Willie Randolph was on Bronx Zoo Yankees; Here are his tips for Josh Donaldson

TAMPA – Willie Randolph was second baseman for the Yankees when they won the World Series in 1977 and the club’s celebration included iconic team captain Thurman Munson and Reggie Jackson, who were explosive teammates.

Randolph was also a Yankee in September 1985 when Eddie Whitson was so upset about not pitching that he started a fight with Billy Martin at a Baltimore hotel bar, which led to kicking, kicking fist and the director broke his arm.

Randolph was also present in June 1977, when backup catcher Cliff Johnson beat new star relief pitcher Goose Gossage. “In the shower….naked!” Randolph recalled with a laugh Saturday afternoon as he stood on the top step of the Yankees dugout at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Playing for the Bronx Zoo Yankees in the 1970s and 1980s, Randolph experienced many internal feuds: player vs. player, player vs. manager, player vs. owner, manager vs. owner… you name it.

“We were a different breed,” Randolph said. “We had to deal with stuff almost every day!”

Generations later, Randolph is still with the Yankees this time of year as a guest instructor in spring training. He was one of the best offensive and defensive second basemen of his time and still has a great baseball spirit at 67, so he works with the current group of Yankees infielders, who like last week , includes former MVP third baseman Josh Donaldson.

Randolph doesn’t know all the details, but he had heard that Donaldson last June publicly called out Yankees ace Gerrit Cole after MLB launched an in-season crackdown on pitchers dealing with baseballs. to increase the rotation rate. He had also heard that Donaldson’s first day after his trade from the Twins to the Yankees included a Monday morning meeting in the manager’s office with Aaron Boone and Cole. All parties insist that Donaldson and Cole had a productive conversation and vowed to get over their feud.

“It’s a great start,” Randolph said. “Donaldson and Cole have spoken. It is very good. Now Donaldson just has to play the game. He has to say to himself, ‘I know I’m a good player and I’m here to win.’ »

In Randolph’s time, he knows how Yankees players would have treated an opposing player publicly disparaging the staff ace.

“There was no fraternization and buddy bullshit with the other teams that they do these days,” he said. “At the time, guys who didn’t like each other, we fought. There were fights. »

Back when Randolph was playing, the opponent was the enemy, and hated if there was an incident.

“But if you’re on the other side and you become a teammate, you let that animosity go when you get there,” Randolph said. “If you can’t… We were like, ‘If I don’t like you, I’m going to stay away.’ Most teams have guys who don’t like each other, but we were close to winning.

“That’s what Reggie was in my day. He quickly gained respect. Even though some guys didn’t like him, they knew he was one of our big dogs and he was here to win.

Jackson was already a superstar puncher en route to the Hall of Fame when he signed with the Yankees after losing the 1976 World Series. Munson team, were upset by one of Jackson’s quotes in a June 1977 Sport Magazine article.

“When Reggie said he was ‘the straw that stirred the drink,’ which he denies saying, there was a bit of a divide,” Randolph said. “It was more on Thurman’s side. He was the captain. At the time, me and Fran Healy (backup receiver) were two of the few guys who liked Reggie. This guy was like God to me when he was with the Oakland A’s, so I gave him a clean slate. A lot of other guys who had played him for years had a different feeling.

“But it was easy for us to get out of it. Reggie was outspoken and a little boastful, but we didn’t think he was coming here to try and take over.

Randolph likes what he’s seen on the practice courts so far from Donaldson, who was 1-for-2 with a solo homer on Saturday in his Yankees opener, a nine-inning 3-3 tie against the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota, Florida. He sees a hard-working guy trying to fit in at a club full of established stars.

“From talking to Donaldson and watching him from afar, it seems to me it’s all about winning,” Randolph said. “That’s what I see. I don’t know him very well, but I think he’ll be fine. I really do. He just needs to keep coming every day with the same attitude…here to win. Focus on that. That would be my advice to Donaldson.

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Randy Miller can be reached at [email protected].