Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Odd Moments: Randle v. Lucchesi.

Lenny Randle is shown here on card number 8-RAN of the 1986 TCMA All Time Rangers set. He shouldn't be. Because of what is one of the ugliest incidents in Rangers history Len Randle cannot ever be considered in any list of top Rangers players.

Randle had made his Major League debut in 1971 for the Washington Senators. He made the move to Texas with the team and appeared for them in every season up through 1976. Prior to 1976 he had been used mainly as a platoon or utility player. In 1976 he grabbed the starting second baseman's job. Unfortunately he had not produced as well as Texas expected him to.

Frank Lucchesi had been appointed as the Rangers manager in 1975 following the firing of Billy Martin. By the Spring of 1977 the 50-year old manager was ready to lead the team back into contention.

During Spring Training in 1977 young rookie phenom Bump Wills arrived at camp amid much acclaim. Like with Elvis Andrus at shortstop a couple of years ago, the management decided that second base was Wills' position to lose. That didn't sit well with Randle and he threatened to walk out of camp. Lucchesi was not amused and made some pretty harsh comments concerning "punks saying play me or trade me..." The remarks showed up in the papers.

On March 28, 1977 the Rangers were in Orlando, Florida for a Spring Training game against the Twins. The Rangers were taking batting practice about an hour before the game. Frank Lucchesi was on the field talking to his players and coaches. He hadn't been there long and was still not in uniform. Randle approached him and said he needed to talk to him.

The two stepped to the side. A few words were exchanged. Suddenly Randle punched Lucchesi in the face, knocking him to the ground. As Frank fell, Len landed several more punches. As players rushed to Lucchesi's aid, Randle jogged out to center field and started to run wind sprints. Outfielder Ken Henderson started after him with the intent of returning the punches for Lucchesi. Other players stopped Henderson.

Frank Lucchesi was transported to the hospital. Randle had broken his cheekbone and bruised a kidney. He needed surgery to repair the facial injuries and would be in the hospital for a week.

The Rangers immediately suspended Randle without pay for 30 days and fined him $10,000. The police got involved and criminal charges were filed. Before the 30 day suspension was up the Rangers shipped Randle to the Mets. He later pled no contest to the battery charges in criminal court and paid a $1,000 fine.

In late June the Rangers fired Frank Lucchesi. He claimed the firing was in part due to the incident with Randle. A lawsuit followed. The matter was settled out of court with Randle reportedly paying about $25,000 in damages to Lucchesi.

In sum total the incident cost the Rangers a decent manager and a public relations headache. It also cost them a versatile player and possibly a chance at the post-season. It cost Lenny Randle around $36,000 plus his lost wages. More importantly it cost him his good name. A high price to pay for an angry outburst.

1 comment:

Jim from Downingtown said...

A forerunner to the Martinez v. Zimmer match!