Song Of The Day 5/20/2013: Lenny Randle & Ballplayers - "I'm A Ballplayer"

This song rules for so many reasons that I'm going to have to list them out.

1. Lenny Randle was a professional baseball player from 1971 'til 1982. He played second and/or third base for the Washington Senators, the Rangers, the Mets, the Yankees, the Cubs and your Seattle Mariners.

2. Randle is responsible for one of the most memorable Mariners moments in team history on May 27, 1981. They were playing the Kansas City Royals in the Kingdome. Randle was playing third. Royals outfielder Amos Otis was at bat, and he hit a slow roller that crawled almost directly on the third base line, barely in fair territory. Otis got to first safely as Randle ran up to cover the ball, which was taking its sweet time getting to the third base bag, the point where it can be ruled either fair or foul depending on where it is.

When Randle saw it still moving but not going foul, he got down on his hands and knees and tried to blow the ball over the line to take away Otis' infield hit. Randle claimed he was not blowing on the ball, only yelling "Go foul! Go foul!" The ball eventually went foul but the umpires, agreeing that Randle probably committed interference, awarded Otis the single.*

I have been unable to confirm a quote attributed to M's then-manager Rene Lachemann that the ball finally went foul because of "Lenny's bad breath."

3. The Randle Family (I am guessing) formed a company called Randle Enterprises Entertainment. Subtitle: "Production, Comedy, Public Relations." They were based in Chicago.

4. Randle released a single in 1982 under the name "Lenny Randle & Ballplayers" (not the Ballplayers, just Ballplayers). It was on Ballplayers Records. The A-side was a tune called "Kingdome." Apparently Randle was attempting to launch a dance craze called "The Kingdome." A nation, unswayed by the calisthenic potential of a large, very unattractive, concrete domed structure in Seattle's SODO district, clamored not a bit.

5. The B-side was "I'm A Ballplayer." It is amazing. The following points explain why.

6. First of all, for those who aren't audiophiles, this record contains examples of "hard panning." When mixing a record for mastering, the audio engineer pans sounds in certain ways to create a spatial illusion with the left and right channels of your stereo. For example, the mixer might pan a rhythm guitar in a way that 65% of the guitar sounds like it's coming from the right channel and 35% from the left. Or the mixer can pan it dead center so it sounds like it's coming out of both speakers at the same level.

Hard panning is when the mixer decides to put certain instruments or voices in only one of the stereo channels, 100% left or 100% right. The effect is, of course, that the sound comes out of only one of the speakers. If someone panned a tuba to hard right and during playback you muted the right speaker, you wouldn't hear the tuba. Hard panning divides the sounds so starkly that it's kind of a sign of an amateur audio engineer, though not always.

7. Why do I mention hard panning? Because as you play this, you will hear someone (apparently Ron Randle, who's credited with all the instrumentation) going absolutely apeshit with what sounds like multiple cowbells, and it'll be coming out of your left speaker only at an amusingly loud level. If you're looking for polyrhythms, this heroic percussive seizure will both float and sink your boat. It's what you might hear in a New Orleans second line if they carried a cowbell player who was drunk according to the New Orleans definition (i.e., really effing drunk). It's a conniption of cowbell recklessness worthy of Christopher Walken. It's deranged. It's great.

8. Lyrically speaking, well, I should just let this happen. Basic plot: Narrator is a ballplayer, and considers this identification and a somewhat limited description of his abilities and proclivities as sufficient enough to entice a woman to go out with him. There are some interesting snippets here. They're all very strange. This is the strangest: "I'm a ballplayer / Can you give me a high-five? / I'm a ballplayer / Can I -- you know -- with your thighs?" No, actually, Lenny, I don't know. What do you want to do with my thighs? Roast them? Tattoo them? Show me how to work a Thigh Master?

9. "Let me hear some sax." Here you go, here's some sax. Entirely in the left channel.

I can't tell you how happy I was to discover this. I don't know how happy Mariners management was when they heard it, but I was certainly happy to uncover it. Can't wait for Kyle Seager's dubstep album. Enjoy.

*(A couple of years ago, Randle claimed in an MLB Network interview that Otis was particularly incensed about the ball-blowing incident, because during that at-bat he was going for his 2,000th career hit. That is not true: Otis didn't collect his 2,000th hit until August 1983, more than two years later. Also, news reports following the incident described Otis as being more amused than upset. Randle also claimed he and Otis have reenacted the play in Las Vegas for laughs.

(Randle currently, and admirably, runs a baseball education and mentorship program for high schoolers. One graphic on his website features a cartoon drawing of Randle crouching over and breathing on a baseball. The caption reads, "Don't blow it! Go to college!")
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