Having been born in the early 1970's and buying and trading baseball cards during the late 1970's and 1980's, I am fairly familiar with most players who played during those eras. Every once in a while there are a few that pop up on the radar and I say to myself "Who is that". One particular player keeps popping up and before I can research him, something else comes along and I forget him. I was researching George Brett for a future post and once again this player's name is featured prominently. I'm not going to let him slip away again. This gentleman has a very short but productive career that was tragically ended during the 1978 season in the city of Gary, Indiana. This player's name was Lyman Bostock.
Bostock was the son of former Negro Leaguer Lyman Bostock Sr., and was born in Birmingham, Alabama on 11-22-1950. After living in Gary, Indiana for a few years, his mother moved the family to Los Angeles, California where there were ample job opportunities and for Lyman's teen years the climate was ideal for playing Baseball.
After graduating High School, Bostock attended San Fernando Valley State College (now known as the California State University, Northridge (CSUN)) and was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1970 amateur draft. Bostock decided to stay in school instead of signing with St. Louis. He was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 1972 amateur draft and played in the Twins' minor league system until he made his major league debut on April 8, 1975.
Bostock spent three seasons with the Minnesota and was known for his defensive prowess in the outfield having made 15 errors. Bostock was also known for being aggressive on the basepaths having hit a total of 26 triples and stealing 30 bases in 46 attempts over that span.
Bostock was also a part of arguably the most exciting batting race that I know of. On the last day of the 1976 season, four players were vying for the American League batting title: Bostock, teammate Rod Carew, George Brett and his teammate on the Kansas City Royals Hal McRae. Both teams played each other and Brett eventually won the batting title with a .333 batting average (McRae .332, Carew .331, Bostock finished fourth at .323). Bostock was again in the thick of the AL batting race the next year finishing with a .323 batting average coming in second to teammate Rod Carew who had an astounding .388 batting average. From 1975-1978, Bostockhit .318 with 18 HR and 175 RBI. In 1436 at-bats, Bostock had 456 Hits (78 2B/26 3B/18 HR) with 112 walks, 128 strikeouts and 30 stolen bases (in 46 attempts). Bostock's OPS was .812 (.366 OBP%/.446 SLG%). His performance while with the Twins made him a highly sought after free-agent after the 1977 season.
Bostock signed with the then California Angels for five-years $2.5 million dollars which compared to current salaries is paltry but during the 1977 offseason that was a very lucrative deal. Bostock only played the majority of one season with the Angels before being shot and killed while with relatives in Gary, IN on September 23, 1978. His final statistics with the Angels at the time of his death was .296 with 5 HRs and 71 RBI. In 568 at-bats, Bostock had 168 Hits (24 2B/4 3B/5 HR) with 59 walks and only 36 strikeouts and 15 stolen bases (in 27 attempts). His OPS was .741 (.362 OBP%/.379 SLG%).
Not only was the effect of his death felt in Baseball but also in his community since Bostock was very charitable. For example, upon signing his free-agent deal with the Angels, Bostock donated $10,000 to the church of his youth in Birmingham, AL and when he felt he wasn't earning his salary at the beginning of the 1978 season, he decided to donate it to charity. At the time of his death he was 27-years old.
For Further Reading
- Click Here to access Lyman Bostock Jr's career statistics from Baseball Reference.com
- Click Here to access Jeff Pearlman's article Fifth and Jackson from ESPN.com for an in-depth biography on Lyman Bostock.
- Click Here to access Among Twins, Bostock's death most senseless from the Cool of the Evening webpage for an interesting article on Lyman Bostock Jr.
- Click Here to access the Tim Connaughton biography of Lyman Bostock Jr from the The Baseball Biography Project from SABR.org