At first, I thought it might be difficult picking Lenny Randle out of the crowd at Saturday’s college football game pitting the resistible force that is New Mexico against the movable object that is UNLV.
The weather was ideal. But then it occurred to me that the game was being televised by 8 News NOW Plus Cox 128, aka the worldwide leader in sports.
So finding Lenny Randle in the Sam Boyd Stadium stands was like finding a needle among about 12 other needles; or, at most, 12,835 announced needles. It wasn’t difficult.
Leonard Shenoff Randle is the father of UNLV running back Bradley Randle, who had the game of his UNLV career in the Rebels’ 35-7 victory. Bradley Randle rushed 12 times for 113 yards and two touchdowns – his first 100-yard game – and scored a third TD on a 17-yard pass from Nick Sherry.
To understand Bradley Randle’s success, one first must understand Lenny Randle. Which is much more difficult than finding him in a sparse crowd.
The 63-year-old Lenny Randle is personable and colorful and energetic and frenetic and has about 50 irons in 48 fires – the most prominent of which might or might not be coaching third base for the independent Washington Wild Things.
He also seems capable of carrying on about 50 conversations after igniting 48 fires. “Don’t blame me for (Hurricane) Sandy,” he says.
Remember the classic “I Love Lucy” scene where Lucy gets a job at a candy factory, and she can’t keep up with the chocolates as they come off the conveyor belt? That is sort of what it’s like to chat with Bradley Randle’s father.
Lenny Randle spent 12 years in the major leagues with five teams – six if you count the Washington Senators and Texas Rangers as separate entities. He was a first-round draft pick out of high school; instead, he chose to attend Arizona State, where he was a two-sport star, playing for Frank Kush in football and Bobby Winkles in baseball. And where he got his college degree.
His career batting average was .257, which is sort of like a C-plus in algebra. But in 1974, in 151 games with Texas, he batted .302 and drove in 49 runs and stole 26 bases and finished 21st in the American League Most Valuable Player voting. Which was like an A-minus.
If you’re one of those baseball trivia experts like Bob Costas, you might recall that Lenny Randle once punched Frank Lucchesi, his manager at Texas, in the face and shattered his cheekbone – Randle says they have buried the hatchet (and not in each other’s back).
In a more whimsical episode, when playing third base for the Mariners in 1981, he got down on his hands and knees and tried unsuccessfully to blow foul – blow foul! – a topper off the bat of Kansas City’s Amos Otis. That one made all the blooper reels.
Randle also was at bat when the lights went out at Shea Stadium during the famous blackout of 1977. Not even Tim McCarver would have known that.
He told me Ray Burris was pitching for the Cubs and Manny Trillo was playing second base and Ivan DeJesus was playing shortstop and that he hit the ball between them – or hit it somewhere, at least – when the lights went out. And that he should have been credited with a single. Because when he wasn’t, “that left me one short.”
One short of what? Randle collected 1,016 hits as a big league ballplayer. One more would have given him 1,017, which doesn’t exactly sound like one of those plateaus you aim for. But I am sure it all makes perfect sense to him.
The only time he stayed on topic for more than two plays from scrimmage was when I asked how proud he was of Bradley. But then he went off in another direction, like the old Houston Veer offense, that time as well.
He said his wife, Linda, to whom he has been married “since the third grade,” is like Ray Lewis’ mom on TV; that his other boys, Kumasi and Ahmad, have done well, too, in fields outside of sports; that he taught Willie Mays’ kids how to play sports, and Mickey Mantle’s kids. And that he taught Billy Martin Jr. how to play Pop Warner football, because Billy Jr.’s old man usually was arguing in the dugout with Reggie Jackson and didn’t have time.
“My dad, I’ll tell ya,” Bradley Randle said with a wry shake of the head outside the UNLV dressing room afterward. He was wearing a heavy wool letterman’s jacket, as if it were winter; and a wide smile, as if it were springtime and birds were chirping.
“He always said to me to enjoy my youth. He taught me everything I know and just to have fun during the games and always keep the guys laughing in the huddle.”
On Saturday, everybody on the UNLV side of the field had a good laugh for a change.
When I left Lenny and the other Randles and the other people in his section down by the 20-yard line that assuredly by now are honorary Randles, a model airplane was doing loop de loops over the scoreboard beyond the end zone where his son had scored three touchdowns.
The weather was gorgeous, and his son’s team was winning big. And when I asked if it had been a good day, he said that it had – but that every day is a good day.
It was then that Lenny Randle reached out and pinched me on the arm, perhaps because this good day seemed just a tad bit better than the other good days.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.