Lenny Randle was a superb athlete, an intelligent human being and a good big league ballplayer who unfortunately, is perhaps now best known for punching out his manager and trying to blow a bunted ball foul. The skipper he decked was Frank Luchessi, during the Texas Rangers’ 1977 spring training season. Randle had been a Washington Senator first round draft pick (10th selection overall) in 1970. Before that, he had starred in both baseball and football at Arizona State.
He made his big league debut for the last Washington Senator team in history before that franchise relocated to Texas in 1972. Three years later, Randle was Billy Martin’s starting third baseman on a 1974 Ranger team that surprised everyone by finishing second in the AL West Division race. Randle hit .302 that year and led the team with 26 stolen bases as he thrived under Martin’s aggressive style of play. But when the team struggled to win the following year and Ranger ownership grew tired of Martin’s volcanic temper, he was replaced by Luchessi 95 games into the season.
Randle, who was by then starting at second for Texas, had a terrible offensive season in 1976, averaging just .224. The following spring, Luchessi decided to replace Lenny as the team’s starting second baseman with Bump Wills. Just before Opening Day, Randle approached Luchessi telling him he wanted to talk and in the ensuing conversation, the skipper evidently called the player a “punk.” An enraged Randle decked Luchessi with a three punch combination, breaking his jaw in the process. The player was immediately suspended and one month later, was on his way to New York, where he would become one of the best players on a very bad 1977 Mets’ ball club. Once again, Randle followed up a .300 season with a horrible offensive year in ’78 and the Mets released him.
The Yankees got him on August 3, 1979, one day after Thurman Munson lost his life in a tragic plane crash. Though he was being reunited with Billy Martin, the spirit of that ’79 Yankee team had been destroyed with Munson’s plane and Randle’s addition proved insignificant as New York went through the motions of completing what would be a lost season. He played in just 20 games during the last two months of the season, hitting just .179. The Yanks released him after the season and he would then play for the Cubs and Mariners before becoming the first Major League ballplayer to play professional baseball in Italy, in 1983.
|TEX (6 yrs)||608||2392||2153||256||545||77||18||11||192||77||169||295||.253||.308||.321||.629|
|NYM (2 yrs)||268||1093||950||131||258||38||15||7||62||47||129||127||.272||.358||.365||.724|
|SEA (2 yrs)||112||351||319||32||71||11||1||4||26||13||21||26||.223||.270||.301||.571|
|CHC (1 yr)||130||549||489||67||135||19||6||5||39||19||50||55||.276||.343||.370||.713|
|NYY (1 yr)||20||42||39||2||7||0||0||0||3||0||3||2||.179||.238||.179||.418|
Clay Bellinger was an all-around utility man for the Yankees from the time he was first called up to the Bronx in April of 1999 until he was released by New York right after the 2001 postseason. During those three years, he played every position on the field for manager Joe Torre, except catcher and pitcher, but he hit just .194 in the 311 at bats he got while doing so.
Born in Oneonta, NY on November 18, 1968, this six feet three inch right-handed hitter played his collegiate baseball for Rollins College in Winter Park, Fl. He was good enough to get selected in the second round of the 1989 MLB amateur draft by San Francisco. He spent the next decade playing his way upwards in the farm systems of three different big league organizations. He was a decent fielder at every position but third base and his career highlight play as a Yankee was appropriately one he made with his glove and not his bat.
Inserted as a late-inning defensive replacement for David Justice in Game 2 of the 2000 World Series, Bellinger leapt in front of Yankee Stadium’s left field wall to rob the Mets’ Todd Zeile of a go-ahead two-run home run in the ninth inning of a 6-5 Yankee victory. He then took his two Yankee World Series rings and signed with the Angels in 2002 but couldn’t stay on their big league roster. He later became a pitching teacher at a Queens, NY baseball school and coached his son Cody in the 2007 Little League World Series.
|NYY (3 yrs)||181||343||310||57||60||11||3||12||35||7||22||81||.194||.258||.365||.623|
|ANA (1 yr)||2||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.000||.000||.000||.000|
I always liked Rex Hudler, despite the fact that he never turned into the all star big league player the Yankee front office promised fans he would when he was selected as the team’s first round draft choice in 1978. Bronx Bomber fans are used to first round picks not fulfilling their potential. Remember Steve Chilcott; Dave Cheadle; Doug Heinhold; Dennis Sherrill; Jim McDonald; Steve Taylor; Todd Demeter; Steve Madden; Tim Birtsas; Jeffrey Pries; Rick Balabon; Brien Taylor; Matt Drews;Brian Buchanan; Shea Morenz; Scott Bradley; Tyler Godwin; Andy Brown, Dave Walling; Dave Parrish; Jon Skaggs; Bronson Sardinha; Eric Duncan; Jon Peterson; should I keep going? These are the names of Yankee number 1 draft picks most of you have never heard of. Though he never made it big as a Yankee, at least today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant ended up playing in the big leagues for over a decade.
“Wonderdog” was a great high school athlete in Fresno, California who turned down Division 1 football scholarship offers to play baseball for the Yankees. It became pretty clear, pretty quick that Hudler was not superstar material when he struggled to hit the pitching he faced at the lowest minor league levels. But the guy never quit. He gave 150% on every play he was involved in and just kept battling his way up New York’s alphabet ladder of farm teams until he got his first chance to play in pinstripes during September of the 1984 season. He struck out in his first big league at bat but doubled off of Boston’s Al Nipper in his second.
He got into a total of nine Yankee games during that 1984 season and 24 more the following year, never getting his big league average above .157. That December, he was traded to the Orioles. For the next ten seasons he was employed by five different big league teams playing every position except pitcher and catcher. He also spent a year (1993) playing in Japan.
When he hung up his spikes for good after the 1998 season he went into broadcasting as a color commentator for the Angels. He now announces for the Royals. Rex Hudler was a great teammate. He was always upbeat and also sort of crazy. Once, while sitting in the Cardinal dugout, Hudler captured a june bug that had landed his cap. When his St. Louis teammates dared him to eat it he started bidding up the challenge. By the time he popped the big ugly flying insect in his mouth and swallowed it, he had earned $800.
Hudler and his wife are the parents of a child with Down Syndrome and have both worked tirelessly on efforts to raise funding, awareness, and support for Down Syndrome children and their families.
|STL (3 yrs)||251||558||522||68||132||25||4||11||42||32||24||83||.253||.288||.379||.667|
|CAL (3 yrs)||232||694||649||107||190||44||3||30||87||29||25||130||.293||.325||.508||.834|
|MON (3 yrs)||173||395||374||60||98||21||2||10||27||44||16||58||.262||.293||.409||.702|
|PHI (2 yrs)||75||175||163||19||32||5||0||5||12||1||10||40||.196||.247||.319||.566|
|NYY (2 yrs)||29||66||58||6||9||1||1||0||1||0||2||14||.155||.197||.207||.404|
|BAL (1 yr)||14||1||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||.000||.000||.000||.000|