The book: “Lyman Bostock: The Inspiring Life and Tragic Death of a Ballplayer”
The author: K. Adam Powell
The vital statistics: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 350 pages, pages, $35, released Dec. 9, 2016
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Barnes & Noble, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com, at the publishers’ website
The pitch: “Lyman Bostock will never grow old,” Powell writes on page 298.
“He may not have had time to become a Hall of Famer, but he will always be remembered as an elite ballplayer having died during his peak. Age never had a chance to catch up to Lyman. At the same time, how much would anyone give to reverse the past – to stop what happened from happening? To give Lyman a chance to live the long, happy life he deserved?”
That’s assuming an awful lot, but we understand the sentiment.
The details of how and why the Angels outfielder out of South Central L.A. and San Fernando Valley State ended up dead in a car shooting on Sept. 24, 1978, an innocent victim at the intersection of Fifth and Jackson Streets in Gary, Indiana, have been presented over various media platforms in the past 30-some years.
Why we come around to it again, we aren’t completely certain, except for what seems to be a need for Powell, a licensed real estate broker in North Carolina who has been in the sports writing business for 15 years as a freelancer and author of three other books that have focused on college sports, to tell the complete story of Bostock from start to finish.
Powell, whose book came out last in 2016, writes in the preface that he agonized for six years over deciding why and how to tackle this project, and was compelled to tell more of the story about this player who overcame urban poverty to achieve success and fame without getting “its just recognition” in the grand scheme of baseball lore.
Powell focuses a lot on what could have happened in Bostock lived – perhaps a few batting titles, some World Series appearances with the Angels, and a greater appreciation of his abilities on a prolonged scale. More could also be learned by researching how much of an impact Bostock made in the community.
Much of Powell’s story-telling journey is tied to Bob Hiegert, Bostock’s coach at Cal State Northridge/San Fernando Valley State, as well as CSUN’s current archives. Dick Enberg is another huge resource, the former SFVS health professor and Angels broadcaster who connected with Bostock. Powell at least acknowledges that ESPN.com’s Jeff Pearlman wrote “the definitive story” on Bostock’s death in 2008, and the MLB Network did their own documentary on the subject as well.
It is also justified to find out more about Lyman Bostock Sr., who could have been a major leaguer based on his Negro League experience but ended up fighting in World War II.
Lyman Jr. grew up playing ball in Vermont Square at 47th and Hoover in the early 1960s, the son of a single mom, going to Manual Arts High and watching the Angels play at nearby L.A. Wrigley Field.
He was not, as some have reported, a member of the Valley State NCAA lower-division national championship baseball team in 1970 – he had been kicked off the roster by Hiegert for missing practices and hanging out with friends who were into rebelliousness with the Black Student Union. But missing that title run forced Bostock to take stock and figure out that baseball was his dream pursuit. He apologized to Hiegert.
“From that point, he was a model kid,” said Hiegert.
From there, some of Powell’s research comes from the Valley News archives, which is fortunate to access. Bostock’s performance at SFVS in ’71 and ’72 led to the Minnesota Twins drafting him No. 595 overall, the first position player ever taken from the college.
Fast forward through his career achievements – a .311 lifetime average and 13.0 WAR in less than four major league seasons with the Twins and Angels from 1975 to ’78, not even completing his one season with California after coming over as a free agent with his $400,000 salary and a $250,000 bonus.
“Why Lyman was killed looms large in this story … it was one of the most senseless and tragic acts to ever befall anyone anywhere in history,” Powell goes back to say. “An entirely innocent man was caught in the crossfire of other people’s troubles … At the end of the day, the question simply can’t be answered. It never will be answered.”
We get it. And it’s why we’ll keep this one on the shelf to never forget, either.