So last weekend my wife was away, and do you know what I did with my wild and nerdy ass self? Went down the the public library on 42nd street and checked out old issues of Sport magazine and Inside Sports on microfilm. (I’m nuts, what can I say.) Sport was an amazing publication in the fifties and sixties, and even in parts of the seventies, but by the eighties, it was a shell of its former self. The roster of writing talent at Sport during it’s heyday is remarkable: Arnold Hano, Ed Linn, W.C. Heinz, Ray Robinson, Roger Kahn, Frank Graham Jr, Dave Anderson, Myron Cope, Al Hirshberg, Jim Brosnan, Dick Schaap, Jimmy Breslin, George Vecsey, Pat Jordan, Vic Ziegel, and Jerry Izenberg to name just a few. (All of the Sport compilations are out of print, but Bob Ryan edited a solid collection just a few years back that is well-worth picking up.) I’m not exactly sure when Inside Sports started. It was either at the tail-end of the seventies or the start of the eighties. Tom Boswell was their baseball guy for a long time, and they were very good, at least through the first half of the eighties. I found a lengthy and very entertaining profile on Nolan Ryan by Tony Kornheiser (yes, he had chops), and an excellent piece on Pistol Pete Maravich during Larry Bird’s rookie year with the Celtics by David Halberstam.
Anyhow, here a few random nuggets on a favorite Yankee, Willie Randolph, that I came across. First, from a profile in Sport, Octover 1976, “Hey, Say, Willie Can Play…Willie Randolph, That Is,” by Kevin McAuliffe:
Randolph is one of the American League’s top rookies of 1976, but unlike Detroit’s Big Bird, who thrives on attention, Randolph avoids it. He has never believed in stardom, for others—”As a kid, I never said, ‘Oh, there goes so and so,’ and tired to get his autograph”—or for himself. “I’m not what you call a starry-eyed fella,” he says.
Then, from Inside Sports, August 31, 1980, “Willie Randolph: The Making of a an Advance Man,” by George Vecsey.
“It’s an old cliché, but it’s true. A walk is as good as a hit,” Randolph said earlier this season, sitting in front of his locker in Yankee Stadium, a huge portable radio-cassette player—his “box”—propped on the rug. The cassesttes are mostly Isley Brothers, Roberta Flack and “a lot of jazz.”
Says Willie: “I knew I’d walk a lot. I know the manager appreciates it when you take a 3-1 pitch, when you get on base…you’d have to swing at anything close on 3-1 when you’re batting eighth,” Randolph says. “When you’re batting leadoff, you take the walk. That’s how I do it.”
…”Willie knows the most important thing is to get on base,” [Reggie] Jackson said. “He has learned to steal when it counts. He doesn’t wait until there are two strikes. He goes down early, so the hitter has a chance to bat…The only two things he has never done are hit .300 and win a Gold Glove. That’s it. Willie is a winter. He’s not a laugh-and-joke guy, which I like, because I’m not either. He’s a good family man, too. I’ll tell you what: If Willie does hit .300, you won’t notice the difference. He’ll do it the same way he hits .270.”
Willie from Brooklyn. He was a good one.