Collage of three pictures: Micah Franklin playing baseball, Micah Franklin as a little boy wearing a yarmulke, and a picture of an Oakland Ballers hat
Left: A Japanese baseball card from Micah Franklin's time playing there. Right: Franklin as a little boy. Background: Oakland Ballers baseball caps. (Photos/Courtesy; Oakland Baller's)

S.F. native has diamonds in his eyes as manager of new Oakland B’s

If Team Israel ever comes calling, San Francisco native Micah Franklin will be ready.

The Oakland B’s, a new minor-league team, named Franklin as its inaugural manager in late November.

Officially, the team is known as the Oakland Ballers. But with the impending departure of the Oakland A’s to Las Vegas, the B’s moniker fits like a glove.

The fledgling squad, which will play its home games at Oakland’s Laney College starting in May, is within the domain of Major League Baseball (MLB) as part of the Pioneer League. Unlike most minor league teams, though, the B’s aren’t affiliated with a specific MLB team.

Micah Franklin celebrating Hanukkah in downtown Chandler, Arizona. (Photo/Courtesy)
Micah Franklin celebrating Hanukkah in downtown Chandler, Arizona. (Photo/Courtesy)

Franklin, who is 51, grew up in San Francisco with a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish Black father. He would have loved to play for Team Israel when it debuted in World Baseball Classic tournament back in 2012, but his professional career had ended eight years earlier — back when “Israel” and “baseball” weren’t uttered in the same sentence.

“It sucks. I was too old to play for Team Israel by the time they started. And now I’ve never been asked to coach. I mean, c’mon now!” he said with humor in his voice.

The Oakland B’s job, his first as a manager, should elevate Franklin’s profile. So perhaps when Team Israel starts rounding up coaches for the next World Baseball Classic in 2026, Franklin will be on the radar.

When his playing career ended in 2004, Franklin left baseball completely for five years, living in the “80% Jewish” hamlet of Plainview, Long Island, and working with the New York–Jewish side of his family on a business that leased and financed luxury black sedans for driving services. After that, though, Franklin began working as a scout and a batting coach in the minor leagues.

His role with the Oakland B’s is his next step up in the game he loves.

“Getting this job means a ton to me. First of all, to be able to be the manager for a brand-new organization in Oakland — for someone who grew up in the Bay Area — that’s very exciting,” he said. “When I heard about the job, I said, heck yes. I’m all in.

“And also, it’s like coming full circle. As a teenager, I used to be a vendor at Candlestick Park [for Giants games] and at the Oakland Coliseum [for A’s games]. Really, I was just doing that so I could get there early and watch batting practice and be able to watch games even though I didn’t have enough money for tickets.”

Franklin got his baseball start in youth leagues and at Lincoln High School in San Francisco, where he graduated in 1990. Although he attended camps as a kid at the Jewish Community Center, he never played for JCC sports teams because his athletic skills were at a much higher level than most.

He was selected by the New York Mets in the third round of the 1990 MLB draft. He went on to have a long career during which he hit 258 home runs over 15 seasons, including stints in the top pro leagues of Japan and South Korea.

Only two of those homers came in the major leagues, though — both with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1997. Franklin was a switch-hitting outfielder who could hit both for average and for power, but his teams always had better players blocking his way.

In the end, his MLB career consisted of 17 games with 11 hits in 34 at-bats. That works out to a lifetime batting average of .324 — a Hall-of-Fame-worthy statistic if accomplished over a long career.

When I heard about the job, I said, heck yes. I’m all in.

Looking back, Franklin said his biggest highlight came in 1992 with the Billings Mustangs. Although the team won the minor-league title that year, that wasn’t the reason. It was meeting his future wife, Lisa, in Montana.

The couple recently celebrated their 30-year anniversary. They have three daughters: Cierra, 28, who works in New York as the technical director of replay operations at MLB; Ariana, 22, who is in cosmetology school; and Jaysha, 17, who is in high school in Chandler, Arizona, where the family lives.

On a professional level, Franklin’s biggest highlight is an easy pick too.

“Playing-wise, just getting to the major leagues is what I’m most proud about,” Franklin said.

Micah Franklin as a hitting coach for the Washington Nationals in 2022. (Photo/Courtesy)
Micah Franklin as a hitting coach for the Washington Nationals in 2022. (Photo/Courtesy)

While managing the B’s, Franklin will live in the San Francisco house where he grew up. His mother, Karen Greenbaum, now lives elsewhere in the city, and his father, James Franklin, died in 2014, but the family still owns its old house, which works out perfectly for Micah.

“I’m going to stay there, which is awesome,” he said. “Sometimes it’s rented out, but it’s empty right now. I’m really excited.”

Franklin said he grew up celebrating Jewish holidays and going to youth services at Congregation Emanu-El. He said he and Lisa raised their daughters in much the same way, with Passover and Hanukkah and other Jewish trimmings, but like him as a kid, they “learned about everything” in terms of religion and spirituality.

Franklin’s first name honors his maternal great-grandmother, Mildred, and his middle name is Ishanti, a tribute to both the Ashanti tribe of West Africa and his maternal great-grandfather, Israel.

His San Francisco upbringing put him in such a multicultural stew, he said, that being Black and Jewish was never an issue for him.

“That was the coolest thing about growing up in the Bay Area,” he said. “It wasn’t a big thing to be different.”

Even when Frank Robinson managed the San Francisco Giants from 1981 to 1984, Micah, then a preteen,  didn’t know that Robinson had become the first Black manager in MLB history only a few years earlier.

“You know what’s so crazy? I didn’t even know any of that at the time,” Franklin said. “That’s in part because of growing up in San Francisco.”

Franklin now counts among his favorite managers the late Robinson and Tony La Russa, who guided the 1988-1990 Oakland A’s to three American League pennants and one World Series title. La Russa also was Franklin’s manager in St. Louis. But his all-time favorite is Dusty Baker, the former S.F. Giants manager (1993-2002) who retired this year, at age 74, after winning his first World Series as a manager in 2022 with the Houston Astros.

“I got to know him a little bit when I was playing in the minors,” Franklin said. “And his wife, Melissa, grew up on my street [in San Francisco]. She used to babysit me!”

Perhaps Franklin’s managerial career will take off and he can follow at least a bit in Baker’s footsteps.

Or perhaps he’ll get that call from Team Israel. That would make him happy too.

Andy Altman-Ohr

Andy Altman-Ohr was J.’s managing editor and Hardly Strictly Bagels columnist until he retired in 2016 to travel and live abroad. He and his wife have a home base in Mexico, where he continues his dalliance with Jewish journalism.