Sports and Entertainment

Lenny Randle: “The Most Interesting Man in Baseball” 

By Charles Jackson Jr.

The MLB Network produced a TV special about Lenny Randle, a gifted switch-hitting infielder-outfielder, calling him “The Most Interesting Man in Baseball.” During his 12-year career, Randle learned to speak five languages, wrote, published, and performed a hip-hop song, worked as a stand-up comic for free steaks, was responsible for the popularity of baseball in Italy, and ran a baseball academy in multiple locations.

Randle grew up in Compton, California, where he was a star athlete in football and baseball at Centennial High School. Randle was captain of both the baseball and football teams. He was an outstanding running back and shared the backfield with Mickey Cureton. Mickey was a two-time CIF Southern Section 4A Player of the Year. Cureton earned Parade All-American honors after rushing for 2,504 yards as a senior with 36 touchdowns and 240 points. His points total broke the Southern Section record previously held by Glenn Davis. He finished his career with 474 points and 4,920 yards on 563 carries. Cureton was on the list of the top 50 running backs of all time. He played at UCLA, earning second-team All-American honors in 1969 after rushing for 721 yards and six touchdowns. 

The St. Louis Cardinals drafted Lenny Randle in the 10th round of the 1967 amateur draft but chose to attend Arizona State University instead to hone his baseball skills further. Despite his slight physique, Randle continued to play football as a wide receiver and was a kickoff and punt-return specialist due to his speed.

Randle’s presence on the ASU baseball team was much more impactful. He batted .298 as the starting shortstop in 1968, .225 at second base in 1969, and .335 at second base in 1970. The highlight of Randle’s college baseball career was the 1969 season when the Sun Devils won the College World Series. In 1980, Randle was elected to the Arizona State University Sports Hall of Fame for his football and baseball contributions. The citation noted that he scored six touchdowns on kickoff and punt returns as a football return specialist.

The Washington Senators drafted Randle in the first round of the 1970 amateur draft. Randle played in 1,137 games for six teams, including standout performances in 1974 and 1977, hitting .302 and .304, respectively. He was a gifted athletic player with positional flexibility and durability, seldom injured, and played an average of 143 games per year over a five-year span from 1974 through 1978. Randle was drafted as a seasoned college player and never played below Triple-A ball in the minor leagues.

Though Randle eventually played for six major-league teams, he knew only one franchise from 1970 until April 26, 1977, the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers. In ’77, after assaulting his manager, he was traded to the New York Mets, where he enjoyed his best year. But the 1978 season saw his batting average sink, and he was released by the Mets in 1979. Randle finished his career with the Chicago Cubs and Seattle Mariners.

Randle promotes and conducts baseball clinics and frequently travels to Italy, where he searches for the first superstar major league ballplayer from Italy. Lenny works with his sister, Dr. Theresa Randle-Price, and other siblings at the National College Foundation, a nonprofit service that helps students discover and apply for college scholarships.

Lenny Randle will be honored in his hometown of Compton at the Black History Month Lifetime of Excellence Awards on February 3rd, 6-9 pm at the Crystal Hotel Ballroom. He will join several community personalities who have made history, spending a lifetime working in the community. 

Lenny Randle jokes around with Compton City Council members. Lillie Darden, Emma Sharif and Deidra Duhart