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Tony Franklin Makes Eastern League History

by Matt Kardos | Posted on Saturday, May 10th, 2014

Friday marked a very busy day at Arm & Hammer Park for the Trenton Thunder organization. Star-prospect Peter O’Brien was slated to make his Double-A debut after being promoted from Tampa, pitching prospect Manny Banuelos was scheduled to duel with Phillies top-prospect Jesse Biddle and current MLBPA President and Thunder alum, Tony Clark, was visiting the ballpark to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the team’s first game. Surprisingly, none of those story lines proved to be the most significant event of the evening.

As the Thunder went on to defeat the rival Reading Fightin’ Phillies by a score of 8-2, Manager Tony Franklin earned career victory 564 which allowed him to surpass Dave Machemer for first place on the Eastern League’s all-time managerial wins list since the league became a Double-A affiliated league in 1963. Former Thunder Manager Stump Merrill ranks third all-time in league history with 530 career victories.

Thunder Manager Tony Franklin became the EL's all-time wins leader last night. Photo by: Matt Kardos

Thunder Manager Tony Franklin became the EL’s all-time wins leader last night. Photo by: Matt Kardos

“It’s all because of the guys back there in that locker room,” explained Franklin. “The guys who have been here and have either gone onto the major leagues or have gone onto some other things in their lives, I hope I have had some small impact on their lives, whether it be in baseball or outside of it, I just hope that I have been a positive influence.”

Now in his eighth season as Thunder skipper, the 63-year old Franklin has captured three EL titles, made five league championship appearances and has posted a losing record just twice. The 2012 Manager of the Year, in typical selfless fashion, says that that historic victory probably won’t mean much to him until he has time to reflect on it in the off-season.

‘At the end of the year, I will reflect on it,” said Franklin. “It will hit me and I will think it’s pretty cool like I have done with most of the things that have happened to me; some very good things have happened to me over my career but as the season goes on, it is business as usual.”

When Franklin was hired to take over for Bill Masse as the eighth Manager of the Thunder after the 2006 season, he never imagined that his career would reach the levels of success that it has.

“I did not have a clue that this was ever possible,” Franklin said. “I was just happy to have a job at that point and happy to be here working for the Yankees and coming to Trenton was a blessing. I have found a very nice home here; the people and the franchise here in Trenton have been really good to me and I am really happy to be part of it.”

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Tony Franklin surpassed Dave Machemer with 564 career wins. Photo courtesy of Trenton Thunder

Franklin recorded his 1000th career managerial victory in June of 2012 and after Friday night’s historic win, has 1.145 under his belt. A former minor leaguer himself, Franklin spent six seasons as a player between the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs organizations. Franklin got his first managerial gig in 1982 when he took over the helm of the Geneva Cubs, the Short-A affiliate of the Cubs in the New York Penn League.

‘I don’t remember the first one,” admitted Franklin when asked if he recalls his first career victory. “They kind of all run together, but that’s what we are supposed to do, we are supposed to win games. I have been blessed with a bunch of guys who are very good baseball players that have allowed me to get to this point.”

Franklin, by all accounts, is the most accomplished manager in the 20-year existence of the Thunder, having gone 564-460 since joining the franchise. Players rave about playing for Franklin because of the way he interacts with them and keeps them confident through periods of struggle.

Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman has always spoke glowingly of the skipper and been confident in his ability to work with and develop the organizations most prized prospects on their road to the Bronx.

“Tony is an ace. He’s such a pro,” said Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman in 2012. “He’s done so much for our franchise; our players are in great hands with him here.  He’s obviously been great here in the community.  He’s just got the perfect demeanor for what we’re looking for at this level.  Trusting him with our assets at this level has been very easy to do since he came to us.”

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