ANAHEIM, CA – It was 1978 when California Angels outfielder Lyman Bostock was shot to death in Gary, Indiana. The shooting was about a mile from the home of the Jackson family, the musical group which consisted of Jackie, Tito, Marlon, Jermaine, and Michael. I chose to write about Lymon for the fact of the current events that surround us today. Another reason is simply you, Never can say Goodbye.
Bostock was on the Minnesota Twins and was paired with one of the greats in Rod Carew. He would pick Carew’s mind whenever he could and soak it all in like a sponge. Bostock was a fun loving .300 hitter and even back then, baseball was a business.
The cheap-ass Twins, who were owned by Cal Griffith at the time, let Bostock sign with the Angels through free agency. Angels owner Gene Autry, the “singing cowboy,” gave Bostock a $2.3 million, six year contract. This was after the 1977 season when Bostock’s salary was $20,000. He finished 2nd in batting average at .336 to Carew’s .388, in his last year as a Twin.
The new free agent signee started off slow for his new team on the West coast. Upon signing his deal he donated $10,000 to a church in his native Alabama to rebuild its Sunday school. Bostock attempted to give back his April salary to the team for his poor performance. He felt he hadn’t earned his pay as he batted .150. The team refused Bostock’s offer, so he donated his pay to charity.
Imagine that happening with today’s ballplayers. So many of them are under the .200 mark but the excuse is, batting average doesn’t matter. Bostock got his act together with a .404 June batting average.
I remember sitting in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium back in 1978. The Angels were making a pitching change when Bostock walked over to the fans sitting in those cheap seats and engaged with them in Spanish. His smile won every bleacher bums heart that day as we cheered his every at bat.
It was a Saturday September day game in Chicago against the White Sox when a 2 for 4 day put his average at .296. After the game Bostock went to visit his uncle in Gary, Indiana, which wasn’t a too far ride. A friend that he tutored as a teenager who he hadn’t seen in a while was also at the house. After the visit the uncle offered a ride to the friend named Joan Hawkins. Hawkins’ friend, Barbara Smith, who was living with Hawkins after she encountered marital problems, was also with them.
Bostock and Smith hopped in the back while Hawkins was up front with the uncle driving. A car driven by Leonard Smith pulled up beside the car that Bostock was in at a traffic light. Leonard was the estranged husband of Barbara Smith. He pulled out a shotgun and fired one round which went through Bostock’s temple. The Angels outfielder was pronounced dead two hours later.
A senseless shooting that was fueled by jealousy. Smith was eventually arrested and pleaded insanity. After going back and forth with this obvious crime through the system the jury found him not guilty for that reason and committed Smith for treatment. Seven months later psychiatrists labeled him sane. Smith went home and lived until 2010, dying from natural causes at the age of 64.
It is now 2023 and some things never change. Killers are pleading cuckoo, shootings are senseless. Things that have changed are ballplayers trying to bat above .200, and selfish free-swingers who are clueless at the plate. Imagine a free-agent offering to give back his pay for a piss poor performance.
Lyman Wesley Bostock was one of a kind. A Jackson song comes to mind at what I felt on that day, State of Shock. I will always remember Lyman Bostock.