April 1996

Willie Larry Randolph, Jr.

Baseball Player

Willie Larry Randolph, Jr.

When he was still just a baby, Willie Randolph moved from Holly Hill, South Carolina, with his family to Brooklyn, New York, an area steeped in the history and traditions of baseball. More than 30 years later, Randolph was one of the best second basemen in the game. Willie Larry Randolph, Jr., comes from a sporting family. His brother, Terry Randolph, played professional football for the Green Bay Packers and the New York Jets. Willie’s choice of sports was baseball, in which he had an outstanding career at Samuel Tilden High School in New York. Selected by Pittsburgh in the 1972 draft, he spent four years in the minor leagues and was called up to the majors after hitting .339 for Charleston in the 1975 season. Later that year, he was traded to the New York Yankees for whom he made his debut in 1976. To play in Yankee Stadium before fans who expected their team to win the World Series every year could have been extremely daunting for a 21-year-old. Randolph responded to the challenge and became the first rookie to be placed on the All-Star ballot, the first of six occasions on which he was selected to the All-Star game. For the next 16 seasons, Randolph’s average dipped below .250 only twice. It was as a defensive second baseman that Randolph endeared himself to the Yankee faithful. In his first season with the team, he tied a major league record for most assists by a second baseman in an extra-inning game. The following year, he set an All-Star game record for most assists by a second baseman. By 1979, Randolph had mastered his craft to such a degree that he led American League second basemen in put outs, assists and double plays. Randolph’s greatest assets were his tremendous speed and his sound judgment. At the always-hazardous tactic of stealing bases, he ranked second in Yankee history. In games played, at-bats, runs and hits, Randolph ranks very high on a Yankee list, which includes one of the greatest players in baseball. The greatest honor a Yankee player can receive is to be appointed team captain, a status that Randolph achieved at the start of the 1986 season. When he left the club after the 1988 season, Randolph had played more games, 1,688 at second base than any previous Yankee. Free agency and trades kept Randolph on the move for the last four years of his playing career. In 1989, with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he enjoyed one of his most productive batting seasons. After a short spell at Oakland, he transferred to Milwaukee where, in 1991, he hit a career high .327, third best in the American League. In 1992, his final season, Randolph played for the New York Mets. In his major league career, he played in five World Series, accumulated more than 2,200 hits and established a .276 batting average. Randolph’s career in baseball was far from over. In 1993, he became assistant general manager for the Yankees and the following year he was appointed their third base coach. Always appreciative of the advice and support he had received from more experienced players like Reggie Jackson, Randolph saw the appointment as “the chance to reach and give something back to the younger kids growing up.” His major goal, however, is to return to the front office as a general manager for a baseball organization. “There are not many blacks in top administrative positions in baseball,” he says. “Everything I am doing now is preparing me for the time when I have to decide which players to hire and keep and to make good business decisions.” With his experience and knowledge of every phase of baseball, Willie Randolph is ready to contribute even more to the game he has graced.