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That piercing stare. Those eyebrows. That dramatic grin.
There was nothing minor league about Bobby Randall.
I encountered him as a 1976 Minnesota Twin. I was in a Kansas City hotel lobby. I had my Twins collection in a small shoebox, alphabetized.
Guess what infielder stood nearby, poking a teammate, pointing at me?
“What are you going to do with all that?” he challenged.
“Take it home and put it with the rest of my collection,” I answered as sincerely as possible.
I produced his Topps card and asked for his autograph (please).
Pause. Smile. Signature.
Flash forward. I’m a journalism student at Iowa State University. I pitch a feature idea on the baseball team’s coach, former major leaguer Bobby Randall.
He’s polite during the interview, listening intently and acting like I’m The Sporting News editor. Every answer is sincere and detailed. His sole home run (off Chris Knapp) wasn’t a tape measure blast, so he made it sound like anyone could have cleared the fence. He became embarrassed when I asked about signing autographs and getting fan mail.
At the end of our talk, I confide that I got his autograph those years ago in Kansas City. I tell him the story, thanking him again for signing. “You should have told me!”
I was surprised, covering Cyclone baseball games for the Des Moines Register, that fans weren’t getting his autograph. Didn’t they know who he really was?
He volunteered to speak to my wife’s day camp group. A devout Christian, the coach taught by action and example.
I like to think that I might have encouraged a Twins rookie to keep an open mind about autograph collectors. He expressed other thoughts that day at Iowa State — a great warning to in-person collectors. Nevertheless, I never saw him turn his back on a fan. Plus, I know that Bobby Randall remains a TTM all-star signer today. He’s a prize in my collection of stories behind the signatures.