The passing of Randy Niles

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In June, 2004, we did a story on Randy Niles, one of the better beach volleyball players from the 1960s and 70s, and how after so long he had made it out to Manhattan Beach one Saturday afternoon to finally see his daughter, Brooke Niles (pictured above, bio linked here), play in a pro beach volleyball event (linked here).

Randy Niles was a regular at her matches when she was a standout setter and hitter at Calabasas High and then onto an All-American career at UC Santa Barbara, but poor health prevented him from seeing her play on his home court — the beach.

He suffered from a congestive heart condition, which developed after a six-way bypass operation in 1995. He also had diabetes, high blood pressure., skin cancer and other ailments. In 2001, with his heart pumping at only about 20 percent, doctors gave him only about a year to live, but he’d fought back and was there seeing his daughter for the first, and probably the last time.

Last week, Randy Niles died of a heart attack. He was 60 — somewhat remarkable considering all the health hurdles he had over the last 10 years.

On Tuesday, May 11, at Sorrento Beach in Santa Monica, some of Niles’ friends plan to gather for a tribute, followed by a toast.

Chris Marlowe, the former AVP star and current Denver Nuggets TV play-by-play man, said he plans to be there. If not for Marlowe’s help, Niles would have been far worse off. Marlowe rallied many in the beach volleyball community to come to Niles’ aide after they found out about his plight. Many wished to be anonymous donors, but they were big names in the sports community.

“It’s a little tough accepting it,” said Niles at the time, living modestly in a bachelor rental in Thousand Oaks after once spending some time living on the street, broke and depressed, after helping rear his family in Woodland Hills. “I’ve been successful and here I am a pauper. But I don’t require much. Expectations aren’t that high.”

Niles, also played four years in the Angels’ minor-league system as a catcher in the late ’60s before injuries forced him to quit, died just before his daughter, now married and playing on the tour as Brooke Hanson, competed in a recent AVP event in Brazil. She finished fifth with partner Lisa Rutledge.

According to the Santa Barbara Independent newspaper, Hanson, 29, found out an hour before her match that her father had died.

“I wasn’t thinking about the match at all,” she said. “I know how proud he was of me.”

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  • Mike Pardridge

    Let us all who knew and loved Randy remember this: Randy Niles was so very strong for all of us for so many, many years when we were young and vulnerable. If Randy knew you, he was your strength, he was your protector. Bless those of you out there who took the same good care of Randy in his hour of need. He’s catching for God’s team now — and, no doubt, throwing out the devils who dare trying to steal second. Dream on.

  • Mike Floyd

    I was looking for Randy on Facebook and found this eulogy somewhat…well, I was his roommate in 1970 when we both played at El Paso for the California Angels. Boy, what a character and tremendous hitter. I think somehow he got hold of a 37″long Carl Yastremski bat, and used it against the Juarez All-Stars in an exhibition game. He was all-upper body and strong and he got hold of a high one and drove it about 500 feet to left center and nobody could believe how far it went…
    I was also present in spring training in Sun City, Az.,when the Angels manager, Lefty Phillips, was walking and weaving his way around all 50 of us while we were doing stretches in right field. Lefty was announcing the starting line-up, which Randy nor I, was on. He walked by Randy who blirted out, “How come you don’t ever play me, Lefty?”
    Philips stopped, paused, and went “Well, Randy, you’re pretty young and this is the big leagues”…so Randy interrupted him and said, “whaddaya mean, Lefty? Al Kaline won the bating crown when he was just 19…what do you mean too young?” but before Phillips could answer him, Randy yelled, “**** It, I quit…and walked right off the field, into the locker room, changed and took a cab and was long gone…
    It was stunning and I don’t think the press ever covered it which I’m not surprised…Randy was blackballed after that and back in those days, it was truly enforced.
    Anyway, I enjoyed life while being around him…have a million stories and I was at his house in Santa Monica in 1975 and met his wife, was her name Tria?, and had a few laughs…he was a good one…Mike Floyd

  • Mike Floyd

    I have a hundred Randy Niles(he was my roommate in 1970) stories but my favorite is when we were warming up before a Cactus League game in Sun City against the SF Giants and the manager Lefty Phillips, with very few management skills, walked around announcing the starting line-up. When he announced the starting catcher, Jose Azcue, Randy cried out, “How come you never start me, Lefty?” and after a pregnant pause, Phillips said, “well, you’re only 20 years old and too young for the big leagues!” and to that Randy replied, “How about Al Kaline? He led the American League in hitting when he was only 19!” and Lefty hemmed and hawed and Randy throw down his Angels cap and catcher’s glove and said, “Bull****! I quit!” and walked right off the field, into the locker room and a cab back to the hotel…where he flew home from!!
    The Angels and their vindictive GM Dick Walsh buried him after that and I think he sat out all of 1971 when he could hve been in Triple A…then threw him back into Double A at Shreveport the next year…he kept breaking his thumb and fingers behind the plate…
    We, fellow playersS, all loved him like a brother…he was a lot like Chris Farley on the field and in the dugout…