Do you remember when a player you thought was the greatest or played for your favorite team died and how weird it felt? I sure as hell do. I was only eight years old on September 23, 1978 but I would be nine in October. By this time, I was very knowledgeable in baseball probably because I was obsessed with it and I could recite stats off the back of player's baseball card. Plus, I loved to play it and became pretty good. I would play from sunrise to sunset with anyone who wanted to throw the ball or go to the cages.
Alright, let me get back on track here. Death. My first "Death" experience came when Lyman Bostock of the California Angels was shot, murdered, while visiting his hometown of Gary, Indiana. I was in disbelief when I first heard the news and I know exactly where I was.
When I saw the news report on TV while at my grandmother's house, I really didn't know what was going on. I just could not comprehend that he would not be coming on the field the next day against Chicago, and then it hit me, he is never going to play again and I will never get to see him play again. I was thinking, "I just watched him play on TV against the White Sox that same day, so how could he have been shot?" I had the mind of a nine year old, so I didn't think of players as human and thought they stayed at the stadium or something. I was pretty crushed.
Bostock was an excellent right fielder and hit for a high average. He finished second for the batting title in 1977 with a .336 average. His Twin roommate at that time, Rod Carew, was first. He came to the Angels the next year as a free agent and was a big deal at the time. The Angels were still a young franchise but started to show signs that they could compete for a pennant. The Angels went to the playoffs for the first time in 1979. Who knows what would have happened if he was on that team. The Angels sure could of used a good left handed hitter against the Orioles great pitching staff.
Not only was Bostock a good baseball player, he was a better person because he was very honest, modest, selfless, smart, and giving. He signed for a lot of money then and there was a lot of scrutiny on him since free agency just started and salaries were getting big. After signing, he donated $10,000 to charity. He started off the 78 season in a huge slump and felt bad about taking his salary, so he went to management and tried to return his salary for April, but the team would not accept. He gave it to a charity instead.
After that game in Chicago, he went to visit his uncle in Gary, Indiana where he was born. They had dinner and then went to visit a girl he had tutored in high school. His uncle agreed to take her and a friend to the friend's cousin's house. The friend was separated from her husband at the time who was outside the house in his car when they left. The husband followed them and pulled up beside them on the right and pulled out his shotgun firing one shot into the car. Bostock was seated in the front seat next to the window. He later died from the gunshot wound while nobody else was injured. The husband said he thought Bostock and his wife were having an affair, but Bostock met her only 20 minutes before the incident. He said he meant to shoot her.
The worst part of the story is the murderer was found not guilty by reason of insanity after the first trial ended in a hung jury. He spent only 21 months in jail until the jury made a decision and spent about seven months more in a psychiatric hosptial when he was miraculously cured and declared not insane anymore.
The murderer's name is Leonard Smith and supposedly still lives in Gary but has not commented publicly about the murder since his release. I would like to see and hear Mr. Smith publicly apologize to the Bostock family, Angel fans and every baseball fan who was robbed of the opportunity to see a great player. I encourage everyone to attempt to contact this monster and pressure him for an apology. ASF