April 22, 2014
By Mark Janssen
Bobby Randall laughs when he says that the only time he was a big man on campus might have been when at the little community of Gove.
In the early-1960s, Gove's population was less than 150, and today less than 100. During his days of being a Friday Night Hero, GHS numbered only two or three dozen western Kansas farm-type kids.
Ahh, but life couldn't have been much better in those 1950s and early-60s.
On occasion he'd head south to go to the city - Scott City - where roller skating or jumping on trampolines was the definition of a good time.
But playing baseball ruled: "We'd get to school early, play workup at recess, continue play after lunch and play after school. Once in high school, we'd practice in blue jeans and we'd try to find a pair of old shoes and take them to Mr. Engel at the hardware store and he'd figure out how to put spikes on them. The only grass infield we ever played on was rough buffalo grass. But life couldn't be better. You were playing baseball with your friends."
After a pause, Randall added, "My fondest memory was sitting on the step waiting for dad to come home to play catch. Baseball's suffering today because there aren't enough dads playing catch."
Randall would graduate to the rye/bluegrass infield of Frank Myers Field in 1966-67 when he signed a dual scholarship of books and tuition from basketball during the first semester, and the same package from baseball in the spring.
Laughing at the memory, Randall said, "Tex (Winter) stopped by the school and got me out of study hall. We talked about three minutes and he asked me if I could dribble behind my back. He left and said he just stopped by to say hello."
A letter of intent soon arrived in the mail with K-State being the only school that would allow Randall to play both sports.
"I was better at baseball, but I loved basketball," said the 6-foot-3 Randall. "I had never played against anyone taller than I was, so when I got to K-State and saw Nick Pino and Mike Barber, I said, 'Oh my goodness.'"
Randall would play on the freshman team coached by Bill Guthridge, but at the postseason season review, "I said, 'Coach, I think I'm going to give up basketball and concentrate on baseball.' He said, 'OK,' and that was the end of the meeting."
Randall's freshman season at Kansas State included one doubleheader with Nebraska played in frigid conditions. As a sophomore, Randall hit .310, but on only 42 at-bats as he rode the bench playing behind Joe Spurgeon and Tommy Wheeler.
It was only as a junior that Randall became Bob Brasher's fulltime shortstop when he hit a lofty .394, which was a single-season K-State record in 1968-69.
It was after that season that for the third time the Los Angeles Dodgers drafted Randall. The first was out of high school when the offer was $500 and a bus ticket, then again after his sophomore year in the supplemental draft, and again after his junior season in the second round of the supplemental draft.
"The Dodgers were loaded, so that hurt me, but it was also the best teaching franchise, which was a benefit," said Randall, who spent seven years in the Dodgers organization going from Bakersfield, Calif.; to Ogden, Utah; to Spokane, Wash.; to Waterbury, Conn.; and eventually to Albuquerque, N.M. "At the end I had given up on playing in the big leagues. After all, I was from Gove. You can't dream about playing in the majors if you're from Gove. I was just thrilled to be playing professional baseball. Being in Triple A was a dream come true."
On Friday: On To The Major Leagues