On This Date in Sports March 28, 1977: Trouble for Texas

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Spring Training for the Texas Rangers is rocked when second baseman Lenny Randle attacks manager Frank Lucchesi before an exhibition game against the Minnesota Twins in Orlando. Lucchesi suffers a broken jaw and a concussion. Randle had been feuding all spring with the Rangers' manager, who appeared ready to hand the job at second base to rookie Bump Wills. Lenny Randle would be suspended for 30 days and traded to the New York Mets. 

Frank Lucchesi was a baseball lifer. A career minor leaguer, who never reached the majors as a player, Lucchesi, who was born on April 24, 1927, went into coaching after his playing career ended in 1957, after 12 seasons of riding the buses. Frank Lucchesi remained in the minors as a coach and a manager, finally getting to wear a big-league uniform when he was named manager of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1970. Lucchesi managed the Phillies for three seasons. After spending 1973 in the minors, he became a third base coach for Billy Martin on the Texas Rangers. When Martin was fired in 1975, Lucchesi took over. 

Lenny Randle was born in Long Beach, California, on February 12, 1949. At Arizona State, Randle was part of the 1969 College World Series champions while also playing football. Selected by the Washington Senators in the secondary phase of the 1970 MLB Draft, Randle made his debut in 1971. Lenny Randle spent his first three seasons shuttling between the majors and AAA as Senators became the Texas Rangers. His breakout season was in 1974, as the Rangers battled the Oakland A's in the American League West. 

By 1977, Lenny Randle's job as the second baseman for the Texas Rangers was in jeopardy as Frank Lucchesi was giving an extensive look at Bump Wills. Wills was a first-round pick for Texas, and the son of Maury Wills, a former National League MVP. Randle complained openly about the decision to play Wills in Spring Training. Teammates had to talk Lenny Randle out of leaving camp as tension began to build between him and the manager. When Lucchesi caught wind of Randle's complaints, he responded with, "It's just too damn bad that somebody stopped him from leaving. I'm tired of these punks saying play me or trade me. Anyone who makes $80,000 a year and gripes and moans all spring is not going to get a tear out of me." The comments pushed Lenny Randle over the edge as he went out and confronted Frank Lucchesi before a spring game in Orlando. 

Frank Lucchesi suffered a broken jaw and a concussion, as Lenny Randle was charged with assault. He would receive a 30-day suspension and was fined $10,000. Just before the suspension was to end, Randle was traded to the New York Mets for Rick Auerbach and cash. Lenny Randle had a good season with an otherwise terrible Mets team in 1977 and was at the plate on July 13th, when New York suffered a citywide blackout. 

Lenny Randle pled no contest to assault charges and paid a fine in a Florida courtroom. He later was sued by Frank Lucchesi, settling for an undisclosed sum. Lucchesi had blamed Randle for being fired during the 1977 season, saying the incident caused him to lose control of the team.