with his dogs, fishing, golf and racquetball. He was an avid and skilled card player enjoying many afternoons of gin rummy with his friends at the Ambassador Club and later at the Sabre Club.

Herm lived his life with honesty and integrity. He was a generous and loyal husband, father, grandfather, and friend and loved his family above all else.

Dad we want you to know your strength and example will always be a part of us.

The Franks family would like to thank the members of hospice and his devoted grandson, David, who helped care for him in the last months of his life.

The funeral mass will be celebrated on Friday the 3rd of April at 11:00 a.m. at St. Ambrose Catholic Church, 1975 South 2300 East.

Friends may call from 10:15 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. prior to the service. Funeral Director's Neil O'Donnell & Sons.

In lieu of flowers the family suggests a donation to the Catholic Community Services or a charity of your choice.