There are a few things that really stand out from our kid-hood from watching sports. The tragic stuff, we mean.
Like, watching the 1973 Rose Bowl — USC versus Ohio State, the Sam Cunningham game, 42-17 — and having no interest in it after hearing Curt Gowdy tell us that Roberto Clemente had died in a plane crash the night before.
We had that same horrible feeling 30 years ago — Sept. 23, 1978 — when we heard that the Angels’ Lyman Bostock (his Wikipedia entry linked here) had been killed.
Bostock was the son of a Negro League baseball star, who grew up in L.A., went to Manual Arts High and eventually played at Cal State Northridge (then known as San Fernando Valley State). In two years, he led the Matadors in hitting (.344 as a freshman, .296 as a sophomore) and pushed the team to a second-place finish in the ’72 Division II College World Series.
On Saturday afternoon, Sept., 23, 1980, toward the end of his fourth season in the big leagues and first with the Angels, he went 2-for-4 against the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park. He got a hit in his last at-bat.
Hours later, dead?
ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” for Sunday (6 a.m. ESPN/9 a.m. ESPNEWS) revisits that whole thing, trying to tie up some loose ends. But maybe they can’t.
As the story goes, Bostock and his uncle, Thomas Turner, were giving a ride to Thomas’ Goddaughter, Barbara Smith, in Gary, Ind., when Smith’s estranged husband Leonard Smith fired a shotgun at the car. Bostock was hit in the temple and later died in a local hospital. He was 27.
Leonard Smith was tried for murder and was eventually found not guilty — reason of insanity. After six months in a state mental hospital, he was declared sane and granted his freedom. Smith has never spoken publically about what happened.
Reporter Tom Rinaldi tracked him down, but from the looks of things from ESPN’s department of information, we’re not sure if Smith actually talks one-on-one with Rinaldi in the story. ESPN spokesman Dan Quinn said the producer has told him that while Rinaldi was able to track Smith down and ask some questions, the exhange doesn’t yield any substansive answers to at least provides a look at the person. It needs to be viewed rather than explained in print.
Here’s a screen grab from their meeting:
These quotes were excerpted:
=Jack Crawford, who prosecuted Leonard Smith: “This should have been an open and shut case. That’s what it should’ve been, and that’s how we, as prosecutors, looked at it. Leonard Smith got away with murder. He did it legally, through the system as it existed, but that’s the bottom line.”
=Nick Thiros, defense attorney for Smith: “I think if you were to ask him today, ‘Do you have any regrets about what occurred?’ I don’t know that he would say that he was sorry for what happened. I don’t know.”
Bostock is buried in the Inglewood Cemetery (linked here). A memorial scholarship fund in his name still exists at CSUN, where he was the first athlete (in 1981) put into the school’s Hall of Fame (linked here). Here’s a link to a tribute page to Bostock (linked here).