Herman Franks was born on January 4, 1914 in Price, Utah. His playing career as a reserve catcher spanned parts of ten years with the St. Louis Cardinals (1939) Brooklyn Dodgers (1940-1941) Philadelphia A’s (1947-1948) & one game as a New York Giant (1949).
In that time he also put in three and a half years military service in World War II. Franks was a lifetime .199 hitter with three HRs 18 doubles & 43 RBIs in 188 games played. In 142 games at catcher he threw out 57% of would be base stealers.
In Brooklyn he played under manager Leo Durocher, earning Leo’s respect with an aggressive "do anything to win" style of play. After his playing days he was summoned by Durocher to coach for him with the New York Giants.
He became Leo’s right hand man, getting into the other teams heads especially the hated arch rival Brooklyn Dodgers. He would stick his head in the Brooklyn clubhouse and taunt players like Carl Furillo, telling them the Giants pitchers would be throwing at their heads today.
Franks played an important role in the 1951 Giants amazing comeback pennant run. According to legend, Franks was positioned in the Polo Grounds centerfield clubhouse with a telescope, zooming in on opposing catcher’s signs. He would then activate a buzzer that rung in the Giants bullpen, where reserve catcher Sal Yvars would signal to the batter.
One ring from Franks meant Yvars would just hold a ball, a fastball was coming. Two rings &Yvars would throw a ball in the air, a curve. This entire sign stealing process would have to be done in a split second and then the batter would still have to hit it. Some players admitted to using it, others totally denied it. Franks never admitted to any such actions, and in 2000 he said he would always deny any accusations.
As a Giants coach he went to two World Series and won one World Championship. After Durocher left in 1955 so did Herman Franks. He would return as a San Francisco Giants manager from 1965-1968, stepping down after four sucessful second place finishes. In those years the Giant won 90 games or better three times & came close winning 88 games in 1968. In that period he managed Giants future Hall of Fame Players; Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Gaylord Perry, Orlando Cepeda, & Juan Marichal.
Retirement: After baseball he was a successful businessman off the field. He was even part of a group bidding to buy the A.L. New York club in 1973 when CBS put the team up for sale.
He returned to baseball as the Chicago Cubs manager in 1977-1979. He took then to an 81-81 fourth place finish in 1977.
In 1978 Franks Cubs finished third at 79-83 & in 1979 they fell to fifth place before he was let go. Franks then served as the Cubs General Manager until 1981. As an MLB manager lifetime he was 605-521 with a .531 winning %.
Franks passed away March 30th, 2009 at the age of 95 in Salt Lake City, Utah.