[Twinkler notes: make sure you check out the Lyman video posted at the end of this post!]
Before anyone ever heard of Kirby Puckett and Torii Hunter, a fellow named Lyman Bostock patrolled centerfield for the Minnesota Twins. He had hitting skills that were compared to Hall Of Famer Stan Musial, and was an excellent defensive player.
He was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1950, eventually relocating to California with his mother a short time later. He never got to know his dad, Lyman Sr., who basically abandoned his family a short time after Lyman was born.
I just loved watching this guy play; to me, he played with a playground passion and abandon. It all looked so easy! Check the videos I linked, and you'll see! To this day, I enjoy watching guys who seem to embody the classic spirit of the game: playing it with great skill, but yet with a joy and warmth that only a few people have, just like Kirby and Torii. His teammates loved him, nicknaming him "Jibberjabber," as he was always engaging someone in the clubhouse and on the field.
I still remember watching his first major league game, and at bat. He walked against future Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins. He would come around to score on a groundout by Tony Oliva, and made his first hit in the next inning against Jenkins. The Twins won 11-4, with Bostock scoring three of those runs.
In January, 1977, my Minnesota Vikings lost the Super Bowl XI to the Oakland Raiders, 32-14. The bad boy Raiders pushed the aging Vikes defensive line all over the field, all day it seemed!
It was Bowl defeat number four for the Purple. Not only was there a gaping hole left in my sports calendar, but there was that humiliating defeat left to deal with! But, I wouldn't have to wait long for Redemption. My Twins were just around the corner!
I was just into my heyday of being interested in girls, and/or trying to get them interested in me. I remember hanging out with buddies after school at a place called "The Toy Pony," a forerunner to the modern video arcade. It was located next to Gehlen's Jewelry store.
We pumped our quarters away into oblivion, waiting for girls to come in, a vain hope. That probably gave us more time to brag about our skills with the fairer gender, and insult one another. Eventually, my parents forbade my going in there, worried about my turning into a bum.
It was also the last year in my boyhood that I actually would go into stores to purchase baseball cards. The 25-cent, 10 card packs represented a sort of Mason-Dixon line, marking the dividing line in my childhood to adolescence.
Spring was signalled by the arrival of Twins pitchers and catchers to Tinker Field in Orlando, Florida. It would be cool to see if Rod Carew would regain the batting title, and if the Twins could beat out the Royals for the West Division title. I had a hard time keeping my mind on my studies and practicing piano. I think I secretly hoped I'd be a great player, and none of that other stuff would matter in the future. I was a skinny kid, but fast and with a decent right handed swing.
I had even copied Rod Carew's left-handed stance, hitting well that way in Little League.
The Twins were then an interesting mix of veterans like Carew and Larry Hisle, and young guys like Lyman, Roy Smalley, and Mike Cubbage. That year, they became one of the greatest offesive teams in Twins history. Lyman became an even better player, and was 2nd in the league to Rod Carew in batting, at .336. The famous June 26th game at the Met (which I attended with my cousins Bill, Bob and Uncle Jake) when Rod went over .400 in average while the Twins won 19-12 over Chicago, is one I'll never forget! Glenn Adams had 8 RBI's!
I was crushed when he elected to leave the Twins that fall, and sign with the California Angels. That was compounded when Larry Hisle also left via free agency, to the Milwaukee Brewers. My guys! The batting order was gutted! It would take into the next decade, when the Hrbek, Gaetti & Puckett Twins came along, for the Twins to again rise to prominence.
But that became a small matter a year later, when Lyman Bostock was fatally shot while riding with childhood friends in the streets of Gary, Indiana. It was the first time I felt truly touched by death, even more so than when my only remaining grandparent died a few years previous.
The Vikings lost horribly again last week. But I guess that episode with Lyman really taught me at a young age that there's a lot worse things than failing at sports. Like subsequently losing my great friend Scott to suicide. And again when my wonderful niece Emily died in a car accident at age 19.
Life snuffed out in the flower of youth...good people aren't replaced. There's only the effort of getting along, remembering them fondly, and trying to do your best when your heart is broken.
Lyman Bostock Part 2 video recounts the eulogy and aftermath of Lyman and his legacy. I think ESPN did a fantastic job recalling his life and who he was as a human being!
[Note: I used details from the incredible on-line Lyman story from which the You Tube video orignated, at ESPN eticket feature by Jeff Pearlman]