February 12th, 2014
Lenny Randle was a superb athlete, an intelligent human being and a good big league ballplayer who unfortunately, is perhaps now best known for punching out his manager and trying to blow a bunted ball foul. The skipper he decked was Frank Luchessi, during the Texas Rangers’ 1977 spring training season. Randle had been a Washington Senator first round draft pick (10th selection overall) in 1970. Before that, he had starred in both baseball and football at Arizona State.
He made his big league debut for the last Washington Senator team in history before that franchise relocated to Texas in 1972. Three years later, Randle was Billy Martin’s starting third baseman on a 1974 Ranger team that surprised everyone by finishing second in the AL West Division race. Randle hit .302 that year and led the team with 26 stolen bases as he thrived under Martin’s aggressive style of play. But when the team struggled to win the following year and Ranger ownership grew tired of Martin’s volcanic temper, he was replaced by Luchessi 95 games into the season.
Randle, who was by then starting at second for Texas, had a terrible offensive season in 1976, averaging just .224. The following spring, Luchessi decided to replace Lenny as the team’s starting second baseman with Bump Wills. Just before Opening Day, Randle approached Luchessi telling him he wanted to talk and in the ensuing conversation, the skipper evidently called the player a “punk.” An enraged Randle decked Luchessi with a three punch combination, breaking his jaw in the process. The player was immediately suspended and one month later, was on his way to New York, where he would become one of the best players on a very bad 1977 Mets’ ball club. Once again, Randle followed up a .300 season with a horrible offensive year in ’78 and the Mets released him.
The Yankees got him on August 3, 1979, one day after Thurman Munson lost his life in a tragic plane crash. Though he was being reunited with Billy Martin, the spirit of that ’79 Yankee team had been destroyed with Munson’s plane and Randle’s addition proved insignificant as New York went through the motions of completing what would be a lost season. He played in just 20 games during the last two months of the season, hitting just .179. The Yanks released him after the season and he would then play for the Cubs and Mariners before becoming the first Major League ballplayer to play professional baseball in Italy, in 1983.
|TEX (6 yrs)||608||2392||2153||256||545||77||18||11||192||77||169||295||.253||.308||.321||.629|
|NYM (2 yrs)||268||1093||950||131||258||38||15||7||62||47||129||127||.272||.358||.365||.724|
|SEA (2 yrs)||112||351||319||32||71||11||1||4||26||13||21||26||.223||.270||.301||.571|
|CHC (1 yr)||130||549||489||67||135||19||6||5||39||19||50||55||.276||.343||.370||.713|
|NYY (1 yr)||20||42||39||2||7||0||0||0||3||0||3||2||.179||.238||.179||.418|