Tuesday, November 22, 2005

November 22nd, 1950

Lyman Bostock Born

Lyman Bostock is a name many fans of the generations before mine remember, but one that is too often relegated to simply a name on a list for those fans since. In Bostock's case, that list is those players who died in the midst of a season. Bostock is often referred to as "especially tragic" because he had a promising start to his career, although this is a sort of logic I've never been entirely comfortable with.

Bostock was the son of a Negro League player whose name he bore, and made his debut for the Twins in 1975. He saw limited action in 1975, but made a respectable showing, hitting .282 and posting an OPS just below league average. In 1976 however, he became the Twins regular center fielder, and matured considerably as a hitter, batting .323 (good for fourth in the league) and posting a 130 OPS+. Bostock took another step forward in 1977, hitting .336--second only behind teammate Rod Carew and posted a career best 144 OPS+.

Granted free agency--one of the first big names to get it--Bostock signed with the Angels. He had an awful debut, batting just .147 in April and went to Angels owner Gene Autry offering to give back his salary. When Autry refused to take it, Bostock instead donated the money to charity. (It is this kind of behavior that makes Bostock's death so tragic, rather than his capacities as a ballplayer.) Bostock had a mediocre May but a scorching June--in which he hit .404--and after hitting nearly .300 in July and over .300 in both August and September, Bostock was hitting .296 after a September 23rd game at Chicago, with a chance for a hot last ten games to boost his average over .300 for the season.

After the game, Bostock went to visit his uncle. He was sitting in the backseat of a car when he was killed by a blast from a shotgun. Whether it was a case of mistaken identity or if the shooter was aiming for someone else has never been fully established, but either way, the shot was definitely meant for someone else. His killer severed some time in prison but was later released after being found mentally incapable of understanding his actions.

The Angels would honor their fallen teammate by finishing the season 5-2 in a last ditch effort to knock off the Royals and make the playoffs. In the end, Bostock was would finish with a career .311 average and the mystery of just how good a player he could've been.

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