Herman Franks, 95, a legend in Utah baseball history, passed away in Salt Lake City a couple of weeks ago.
Franks was born in Price in 1914. The family moved to Salt Lake City prior to his high school days and Herman attended East High School where he was an all-around athlete.
While in Carbon County Franks' father had been a photographer and traveled among the coal camps taking family pictures.
A year out of high school, Herm went into professional baseball with the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League and this led to a major league career as a catcher and later a team manager.
Never a consistent hitter, Franks was an astute handler of pitchers, a trait that led to a managerial career with the San Francisco Giants in the 60's and the Chicago Cubs in the 70's. His record as a major league manager was 605 wins and 521 loses.
It was my good fortune several years ago to sit next to Herm at the opening game of a WBBA little world series at the baseball complex in Salt Lake City located at 9th South and 13th East. Herman had been invited to toss out the ceremonial "first pitch" on opening day. The field, designated "Herman Franks Field" and a bust of Franks was unveiled at the entrance to the field. The Central City league of WBBA hosted that tournament, and another Carbon County native, David Spatafore, president of that league, was instrumental in bestowing the honors on Franks. The Helper and Price American League all-star teams participated in that tournament.
As we sat there watching the progress of the first game, Herm reminisced of his friends in Carbon County, mutual friends of ours. He told me that his family had resided upstairs in the Main Street building in Price now occupied by the Oliveto Gift Shop.
I mentioned to him that my wife and I were in Ebbets Field in Brooklyn the September night in 1954 when the New York Giants clinched the National League pennant by defeating the Brooklyn Dodger team that had Jackie Robinson playing second base. This set Herm spinning tales of that Giant team that stunned the baseball world by sweeping the Cleveland Indians in the World Series in October. The Indians had set an American League record in 1954 by winning 111 regular season games. Franks was a coach on the Giants team that was led by Hall of Famer Willie Mays in center field.
A few years later I received a phone call from Helper resident Gary Nelson, a grandson of the late J. Bracken Lee, who said he had a baseball that he would like me to identify for him. Gary brought the baseball to me and I immediately recognized the prize he had; it was a baseball with the autographs of the entire New York Giants team of 1954.
After the death of J. Bracken Lee, a former mayor of Price, Salt Lake City and governor of the state of Utah, his personal effects were distributed to family members. The Nelson family was given the autographed baseball because of their active interest in the youth baseball program in Helper.
Franks and Lee were longtime friends and Herm had given the baseball to the former governor following the 1954 World Series.
The connection between the two? Franks was born in Price, Lee's home town.