As the likelihood of actual games being played for the 2020 season diminishes daily, it’s natural to think about past games and players. Working from my home office surrounded by memorabilia and the fact that MLB network television is playing game repeats from the past added to this reflectivity, and especially who my favorite Mets have been across the decades. Like practically every Mets fan, Pete Alonso holds the current spot. This is for every aspect of his game, and even outside the game, as the videos he made for medical staff show what a great player and human he is. That said, with all the great Mets, one person stands out, and that is a most unlikely Lenny Randle.
Lenny Randle? No doubt Randle would be hard to classify as a common favorite Met, with many fans not ever having known Randle was a Met or even in the big leagues. For those that remember Randle, two events in his MLB career stand out and neither occurred in the two seasons (1977-1978) Randle spent in New York, although one brought him to the Mets. In perhaps Randle’s most infamous incident in baseball, during a Spring game in 1977 while he was with the Rangers, Randle had an altercation with his skipper that led to an altercation ending in a violent exchange; shortly after Randle was a Met. Randle’s other very memorable moment came toward the end of his career as a Mariner when as a third baseman he faced a faced a slow roller up the line and got on his hands and knew and blew the ball into foul ground. It was a classic.
In 1978, I was living in upstate New York as a 15-year-old kid who already had seen the Mets go to the World Series twice. That year I was invited with family friends to go to Cooperstown for Hall of Fame ceremonies. Back in those days, a Hall of Fame Game played at Doubleday Field accompanied the induction, and that year the Mets played the Tigers. The stands are small there, so every seat is a winner. Nevertheless, we were in particularly great seats near third base, which was being manned by Lenny Randle for the Orange and Blue.
Randle is well known for having quite a personality and I have remember being able to jaw on-and-off with him during the game. I could not believe a pro would take the time to speak to an impressionable little kid who loved baseball and the Mets during a game, no matter its overall irrelevance. The game was rain shortened. I vividly recall my program being soaked and hanging on to its tattered remnants for years before time won out.
After I got home, I decided to write Randle an impassioned letter from one baseball man to another. In my letter, I wrote about how inspired I was by his play at third base. I wrote that I would do my best to emulate how he carried his game on the field. Some time after, I remember getting a piece of mail, which at 15 years old was surprising enough, that had a return address of “New York National League Baseball Club.” The recollection brings a smile to my face even now. I carefully opened it to find a nice letter from Randle and an inscribed autographed player picture. In doing this little thing, Randle had reached past the foul line, past foul ground, and into the stands to recognize an otherwise nobody as just another baseball guy. For that, Lenny Randle will always be one of my favorite Mets of all time. It will never matter that he played two seasons and set no records of any kind. It goes to show that you didn’t need to be a Seaver or Koosman to really leave an impact on a kid. In the comments section, I’d love to hear your stories about what Mets players were your childhood (or even adult!) favorites and why.