Little Lenny Randle, who broke in with the 1971 Washington Senators (that was a baseball team, Kiddies), has driven Texas Ranger manager Frank Lucchesi, one of the game's nice guys, up the wall in Pompano Beach, Fla.
And vice versa.
Spring training may be "delicious laziness" for established veterans, as our man in Florida chrnoicled this week, but Randle is feeling disestablished and anything but lazy. Randle, who slumped from a productive 276 year in 601 at-bats in 1975 to a weak 224 in '76, has been chafing all spring because the Rangers handed the second-base job to rookie Bump Wills without a how-de-do. Randle came into the clubhouse Thursday and saw Wills' name on the lineup card instead of his; last straw - he packed his gear, said goodbye to teammates and stomped out toward the parking lot. He was gone had not Gaylord Perry, Bert Blyleven and Mike Hargove cut him off and calmed him a bit.
Lucchesi blew up.
"I'm sorry they (stopped him)," he said. "I'm getting sick and tired of guys making $80,000 a year (Randle's estimated pay on a multiyear contract) and moaning and groaning about their jobs. I think about players in the minors, just begging for a chance - you give me $80,000 a year for the next 10 years and I'll play utility man for 162 games and love it. I'm tired of these punks saying play me or trade me. If they don't like it, they can get out of baseball. Let them go find a regula job making that kind of money."
Lucchesi eventually mellowed and allowed, "Oh, I don't blame Lenny. Of course he wants to play. I'll say one thing, he has never loafed. He has never given less than 110 per cent every time he walks on the field."
But: "Bump Wills opens up the season at second base . . ."
Hang loose, Len Randle, Bump Wills is this week's Sport Illustrated cover . . .