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Lyman Bostock's Tragic Visit To Chicago

In 1978, a beloved and gifted former Twin died far too young.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

After his California Angels lost their afternoon game on September 23, 1978, star outfielder Lyman Bostock drove to visit relatives in nearby Gary, Indiana, where he was born. (He and his mother moved to Los Angeles during Bostock's childhood; the decline of steel mills hit Gary hard.) Bostock met with his relatives, then a woman who'd helped him learn to read as a boy.

That teacher and her sister were going to visit a cousin; Bostock went along. The sister's ex-husband, a serial abuser with a family history of mental illness, was stalking her. He believed the teacher's sister and Bostock were having an affair. He followed the car, and at a stoplight, shot into the back seat, where Bostock and the sister were sitting. Bostock died in a few hours. He was two months shy of his 28th birthday.

Lyman Bostock was drafted by the Twins in 1972. (St. Louis drafted him in 1970, but Bostock chose to finish college.) His father, Lyman Sr., had played Negro League baseball. Bostock made the major league team in 1975 out of training camp, and was reportedly an excellent outfielder with exceptional bat control, if not enormous power. In 1977 he hit .336/.389/.508, with 14 HRs.

1977 was the second year of free agency, and the seventh year in what would end up a 16-season playoff drought for Minnesota. Notoriously cheap owner Cal Griffith, whose team was 11th in attendance out of 14 AL squads, didn't offer Bostock a raise until 13 other teams made a bid for him. Tim Connaughton of SABR quotes Bostock here:

"If they had offered me that at the beginning of the season, I'd have signed. But by the end I just didn't want to stay there. I'd be defeating the purpose of what Curt Flood has done for the players. He wanted everybody to be able to enjoy the beauty and the freedom of the game." Bostock's disdain for the penny-pinching Griffith was clear. "If it wasn't for the owner, Minnesota would be a great place to play."

Mentioning Curt Flood, whose career was ruined by his fight to win free agency, showed class and gratitude. That was typical of Bostock. He signed with the Angels, and started off so slowly, he donated his first month's salary to local charities. After one game, Bostock noticed some kids waiting for a ride outside the stadium; he took them to a nearby restaurant and bought them ice cream until their father picked them up. In his last game, Bostock told White Sox third baseman Eric Solderholm the reason for his late-season surge; Bostock gave all credit to his wife, Youvene.

That comes from Solderholm's memory, as quoted by Jeff Pearlman in this exceptional article. The whole thing is worth reading -- it's especially touching on Bostock's murderer, a sick, sad man -- but if nothing else, consider this description of Bostock's funeral in Los Angeles, attended by over 800 mourners:

Hundreds lined the nearby streets, a somber collection of men and women, adults and children, lawyers and plumbers, doctors and construction workers. Some stood to see what all the fuss was about. But most were, simply, stunned. Whereas other athletes from the tough streets of L.A. often made their money and left for the Hills, Bostock knew whereof he came. He worked with local kids, contributed thousands of dollars to a new low-income housing complex, invested in a local chain of photo kiosks and an apartment complex. He was one of them, and it showed. "They came on bicycles. They came walking," wrote Brad Pye Jr. in The Los Angeles Sentinel, the city's African-American weekly newspaper. "They came talking. They came on crutches. They came in Cadillacs and other cars. They came dressed up, and they came in rollers and curlers to watch from a distance. They came in record numbers. And they just kept coming."

For comparison, you can read this 1978 report of the funeral, presented on a loving (if virus-y) Bostock tribute page. The reporter is then-LA Times journalist Skip Bayless, now known as television's #1 sports troll and basically the most valuable player in ESPN becoming crap. Bayless comments how Youvene "showed little emotion" "in a white dress," and coos amazedly over attendees saying "that's right" or "Amen." What a dick. Be ye not surprised when a-holes pretend to have compassion for others; that's how they become a-holes, by faking Human.

As the song says, death doesn't discriminate between the sinners and the saints. And happily, Pearlman tells us, Youvene came to a place of peace in her life, remarrying, having children, and managing a facility that assisted vulnerable adults. I'm sure her late partner would have been proud.

In a nice coincidence, one of the jersey numbers eventually retired by Minnesota -- Tom Kelly's #10 -- was also Lyman Bostock's.

Here's a YouTube video where you can see what Bostock looked/talked like. It's heavy on the case, less about who Bostock was (read the Pearlman article!), but it's professionally done. This is a first part; the second part features an ESPN reporter hassling Bostock's killer, by then a feeble old man, and it's foul. You can find it if you like.