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Harmon Killebrew On David Letterman!?

With the appearance of Joe Mauer last week on Jimmy Fallon, I was reminded of another episode of a famous Twin who appeared on late ni...

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Remembering Lyman Bostock

[Notes: make sure you check out the Lyman video posted at the end of this post!] LAST REVISION, TUES., SEPT. 23, 2014

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! His swing was highlighted by his balance, and an ability to wait until the last moment on a breaking ball, and bring his bat around to hit a rope. Amazingly fast hands helped him to get quite a number of hits after he'd made his weight transfer, while hitting off his front foot. Today, only Ichiro Suzuki reminds me of Lyman, in the way he keeps his hands back, adjusting in mid-stride as the pitch is arriving, and hitting the ball where it's pitched.

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. Lyman's teammates loved him, nicknaming him "Jibberjabber" (see animated b & w photo below) 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, on local Minneapolis station WCCO. Legendary broadcaster Ray Scott was calling the play-by-play. 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 just gave us more time to brag about our skills with the fairer gender - deviant, misguided, horny little creeps that we were - 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.


The spring of 1977 was signaled by the arrival of Twins pitchers and catchers to Tinker Field in Orlando, Florida. It had been that way for the Twins and their forerunners from Washington, D.C. since the second Roosevelt Administration. 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 wiry, and fast and with a decent right handed swing. I loved playing so much, fire came out of my ass. I had even copied Rod Carew's left-handed stance, hitting well that way in Little League. I thought then: "It's a sign!"

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 offensive 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 (see Jacksonville Courier "Bostock No. 1" and The Sporting News "Bostock Values Angel's Halo Over Big Bucks"). 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. Incredible, poignant quotes can be read in this Sept. 26, 1978 edition the European Stars And Stripes. When I read these things, now consigned to the back pages of history, it makes me sad. Knowing no Twins fans born in the 80's and later would ever know how good this man was, personally and professionally. I know for me, the Twins, and baseball in general died that day. I would never be as serious a fan again until well into my adulthood.

The photo Topps was set to use
for Lyman's 1979 card

 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!

As the sublime broadcaster would sign off:
"So long, everybody!" - Herb Carneal

[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]


jjswol said...

A very nice job, I really enjoyed the story and the two video's. Keep up the nice work.

Alan Weiers said...

Good good stuff, Buscher! Aaahh, the memories of the Toy Pony! Never forget when they added the "Nip It" game--straight outta Arnolds Restaurant on Happy Days!

Glenn Adams, we barely knew ye

keep chuckin' it out good sir. A mere smattering of days to pitchers and catchers!


Thanks, Al! Any other details re: Toy Pony are welcome!

Gary Horn said...

I was also at that June 26th game, in the left field bleachers with my brothers. It was a magical day.