"Right now, I'm lost," said a confused, disoriented but not yet apologetic Lenny Randle today. "Everybody's telling me, 'Do this. Don't do that.' I don't know what to do."
It was beginning to dawn on the little Texas Ranger utility man, however, that the one thing he should not have done was punch his 50-year-old manager, Frank Lucchesi, into a bloody, dazed heap behind the Ranger batting cage in Orlando Monday afternoon.
Following the surgery, the manager spoke to reporters and characterized the assault as a "sneak attack - worse than Pearl Harbor."
Lucchesi was operated on today in Orlando to elevate a broken facial bone below the right eye into proper position.
In additon to the fractured cheekbone, Lucchesi received a concussion, a lacerated lip and an undetermined back injury. Doctors expect him to leave the hospital in two or three days.
Lucchesi said he hasn't decided whether to file assault charges against Randle.
The angry Ranger management offered the suspended Randle a hearing Monday to tell his side of the story and said he could bring a lawyer with him. Randle said he would.
"I've got to go to Phoenix," said Randle today, rushing to catch a plane. "I've gotten so much advice from so many people that I just want to get to Phoenix to talk to my agent, Gary Walker, and my lawyer, Richard Newhouse."
The Major League Baseball Players Association filed a grievance today on behalf of Randle."
The club has the right to impose discipline, but the player always has the right to challenge," said Dick Moss, counsel for the players association.
Moss said Randle asked the union to file a grievance, which will be heard by an impartial arbitrator in a week or two.
The test is whether there is just cause for the disciplice imposed," Moss said.
While Lucchesi was in his hospital bed and Randle was flying 2,000 miles to a neutral corner, the details and the background of Monday's one-sided brawl were surfacing.
The Rangers, in Tampa today for a game with Cincinnati, took a team vow of silence today, saying that while they do not condone violence they will not prejudge the personalities involved. The players were not so quiet, however, in the first minutes after the fight.
"It's one of the worst things I've ever witnessed," said Ranger outfielder Ken Henderson, who had to be restrained by teammates to keep from attacking Randle when he saw Lucchesi on the ground. "No way I'm going to play on the same field with him again."
Texas owner Brad Corbett's first reaction was, "I would like to suspend Randle for a year. I know of no way he can remain a Ranger." Corbett later stressed that a fair investigation would be made.
Perhaps most damaging to Randle are reports that he had been talking to teammates, and even reporters, for at least two days before the incident, asking what would happen to a player who fought the manager.
Pitcher Burt Blyleven confirmed today that Randle had asked on Saturday "what would happen to a player who hit his manager. I told him he might never play again."
The hard feelings between Randle and Lucchesi were complicated, especially since it was spring training, when jobs and futures are on the line.
After a poor-fielding, bad-hitting (.228) 1976 season, Randle lost his regular second base job to Bump Willis, son of former Los Angeles Dodger star Maury Wills.
As part of a Ranger reshuffling of its atrocious defence infield-with Toby Harrah moving from short to third, free agent Camp Capaneris starting at short and the rookie Wills getting second base-Randle was on the bench.
Throughout the spring, the free-spirited, popular Randle referred to himself as, "the phantom Ranger. They just want to get rid of me . . . If I wanted to be a reserve, I'd join the Natiional Guard."
Randle, who has played five positions in six years with the Ranger organization, was more upset because he felt unappreciated. "I've always said 'Yes' to them. I've changed positions, batted everywhere in the order, changed my hitting style, played winter ball."
Ironically, until the last week, Randle had the image of the perfect, smiling, unselfish team players.
Randle, in what he admitted was an attempt to force a move, packed his bags Thursday and said he was jumping camp. Teammates, as he expected, talked him out of it.
It was the wrong way for theatrics. "I just had to cut 10 players today and send them to Plant City (Fla.) to make $9,000 a year, " stormed the sensitive, emotional Luccesi, known as a fatherly, sometimes-too-gentle manager.
"I'm sick of $80,000-a-year punks complaining about play or trade me . . . If Randle was leaving, I'm damn sorry they stopped him."
Randle immediately nicknamed "punk" by teammates, was stunned. He asked for a meeting with Lucchesi, with the press present. His wife came to camp to talk about the problem.
When Texas traded for star left fielders Claudell Washington of Oakland Saturday, Randle knew that Texas had written him out of their plans permanently. "I don't know what's going to happen," said Randle, who is in the second year of a two-year contract, to a Texas reporter. "I may have to start throwing punches."
After the incident, Randle seemed drained and resigned. "I just run out of cheeks [to turn]. I guess after all these years, he took my passiveness for granted . . . I was just compulsive . . . I guess it happens in life. There are little feuds, bits and pieces of anger. I never demonstrated it throughout my career, or my life for that matter," said Randle.
"There are many times in this business when a player goes crazy, even for a day or two," said Reds manager Sparky Anderson. "They lose their coconut. It happened to me. One year they wouldn't play me in spring training and I flushed my uniform down the toilet. Next day I didn't have a uniform.
"I'm saying this fellow Randle . . . I'm not excusing him, but no one knows how complex his mind got at that time. He reads in the winter that his job is gone. To an athlete that's like seeing your life go down the drain.
"People at the breakfast table will say,'How could a player making all that money do something that wrong and dumb," said Anderson. "Well, it happens. This sport drives players to the point of nervous breakdowns."