30 years ago today presents: great moments in fielding (5/27/11)

Thirty years ago today, one of the most memorable and certainly most original defensive strategies in major league history occurred: Mariners third baseman Lenny Randle tried to blow a ball foul.

In the sixth inning of a game against the Royals, KC star Amos Otis tapped a slow roller down the third base line. It was one of those balls hit ever so right—right place, right speed, right trajectory—that it looked like a sure infield single. It went to where no fielder was; by the time a fielder got to it and picked it up and threw it out, Otis would be safe. Last but not least, it looked like it wouldn’t go into foul territory while it rolled through the infield.

That’s when Lenny Randle entered the picture. He ran up to the ball and got down on his hands and knees and screamed at it “GO FOUL GO FOUL GO FOUL!” He stayed alongside the ball without touching it, but the force of his breath knocked it off course, and it went foul. What would be a single was now a foul ball.

Royals manager Jim Frey protested, saying Randle was the reason it went foul and therefore the ump’s call of a foul ball should be changed. Randle counter-protested he wasn’t try to blow it foul but just trying to use the power of suggestion. Lenny Randle: The Ball Whisperer? The ump didn’t like Randle’s argument and changed his call: Otis got his single.

The rule has since been rewritten to clarify a Randle-like scenario. Now the rule states a person can’t alter the path of a ball, a verb that doesn’t require actual physical contact to be enforced.

Randle always had the knack for getting in the middle of weird plays. Four years earlier in Texas came his most infamous moment: He beat up Frank Lucchesi, his manager, before a game. Another time he tripled on a 4-2 pitch. Yeah, he, his teammates, the official scorer, and the umpiring crew all collectively lost track of the count, and he stayed at the plate after ball four.

But nothing in Randle’s career quite equaled the hilarity of seeing him blow a ball foul on May 27, 1981.

Other events also celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event occurring x-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you just want to skim.


1,000 days since Manny Ramirez clubs his 500th double

4,000 days since Bronson Arroyo makes his major league debut

5,000 days since Bobby Jones of the Mets ties a record, and not one anyone wants to set. He allows eight runs while getting zero outs. Four others since 1920 equaled that, but no one’s “bested” that achievement.

8,000 days since 41-year-old Carlton Fisk hits three doubles in one game, his personal best.

9,000 days since Don Sutton tosses his 5,000th inning.

9,000 days since Earl Weaver, Hall of Fame Orioles skipper, manages his last game

9,000 days since several players complete their major league careers, most notably: Dave Kingman, Ben Oglivie, Gorman Thomas and Tony Perez.

10,000 days since Jeff Franceour born

May I Have Your Autograph, Please?
The payoff of being polite.


1888 19th century workhorse Adonis Terry tosses his second career no-hitter.

1891 Tony Mullane, 1880s star pitcher, allows two inside the park home runs in one game, something he did just 16 days earlier, too. Today’s home run hitters are a pair of future Hall of Famers: Philadelphia’s Billy Hamilton and Sam Thompson

1896 Jouett Meekin, decent pitcher in the 1890s, has a not-so-decent day: he walks 13 batters and throws three wild pitches.

1897 Hall of Fame catcher Buck Ewing plays his last game.

1897 The Cincinnati Reds sign Hall of Fame first baseman Jake Beckley, whom the Giants had released five days earlier. Actually, this is pretty clearly related to Ewing playing his last game. Ewing was playing (and managing) the Reds at this time, and while he’s in Cooperstown as a catcher by this time he’s exclusively a first baseman. So Beckley comes aboard to replace Ewing at first, allowing him to manage the team full-time. Though the Giants had just cut Beckley, he’ll last more than a decade in major league baseball from here on out.

1904 Dan McGann of the New York Giants steals five bases in one game against Brooklyn.

1909 Pinky Higgins, future Red Sox manager, born

1912 Red Ames, pitcher, steals home in the fifth inning of a 6-2 win.

1923 Cy Williams sets a record by clubbing his 15th home run of the month.

1928 Boston Braves buy Hall of Famer George Sisler from the Washington Senators for $7,500 as his career circles the drain.

1929 Hall of Fame umpire Tom Connally works his last game behind the plate, and it’s a wild one: CWS 6, DET 5 (14). The Tigers led 3-1 in the middle of the eighth, but the Chi Sox scored one in the bottom of the eight and another in the ninth to sent it into extra frames. Both teams scored once in the 12th and then again in the 13th innings, before the Sox finally won in the bottom of the 14th. One of Detroit’s ineffective relievers, veteran hurler Elam Vangilder, will never play in the majors again.

1937 Carl Hubbell wins his 24th consecutive game, a record that still stands.

1939 Hall of Famer Joe Cronin hits his 100th home run.

1940 When the Yankees beat the Senators 5-0, Washington manager Bucky Harris has his career record fall below .500 (1,237-1,238). It’ll remain below .500 for the rest of his career, but Harris overcomes that to become a Hall of Fame skipper anyway.

1943 Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser fans 14 batters in one game, his personal high and I believe at the time a Tiger record. Paul Foytack struck out 15 in a game in 1956, but I don’t think any Tiger ever had that many until then.

1943 Johnny Allen, never known for his good sportsmanship, completely loses his composure when umpire George Barr calls him for a balk. Enraged, Allen starts shaking Barr so hard his cap falls off, and the situation ends only when Allen’s own manager tackles him.

1945 Red Sox rookie sensation Boo Ferriss one-hits the Chicago White Sox for his third shutout of the season.

1947 First baseman fielding whiz Ed Konetchy dies.

1948 Gary Nolan, late 1960s Cincinnati phenom pitcher, born

1952 Yogi Berra sets a personal best of 10 extra bases by tying a personal best of three extra base hits. He went 2-for-4 with a double and two home runs.

1952 Best WPA for any known relief stint in Cincinnati Reds history: Frank Smith gets a 1.057 WPA by pitching 7.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K in extra-inning game.

1953 Exactly one year after that Reds relief performance, the greatest WPA stint by any White Sox reliever occurs. Harry Dorish lasts 10.1 IP with 6 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, and 7 K for a 1.010 WPA.

1953 Jesse Burkett, Hall of Fame offensive star from the 1890s, dies.

1954 Duke Snider blasts his 1,000th hit.

1954 Hall of Fame skippers Casey Stengel and Bucky Harris manage against each other for the 100th time.

1955 Mickey Mantle laces his third triple of the week and fifth in the last two weeks.

1956 AL president Will Harridge marks his 25th year in office. None of the men who appointed him are still alive.

1956 Cubs pitcher Jim Davis becomes the fourth ever—and the first in 40 years—to fan four men in one inning

1956 Mark Clear, Red Sox reliever whose warm-up music was “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” by John Denver, born.

1959 Robin Roberts commits the first balk of his career. It comes after 3,177 innings of work.

1960 Clint Courtney, Baltimore, uses oversized mitt designed by manager (and former catcher) Paul Richards to catch Hoyt Wilhelm’s knuckleball. The monstrous mitt will later be banned.

1962 Willie Mays gets in the only on-field fight of his career, but isn’t ejected.

1967 Veteran reliever Johnny Klippstein retires

1968 Jeff Bagwell and Frank Thomas born. Just think: you can make an argument that Jeff Bagwell is both the best first baseman in NL history and also the second best first baseman born on May 27, 1968.

1968 Eddie Mathews has his 49th and final multiple home run game.

1969 Dr. Strangeglove Dick Stuart plays in his last game.

1969 Todd Hundley, catcher whose dad was a catcher, born.

1974 Would-be no-hitter by San Diego’s Ken Brett broken up in the ninth in the first game of a doubleheader. In the second game, he appears as a pinch hitter and hits a two-run triple in a game the Padres end up winning by one run.

1975 Lou Brock hits for the cycle

1980 John Hiller, Detroit pitcher who overcame a shocking heart attack at a young age to set a record for most saves in a season, plays his last game.

1981 Bert Blyleven has a hissy fit. Upset that the umpire isn’t calling his curve for a strike, Blyleven gives up altogether, throwing nothing but fastballs over the plate. After seven straight hits by the opposing team, he’s yanked from the game.

1987 Dave Winfield hits the 10,000 home run in New York Yankee franchise history. That includes the franchise’s 1901-02 seasons as the Baltimore Orioles.

1988 Dwight Evans bangs out his 2,000th hit.

1988 Royals say bye-bye to Steve Balboni, releasing him.

1990 Rick Reuschel enters trivia answer heaven. He tosses a gopher ball to Barry Bonds, becoming one of only two pitchers in baseball history to surrender dingers to Bonds and Hank Aaron. The other pitcher is Frank Tanana.

1993 Dale Murphy retires.

1995 Cubs intentionally walk Gary Sheffield three times in one game. It works as he never scores and the Cubs top the Marlins, 3-1.

1996 Angels trade Lee Smith to the Reds for Chuck McElroy.

1997 Speedster Kenny Lofton hits his only career inside-the-park home run.

2000 Cincinnati retires Tony Perez’s number.

2000 Cardinals dedicate statue to Dizzy Dean.

2001 Barry Bonds’ hitting streak maxes at 15 games, tying his personal best.

2002 Marlins steal seven bases in one game.

2002 For the first time in over four years and 572 games, Mike Piazza hits a triple.

2003 Ruben Rivera has the worst base running Jon Miller ever saw.

2004 Carlos Pena, Tigers, gets six hits in a game.

2004 Albert Pujols has five plate appearances without an at-bat: four walks and a sacrifice fly.

2004 Major league debut: Alexis Rios.

2006 Curt Schilling wins his 200th game: 200-133.

2006 Craig Biggio walks five times in a game, and still goes 1-for-4 at the plate. Clearly, it was an extra-inning game.

2007 Bruce Bochy loses his 1,000th game as skipper: 975-1,000

2007 Jamie Moyer beats the Braves, something he last did on May 25, 1987. That’s the longest stretch between victories for one pitcher over an opposing team.

2008 The Indians achieve a rare triple steal. It’s an accident, actually. The White Sox try to pick off the runner on first, leading to a rundown, and the man on third breaks for the plate, and the Sox are so discombobulated by it all that everyone’s safe.

2009 The Red Sox lose 4-2 to the Twins, thanks in part to six wild pitches.

2009 Chipper Jones has perhaps his worst day ever: 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, his only four-K game.

2010 For the third straight game, the Phillies are shut out by the Mets.

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Michael Caragliano
Michael Caragliano

Lenny Randle was in the middle of one other strange moment. On July 13, 1977, when the blackout hit New York, Randle was the batter when, with Ray Burris’s pitch on the way, the lights went out at Shea. Strange moments and Lenny Randle just seemed to go together.