The Murder of Lyman Bostock in 1978

The sequence of events that led up to Lyman Bostock’s death on the night of September 23, 1978, at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Jackson in downtown Gary, Indiana, went like this:

Bostock met Barbara Smith at a dinner party his uncle, Ed Turner, was hosting. Afterward, Smith, Bostock, Turner, and Smith’s sister, Joan Hawkins, got into Turner’s car and started driving to Hawkins’ home. At some point, Leonard Smith drove up alongside Turner, began chasing him, and Turner ran several red lights, but then hit congestion and stopped. Smith got out of his car with a small-gauge shotgun, fired a single shot into the back seat of Turner’s car, and hit Bostock, not the intended victim, Barbara. Actually, Barbara was hit by a single pellet in the neck, but Bostock took the rest of the shot in the right side of his head. He was taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center and declared dead there about three hours later.

Ken Brett, Angels pitcher and player representative for the 1978 Angels, recalled:

Don Baylor said, “Lyman’s been shot. It doesn’t look good.”

Freddie Frederico (the Angels’ trainer) was going to drive him to the hospital. Everybody else went up to Freddie’s room and waited to hear something. Ten minutes later, Freddie called us and said “Lyman hasn’t got a chance. All they can do is make him comfortable before he dies.”

Brett continued, of Angels manager Jim Fregosi: “Jimmy got real emotional about it. Lyman was one of his guys. He’d been with him through all the ups and downs. At the funeral, Jimmy was supposed to do the eulogy, but he came up to me and said, ‘I just can’t do it.’ As the player’s rep, he asked me to do it. So I did.”

An excerpt from that eulogy:

We called him Jibber Jabber because he enlivened every clubhouse scene, chasing tension, drawing laughter in the darkest hour of defeat. When winning wasn’t in the plan, Lyman knew the sun would come up the next morning…. There’s only one consolation: We’re all better persons for having him touch our lives.

In his self-titled book, Rod Carew wrote:

Lyman Bostock was my teammate on the Twins for three years. I knew he was very close to an uncle who lived in Gary, Indiana, just outside Chicago. Lyman often visited him after games against the White Sox. . . . How senseless. How horrible. I still can’t believe it happened. Everyone really liked Lyman. I remember how he loved to argue about anything–no matter what. And he’d always come out a winner, because he’d argue until you gave in. He loved to fish and actually told big whopper tales, about all those tremendous fish that he nearly caught.

When we played the Angels [in 1978], he sent the batboy over to me with a newspaper photograph of himself wearing sun-glasses with dollar signs on the lenses. Above the picture Lyman had written, Rod, I need help. His average was around .200. So I watched him in the game. I noticed he was lunging at pitches. He was too anxious. His swing wasn’t smooth, as it normally is. I told him I thought he was trying to hit the ball into “holes” between fielders instead of swinging with the pitch. No one can manipulate a bat so well that he can consistently hit the ball into holes. I don’t know if I helped or not, but Lyman picked up and was batting .296 when he died, at age 27.

Bostock’s survivors included his wife, Yuovene, his mother, Annie, and his father, also named Lyman Bostock, who played in the  Negro Leagues in the 1940s.

Cal State Northridge, which Bostock attended in the early ’70s, established a Lyman Bostock Memorial Scholarship Game in 1979 to raise funds for the scholarship named after him. The game featured major leaguers such as Robin Yount and Dusty Baker playing against the Matadors after the big league season had ended. The game was cancelled in 1985 when not enough major leaguers were available to play in the game, primarily because of contractual restrictions on their off-season activity. I do not know if it was played in later years. However, the Lyman Bostock Scholarship Endowment still exists. In 2008, Bob Hiegert, Bostock’s coach at San Fernando Valley State, as it is now known, said of Bostock:

He’s a special young man. He was 100 percent, whatever he did. He was a kick. If Lyman was without a smile, it was because he was in a competitive situation.

He’s the type of guy you don’t forget. He just had that impact. He was a combination of a good kid and a good person. He was a good teammate. He played hard, and he was going to make you play hard.

Hiegert also remembered that Bostock had spent three weeks in county jail in spring 1970 after participating in some black student union protests (I don’t know if that was the reason for his arrest.) Hiegert said of talking to Bostock after he was released from jail:

He was scared to death. Three weeks in jail really woke him up and scared him. He was squared away before that, but he had a lot of time to think about things. He really wanted to concentrate on baseball and get himself through school.

He was finally settled in. He was a sociology major. He met his wife in school then. They were dating. He put 100 percent of his energies to baseball and campus life. He was one of the true leaders on the team. He wound up all-conference and an All-American.

Most of the preceding was adapted from an article by Mike Penner in the Los Angeles Times of September 23, 1988, as well as a Times article in 1985 and an L.A. Daily News article in 2008.

Published in: on December 17, 2008 at 2:08 am  Comments (2)  
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  2. Yes, he was a good one, Jim. Spent some time with the Tacoma Twins in the mid-70’s, where he hit well but was a work in progress in the outfield (he DID improve later). I remember being shocked when I’d heard he’d been shot and killed. A sad day for baseball and sports in general.

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