Lenny Randle was a good enough ballplayer to last 12 years in the Major Leagues with six teams. The last of those teams was the 1981 and '82 Seattle Mariners. Those teams might have been characterized as bad, but only by an observer inclined toward kindness.
No matter — one day during a home game during Kansas City, Lenny Randle gave the fans on hand something for which to love him:
Lenny Randle blows a ball foul:
Lenny Randle and Vice Sports' Nate Patrin — who has been writing about athletes who have made music — joined Bill Littlefield to discuss that bizarre play and an '80s proto-rap single performed by Randle.
BL: Lenny, before we discuss your song, can you remember what you were thinking when you dropped to the ground and blew that ball over the third base line into foul territory?
LR: I'm totally game-oriented. I had no clue what I was doing. Three-two count, Willie Wilson at third. I have no play. Larry Andersen is yelling, the pitcher, "Do something!" So I got on the ground and did something. I yelled, I was going, "Go foul, go foul, go foul!" I did not brush my teeth. I have bad breath. The ball went over the line.
BL: The umpires were laughing and some of your teammates were, too, but they ruled the play interference and they gave the batter a base hit. Were you surprised at that ruling?
LR: Listen, I need Judge Judy. I want it back. I didn't touch it. The book says don't touch it. It wasn't touched. So now, supposedly there's a Lenny Randle No Blow Rule. Why? I don't know. I see guys talk to their bats, is that illegal?
BL: I don't want our listeners to think that blowing a ball over the foul line is your only claim to fame:
"Kingdome" by Lenny Randle & Ballplayers featuring "Rashawna:"
BL: Nate, you have become something of an expert on this genre of athletes making music. Would it be inappropriate for me to say it has a beat, you can dance to it, I give it an eight?
NL: I would say, yeah. I mean this is one of the better ones I've listened to, and this is kind of interesting because this was recorded, what '81, early-'82? There were national crossover hits by artists like the Sugar Hill Gang and Kurtis Blow, but it was still considered an East Coast scene. So "Kingdome" as an early hip-hop party track actually does stand on its own. Lenny isn't Kool Moe Dee or anything, but as far as old-school party rap goes, it's really fun. Basically the big difference is that instead of starting a call and response about Zodiac signs, he does one about AstroTurf.
LR: We thought we were The Temptations. It turned into a very fun, happy thing in Seattle. We had to do something to entertain ourselves. We had 12 fans in the stands, so I think 12 happy fans liked that song.
BL: Was the song your idea, Lenny? Or did the Mariners front office come to you and say "Hey, pal, do something to get us on the map or at least put some fans in the ballpark?"
LR: There was a fan that came every day with kind of a mini-entourage. His name was Davey Finegan. The kid had cerebral palsy. But he couldn't talk. He would write and tap on the desk of his wheelchair, and he'd come during our batting practice. So Julio Cruz and Joe Simpson said, "Man, we gotta do something for this kid." So I said, "Let's do a song and give him the money for a voice-communicator and then he could talk to us while he was around the cage."
So I wrote a song called "Just A Chance, Kingdome," cause this kid needed a chance at life, so we figured we'd give the proceeds of the song, "Kingdome," to him.We raised about $20,000, got him a voice communicator, gave all the money to the church, Universal Life Church.
BL: Nate, I understand this song is having another life. A Seattle-based archival label has re-released "Kingdome" on its second volume. How does it stack up against the other tracks?
NL: "Kingdome" is probably the most interesting track on this second volume because you might look at it and think, "Oh that's cute, you have this thing where some baseball players rap," and then it actually turns out be a jam.
BL: Lenny, what are you up to these days in Italy?
LR: Well, I'm a global general manager — I have a team in Rome, Italy: Nettuno. We're training kids to try to find the next Joe DiMaggio, Roy Campanella or Mike Piazza. The people I met in the Kingdome are coming over to Italy now. And it's amazing — they want to train and develop these kids. And they also want to boogie a little bit. Some of the guys go, "Can we have a zumba festival?" So, Nate, that means I might be coming out with a Zumba record.
This segment aired on May 30, 2015.