- CF, DH, LF, OF, RF
- November 22, 1950
- 6' 1"
- 180 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 4-08-1975 with MIN
On September 23, 1978, Lyman Bostock, an All-Star outfielder for the California Angels, was in the wrong place at the wrong time. As he sat in the back seat of his uncle's car in Gary, Indiana, crossing town to take some friends to their destination, Bostock was fatally shot when one of the passenger's estranged husband drove up on them. At the time of his tragic death at the age of 27, Bostock was a career .311 hitter in just his fourth major league season. Bostock's father won a batting title in the Negro American League in 1941, but after he spent four years in the service during World War II, Lyman Sr. was never the same player.
Lyman Bostock was a successful young outfielder whose life was cut short by tragedy. His four seasons in major league baseball bear similarities to the first four years of Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett's career, another Minnesota Twins player whose life ended prematurely.
Bostock was the son of Lyman Bostock, Sr., who played in the Negro Leagues with the Brooklyn Royal Giants in 1938, and joined the Birmingham Black Barons in 1940.
Lyman, Jr. was a star at Cal State Northridge (then known as "San Fernando Valley State College"), playing with them in the 1972 Division II College World Series.
Drafted by the Twins in the 26th round in 1972, Lyman debuted with the Charlotte Twins that year and hit .294/~.421/.384. In 1973, he advanced to the Orlando Twins and posted a .313/~.415/.438 line. By 1974, Bostock was in AAA with the Tacoma Twins (.333/~.411/.421) and was third in the Pacific Coast League in batting average. He finished his minor league time with Tacoma in 1975 by hitting .391/~.434/.446 in 22 games.
He made his major league debut with the Minnesota Twins in 1975. He was the same age as pitcher and teammate Bert Blyleven, who would go on to play major league baseball through 1992. In his first season, Bostock appeared in 98 games, and hit .282 in a league with an overall batting average of .258.
Bostock hit over .320 in 1976 and 1977. He continued to improve as a player, hitting 9 triples and stealing 12 bases in 1976, while hitting 12 triples and stealing 16 bases as he moved his average up to .336 in 1977. His homer total of 14 in 1977 was by far his best.
He was likely spurred to greater heights by teammate Rod Carew, who hit .388 in 1977 and flirted with .400 much of the season till the end. A free agent after 1977, he signed with the California Angels for the 1978 season. Bostock didn't hit for power in 1978, but his batting average was .296. He had the highest batting average on the team, playing alongside slugger Don Baylor, who hit 34 home runs, 21-year-old rookie Carney Lansfordand 39-year-old veteran Ron Fairly, who retired after that season. Nolan Ryan was a pitcher on the team.
Bostock was murdered in Gary, IN on September 23, 1978, while visiting his uncle. Bostock and his uncle had dinner in Gary, then went to visit a childhood friend, Joan Hawkins, who was at home with her sister Barbara Smith. Bostock and his uncle then set out to drop the women off at a cousin's house. Barbara's estranged husband, Leonard Smith, followed the car to the intersection of Fifth and Jackson where he shot a shotgun into the car intended for Barbara. Bostock, sitting in the back seat next to Barbara was hit. (Although Bostock was shot late on September 23rd, he died early on 24th. Source: the author, Frank Russo of SABR checked the death certificate, medical records and police report) Smith was acquitted by reason of insanity and spent six months in a mental institution before his release. Thirty years later, Smith still lived in the same apartment in which he was arrested in 1978.
After Bostock was murdered, he was still listed in the top ten hitters in the league each day in the newspapers until nearly the last day. At the end of the season, it turned out the 10th hitter in the league, Thurman Munson, batted .297. Munson's life also ended before his time. In spite of the shortened season, Bostock still ended up 4th in the league in singles and 6th in the league in intentional walks. Lyman was deprived of playing with the 1979 Angels, who won the division for the first time in franchise history.
None of the ten most similar players to Bostock, using the similarity scores method, seem suitable, given the sudden ending to Bostock's career. Instead, it seems more appropriate to look at the first few seasons of two Hall of Fame careers - those of Kirby Puckett and Ross Youngs, which were fairly similar - to see what might have happened to Lyman Bostock had not his life been so cruelly shortened.