Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly:
Wouldn’t you love to see, just once, before you die… a major league player call a press conference to demand the club negotiate his contract — downward? “I’m barely hittin’ my weight,” he’ll say, his agent nodding by his side. “Either start paying me a whole lot less or I’m leaving for Pawtucket right now!”
That almost did happen. In 1978, a young, hard-hitting outfielder named Lyman Bostock became one of baseball’s first big-money free agents, leaving the cash-poor Minnesota Twins (not much changes, does it?) to join Gene Autry’s big-money California Angels. One of the first things he did with his newfound wealth was give $10,000 to a church in his native Birmingham to rebuild its Sunday School.
He got off to a bang that April, hitting .150 for the month (Bostock had never hit below .282 in the major leagues). So he told Autry he wanted to give back his April salary. Autry refused. Bostock gave the money to charity.
They don’t make ’em like that anymore. Bostock spent the rest of the season working overtime to try to get his batting average up over .300, where it belonged. He never made it. He was shot and killed Sept. 23, 1978 in the back seat of his uncle’s car in Gary, Ind. Accounts vary as to whether the gunman was aiming for the man sitting next to him or whether he thought Bostock was someone else.
The Angels, in the midst of an intense pennant race with the Kansas City Royals, never recovered.
Lots of classy players have played this game. I don’t think you’ll ever find me one classier than Lyman Bostock.
And lots of tragic deaths have happened in this game. But I don’t think you’ll ever find me one more tragic than the death of Lyman Bostock. When daddies pointed at the TV screens and told their sons to be like Lyman Bostock, they didn’t just mean hit a baseball like him. They meant live like him.
I have no idea how long the link will be active, but you can read this Chicago Tribune account of Lyman Bostock here.