The San Francisco Giants issued a statement earlier this week calling Herman Franks a "true Giant." "When you mention his name, you immediately think of the Giants," team owner Bill Neukom said.
But you also could add to that the title of "true Utahn."
Franks, who died in Salt Lake City earlier this week at age 95, was born and bred in the Beehive State, and he came back here whenever the baseball world would let him go for a while. He was born in Price and was a star athlete at Salt Lake's East High School. He even was general manager of the Salt Lake Bees for a while, many years before another team came to town and adopted that name.
But Franks was a true American, as well. He played a part in many of the signature moments of the 20th century. Today we stand in awe of athletes who forgo huge contracts to serve in the armed forces, but Franks lived in a time when such a thing was expected. He interrupted a budding major league career with the Brooklyn Dodgers for service in the Navy during World War II, returning only after that conflict was won.
After the war, he was fortunate enough not only to be a coach under the legendary Leo Durocher but to be in New York during the golden age when the city had three major league clubs and every one of them was in contention. As a coach for the Giants back then, he was an integral part of one of the most storied moments in the game's history, as the team erased a large August deficit and roared back to overtake the Dodgers on a home run by Bobby Thomson that became known as the "shot heard 'round the world."
Even the news, revealed 50 years later, that Durocher had his men stealing signs from opponents during that incredible run has done little to tarnish the luster of that season for Giants' fans. Gamesmanship is just a part of the sport.
And so was Franks, who built an impressive record of his own later as manager of the Giants and the Cubs. Utah may never see another quite like him.