The Other Tito Francona

From Bruce Markusen, a former Seymour Medal winner, at The Hardball Times on October 6, 2011:

By now, every fan of the game knows about Terry Francona’s departure from the Red Sox. But do fans outside of Red Sox Nation know much about his father, who was a pretty fair ballplayer in his day?

The younger Francona, whose given name is Terry Jon Francona, is often referred to as “Tito.” That’s because his father played under the same name, and that sometimes can be a source of confusion. The original Tito Francona, whose given name was John Patsy Francona, played with a passel of teams during the 1950s and ’60s.

When I was growing up with the game, the original Tito Francona was part of a different source of confusion for me; I used to mix him up with Tito Fuentes, the second baseman for the Giants who later played for the Padres, Tigers, and A’s.

The two players looked nothing alike—Francona was a white Italian American while Fuentes was a dark-skinned Latino—and they played nothing alike. Francona was a left-handed hitting outfielder/first baseman with power, while Fuentes was a singles-hitting middle infielder with speed. But when you’re all of six or seven years old, it’s hard to keep all of the Titos straight.

After missing out on two potential seasons because of military service, the elder Francona broke in with the Orioles in 1956, when he hit a modest .258 with only nine home runs but still managed to finish in a second-place tie for the American League Rookie of the Year award. He then bounced around with the White Sox and Tigers before coming into his own with the Indians in 1959.

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Originally published: October 6, 2011. Last Updated: October 6, 2011.