A baseball card mystery: Finding Lenny Randle

I can’t remember anyone calling him “Len Randle.” Yet, his 1978 Topps card lists him in just such a way, even though Topps had featured him as “Lenny” on some of his earlier cards. To me, that’s who’ll always be, Lenny.

Whatever the case, I always liked Randle as a player. He was a fun, dynamic and game-breaking speedster who played the game all out. Billy Martin, who managed him with the Rangers and Yankees, regarded Randle as one of his favorites. Martin loved Lenny Randle’s scrappiness, speed, and versatility.

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Intelligent and well-spoken, Randle is generally perceived as one of the game’s friendlier guys, a gregarious sort who is always willing to laugh and talk, even with people he‘s just met.

That’s why the brutal incident that happened during the spring of 1977, in which he viciously attacked his own manager, remains so out of character for the veteran infielder/outfielder.

After learning that he had lost the starting second-base job to rookie Bump Wills and then being called a “punk” by manager Frank Lucchesi, Randle lost control of his temper and pummeled Lucchesi senselessly.

The assault left Lucchesi with a fractured cheekbone, among other injuries, not to mention a stay in the hospital.

Luckily, Lucchesi recovered from his serious injuries, and the two men settled their differences, with Randle apologizing for his inexcusable attack. But the reconciliation didn’t happen until after the Rangers suspended Randle and then traded him to the Mets for a mediocre shortstop named Rick Auerbach.

That explains how Randle ended up wearing a Mets uniform for his 1978 Topps card. But it doesn’t answer a few other questions we have about the card, which shows Randle sliding back into first base on a pickoff attempt, as Padres first baseman Gene Richards (who was normally an outfielder) attempts to apply a tag, which in turn causes Randle to let out a discernible yell.

At first glance, the photograph appears to have been taken at Shea Stadium, since the Mets are wearing their home pinstripes. Upon further review, the seats behind the third base line don’t look like those at Shea. So I thought that perhaps this photo was snapped during a spring training game, but then I quickly realized that couldn’t be the case. Randle wasn’t even with the Mets in spring training; he was still with Texas. So the photo must have been taken at Shea during the regular season.

So that leaves me with two questions about the card. In which game of the 1977 season did this play occur? And was Randle safe or out on the attempted pickoff?

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Comments

  1. Kevin said...

    It’s definitely July 31st, 1977. Bottom of the third, Randle singled to lead off, was almost picked off but the pitcher made a bad throw so he ended up on third. After Felix Milan flied out, Steve Henderson scored him with a single.

    It’s also the only game Richard played first against the Mets at Shea, so it was easy to find.

  2. Bruce Markusen said...

    Don’t know about the missing hand, but Randle was the player who blew the ball foul, illegally according to the umpire. He was playing third base for the Mariners at the time.

  3. Michael Caragliano said...

    It’s definitely Shea Stadium. The bare steel girders on the ground and yellow seats in the field boxes weren’t replaced until the Parks Department renovated the place in ‘82. As for the game in question, it had to be played on Sunday, July 31st, 1977. The Mets and Padres only played two day games that year, and the July 31st game was the only one when Richards played first. Richards moved to left in the sixth, and Randle reached first twice before that, but the second time, there was a runner on 2nd, so I doubt the Padres would’ve thrown over then. This photo probably was taken in the third, when Randle led off with a single. He was caught stealing, but a Padres error let him get to third.

  4. scott said...

    but is his hand missing or is it just an optical illusion (i.e. he’s bending it in a way that it just LOOKS like he was decapitated cleanly at the wrist)?  Or is that really a piece of his taped finger they forgot to airbrush out, laying just on this side of the baseline?  And why would they feel the need to airbrush it out anyways?  was it bent in an obscene position? why not remove just the offending fingers then?  oh well, i’ve wondered this for over 3 decades now.

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