Recalling Two Talks With Twins Second Baseman Bobby Randall

Check out Randall’s
stats and philosophy at
www.baseball-almanac.com!
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.

Twin Bobby Randall’s Autograph Insight

This same expression
greeted collectors
at a KC hotel

“How do you not look like a stalker?”

Scour the blog comments here. One person brings up a good point. In-person collecting isn’t the same as through the mail.

I haven’t tried the “graphing” in person game for more than 20 years.
Why? Because I remember Bobby Randall.

I had gotten him at the Kansas City hotel where the Twins stayed in the late 1970s. I remember him pointing, snorting and shaking his head at us collectors in the lobby. He muttered something to a couple of teammates.

Fast forward to Iowa State University. The retired second sacker was the college’s baseball coach. I interviewed him for the ISU paper.
After I was done talking about his career, I confessed that I had coaxed him to sign in my youth.

“Did you like collecting autographs?” he asked with a grave expression.
I replied with enthusiasm. That’s when I asked the hardest question.

“Didn’t you like signing?”

Randall, a professed Christian, sighed and scowled. “It was always, ‘HERE. HERE. Sign this! And THIS and THIS!’ You could never look up.”

The ex-Twin’s face at Iowa State matched his frustrated glare in that KC hotel lobby.

Randall remains a great by-mail signer. Back then, he volunteered to go give a talk to summer day-camp kids when my counselor wife asked. He talked with every single camper, signing for each after individual chats.

Know that there’s going to be a Bobby Randall or two in every team you seek out for signatures. Before you get too zoned on getting as many autographs as possible, remember how the signer feels. Ask the hard questions:

How does it feel to sign autographs for a group of fans? How can collectors collect better?

The answer might help refine your collecting game plan, as it shapes our hobby’s future.

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