Lenny Randle: Late Seventies Mets Infielder (1977-1978)

Leonard Shenoff Randle was born February 12, 1949, in Long Beach, California. His father was a longshoreman & World War II veteran & his mother a seamstress. He had seven siblings, three brothers & four sisters, all of whom earned college degrees.

College Baseball: Randle was originally drafted in 1967 by the St. Louis Cardinals but did not sign. He elected to attend Arizona State University where the five-foot ten switch hitter was a two-sport star. He was the second baseman on the 1969 NCAA championship baseball team under legendary manager Bobby Winkles. The Sun Devils won the 1969 College World Series.

He was also a football return specialist whose five punt returns for touchdowns stood as a WCA record for 35 years.

Trivia: The soft-spoken Randle is fluent in three languages, he never drank alcohol, and has a master’s degree in education.

Randle was a first-round pick (tenth pick overall) of the Washington Senators in the 1970 draft. 
He was brought up right away in 1971, for the Senators playing under manager Ted Williams. Randle respected Williams, later saying Williams spoke of hitting, fishing & war in the clubhouse. He treated baseball like it was going to war. But Randle struggled at the plate batting .219 in 215 at bats.

The next season 1972, the Senators franchise moved to Texas & became the Texas Rangers. In 1972 he hit even worse batting just .193 in 74 games. He had his best minor league season in 1973 at AAA Spokane batting .283 stealing 39 bases. 

He came back to the big-league Texas team under new manager Billy Martin's leadership and developed into a fine hitter. Martin would end up being another big influence on Randle’s life. 

In 1974 he hit .302 (seventh in the league) stealing 26 bases, scoring 65 runs with 1 HR, 17 doubles & 4 triples for the second place Rangers team. Randle would be the Rangers main second baseman as well as play third base & outfield field for the next three seasons.

In 1975 he batted .276 while having career highs in doubles (24) RBIs (57) runs (85) games (156) & at bats (601).

Trivia: His 1975 Topps baseball card is odd, it seems he is shouting out in pain after possible getting hit by a pitch.

In the 1976 bicentennial season his average fell off to .224 with just 11 doubles, although he did steal 30 bases & hit seven triples.

Drama in Texas: The next Spring, Texas was making changes, Frank Lucchesi was now the manager, and the club was ready to go with highly touted rookie second baseman Bump Wills. Bump is the son of legendary Los Angeles Dodgers base stealer from the sixties, Maury Wills. 

Randle was furious at the team's decision: "How do you just flat give a rookie who never has been to bat in the major leagues a starting job? If he comes down here and earns it, that's one thing, but if they are just going to give it to him, I want to be traded as soon as possible. I'm not going to caddy for a rookie."

He threatened to walk out of camp, which aggravated the normally easygoing manager, Frank Lucchesi. "It's just too bad somebody stopped him from leaving," Lucchesi told a group of reporters. "I'm tired of these punks saying play me or trade me. Anyone who makes $80,000 a year and gripes and moans all spring is not going to get a tear out of me."

Randle flipped and it all blew up on March 28, 1977, which ironically was the same day that Sports Illustrated featured Bump Wills on it’s the cover. Texas was playing the Minnesota Twins in a Spring Training contest. 

 Before the game Randle walked up to Lucchesi during Rangers batting practice and said he wanted to talk. Words were exchanged, and then out of nowhere Randle punched Lucchesi in the face, hitting him again as the manager fell to the ground. Some teammates rushed to Lucchesi's aid, others restrained Randle. Outfielder Ken Henderson was angry, and went after Randle, who calmly jogged out to center field.

Randle broke Lucchesi's cheek and he was hospitalized for a week, needing plastic surgery. The manager was back with the team in time for Opening Day but eventually lost his job. Lucchesi blamed Randle and sued him for $200,000. Randle would settle out of court for $25,000. 

The Rangers won 94 games that year, but Randle wasn’t around for much of it either. He was suspended for 30 days without pay and fined $10,000 by the team.

On April 26th, before the suspension was complete, Texas traded him to the New York Mets for a player to be named later, who turned out to be Rick Auerbach & cash. 

Mets Career: 
On April 30th, 1977, Lenny Randle made his Mets debut as a defensive replacement in left field.

The next day in San Diego, he started at second base, getting a triple in his first Mets at bat. He scored on the next play on a Joe Torre sac fly. Randle collected two singles a triple & stole a base in the Mets 8-2 win over the Padres.

On May 7th he had a three hit day & was batting .400 in his first six Mets games. On May 13th, Randle had a pair of hits against the NL Champion Dodgers including a HR off Rick Rhoden, helping Jon Matlack in a 3-0 shutout.

He went on to hit safely in 15 of the next 18 games, including a four-hit day on May 14th, in a 5-4 loss to the Dodgers. On June 5th, he tied up a game against the Philadelphia Phillies with a hone 7th inning triple, scoring Lee Mazzilli & Bud Harrelson. The Mets went on to an extra inning 6-5 victory. 

That summer Randle settled in as the Mets regular third baseman. He kept his average over .300 & hit safely in 33 of 38 games for a dismal team that didn't have too many highlights. 

Walk Off HR: On July 9th, the Mets & Expos locked horns for 17 innings in a 5-5 tie. In the bottom of the 17th with Lee Mazzilli on first & two outs, Randle hit a walk off two run HR off Will McEnaney giving the Mets a dramatic 7-5 win after a four-hour Shea Day game. Shea Stadium.

New York City Blackout: On July 13th when New York city suffered it city wide power outage, known as the famous '77 Blackout, Randle was at bat for the Mets in the bottom of the 6th inning with one out. That's when the power went out at Shea Stadium, Randle said he thought it was all over for him and God had come to get him. 

On August 5th he came to bat in the bottom of the 8th inning, against the Giants Gary Lavalle. The score was tied 2-2 as Randle doubled driving home Doug Flynn with what would be the winning run. Two days later he hit a solo HR in a 7-4 loss to the Giants. 

Walk Off Hit: On August 23rd Nino Espinosa & Skip Lockwood went up against the Astros Floyd Bannister & Tom Dixon, both holding the other team to one run. In the bottom of the 9th with Leo Foster on second & two outs, Randle singled to center field off Joe Sambito bringing in the game winning run.

The speedy Randle would steal 13 bases through July & August. During a mid-September six game hit streak, Randle drove in two runs with a two run double off Jackie Brown in a 4-2 Mets win over the Expos in Montreal. He ended the year with an RBI triple in the last game of the year.

Randle had his best season that year, setting career highs in batting average (.304) & on-base percentage (.383) which was tenth best in the league.

His career highs that season also included stolen bases (33) and HRs (5). Randle the Mets in almost all offensive categories. He only struck out 70 times in 513 at bats, as the team’s primary leadoff man, scoring 78 runs in with 156 hits and 65 walks. 

Randle plated 110 games at third 20 games at second & 6 in the outfield. The last place Mets finished 64-98.

1978: He began the year as the teams Opening Day third baseman, going 0-4. On April 14th, Randle's 10th inning double off the Expos Rudy May scored Joel Youngblood with the game winning run in the 3-2 Mets win.

In the first two weeks of May, Randle hit three triples & would hit four in the month. He batted .307 that month & walked 18 times to post a .441 on base % & finally get his average over .200. 

On June 11th he hit his first HR of the year, a three-run shot off the Giants John "the Count" Montefusco, in a loss against San Francisco at Shea. 

Two days later on the West Coast Road trip in San Diego, the Mets were down 2-1. Randle singled in the top of the 9th inning with off Rollie Fingers, driving in two runs putting the Mets ahead 3-2 with the game winning run.

On June 30th the Mets were down 3-2 entering the 9th inning. Ed Kranepool tied the game & Randle's triple scored the go ahead run. The Mets put up four runs in the inning for the 6-3 win. He had four hits that day & then went on to have an eight-game hit streak. 

After a poor July he hot .321 in August playing twenty games. On August 25th Randle drove in one of the two Mets runs in Craig Swan's 2-1 win over the Padres & Gaylord Perry. 

After an uneventful September the Mets finished last again with 66 wins & 96 loses.

Things never didn't go as well as the previous year for Randle as he never got his average up over .250 all season. After batting over .300 the prior year his average plummeted to .233. He had eight triples (10th in the NL) with two HRs, 16 doubles, 35 RBIs, 14 stolen bases & .330 on base %.

Defensively his .967 fielding % was third best in the league. 

1979: By the end of Spring Training 1979 he had lost his third base job to the newly acquired veteran Richie Hebner. Hebner's time in New York was a disaster as he lasted just one season & hated it. The Mets released Randle at the end of Spring Training.

In May he signed with the San Francisco Giants & played at AAA Phoenix. At the end of June, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates along with Bill Madlock & Dave Roberts in exchange for Ed Whitson, Al Holland & Fred Breining.

Later in the season Randle was given a chance with the AL New York club under his old manager Billy Martin. He signed the day after Thurman Munson was killed in the fatal plane crash, filling the roster spot. He only played 20 games there batting .179.

In 1980 Randle signed with the Chicago Cubs where he hit .276 in 130 games. He then signed on with the Seattle Mariners where he hit .231 in 82 games. 

Trivia: Randle made all the highlight films, as well as baseball blooper videos for an incident in Mat 27th game at the Kingdome against the Kansas City Royals. While playing third base as a slow roller hit by Amos Otis came to Randle, he got down on all fours trying to blow the ball into foul territory.

In 1982 he played 30 games & was batting .174 when he was released, ending his MLB career at age 30.

 Career Stats: In his 12-year career, Randle batted .257 with 1016 hits 145 doubles 40 triples 27 HRs 322 RBIs 156 stolen bases & a .321 on base %. He struck out 505 times drew 372 walks with a .656 OPS in 1138 games played. He played 521 games at third 437 at second 149 in the outfield & 24 at DH.

Italian Baseball League: After retiring from MLB, Randle became the first American major league player to play in Italy in the Italian Serie-A1 league. There he became one of their biggest stars, leading the league in hitting & even batting .477 one season. He holds a record for one of the longest HRs in Italy as well as most HRs & singles hit in a three-game series.  Lenny is fluent in both Italian & Spanish. 

Senior Professional League: He also played two seasons in the short-lived Florida Senior League with the St. Petersburg Pelicans in 1989 & 1990.

 Retirement: Lenny opened the Pro Baseball Academy, where he teaches kids quality baseball instruction & gives private lessons. Lenny also organizes professional athletes and other celebrities to speak at school assemblies across the country. 

He organizes weekend trips for young people to the spring training camps of the Arizona Diamondbacks, California Angels, Seattle Mariners San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Lenny is friends with former Mets manager Willie Randolph and was often spotted around Shea Stadium in his Mets uniform on & off the field. 

from centerfield: I got a chance to meet him at a Mets game during the 2006 season. We spoke both before & after the game about his career, his baseball camp as well as his faith. He was a great conversation and a real good guy.

 Lenny said he took the uniform number 11 for two reasons. One was because he said God was number 1 in his life & second to honor Billy Martin his manager with the Texas Rangers. 

Randle also said Ted Williams; his manager in Washington was a big influence in his life and taught him a lot about baseball. He was honored to have played for both men. 

Honors: Lenny Randle was inducted into the Arizona State University Athletic Hall of Fame as both a football and a baseball player.


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