Lyman Bostock is certainly not the most famous name in Major League Baseball history, but his story is certainly one of the most tragic. Bostock, a rising star with the California Angels, was murdered early in his career in 1978 by a jealous husband who believed the MLB outfielder was having an affair with his wife, a man who went free less than two years later. The decision to release Bostock's killer, however, brought about a change in the legal system in the state of Indiana where the murder took place.
Lyman Bostock was the son of a batting master in the Negro Leagues
Lyman Bostock was born in 1950 to former Negro League star Lyman Bostock Sr., who once scored .442 for the Birmingham Black Barons. After his parents separated in 1954, Bostock Jr. moved his mother from Alabama to Gary, Indiana, and was estranged from his father for the rest of his all-too-short life.
Lyman Bostock and his mother moved to Los Angeles in 1958 and later became baseball stars at Manual Arts High School. After graduation, he enrolled in what is now Cal State Northridge, but chose not to play baseball there for the first two years, but instead get involved in student activism.
The St. Louis Cardinals still drafted it in 1970 but he chose not to sign after deciding to finally start his college career as a player. He received all conference awards in both seasons with the Matadors, hitting a junior .344 and a senior .296, and led the team to a runner-up in Division II College World Series in 1972, the Minnesota Twins took Lyman Bostock in the 26th round of the year Amateur design.
Lyman Bostock's MLB career
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Lyman Bostock rose quickly through the minor league system of the Minnesota Twins and made his major league debut on April 8, 1975. He went 1: 4 with two runs and three runs scored.
Bostock played 98 games for the Twins in 1975 and scored a hit of 0.282 with 21 doubles, five triples and 29 runs. In his first full season, he raised his average to 0.323, which was good for fourth place in the American League. The following season, he was even better at .336, which was second only to teammate Rod Carew, who scored an incredible .388 on the way to winning AL MVP.
Lyman Bostock had proven that he had what it takes to be successful in the big leagues and made money.
The free agency was something new to Major League Baseball in the late 1970s, and Lyman Bostock is widely recognized as one of the earliest big money free agents in history. After earning just $ 20,000 in his senior year in Minnesota, he signed a six-year contract for $ 2.3 million with the California Angels prior to the 1978 season and immediately donated $ 10,000 to a church in Birmingham.
Bostock didn't get off to a good start in his first season with the Angels and only hit .147 in April. He was so disappointed with himself that he asked Angels General Manager Buzzy Bavasi and team owner Gene Autry to return his salary as he felt he didn't deserve it. When his application was denied, he announced that he would be donating his April salary to charity and checked every single application for the money received.
Lyman Bostock went on to hit .404 in June and hit a team best of .296 late in the season when tragedy struck.
Lyman Bostock was murdered for a woman he had known for 20 minutes
Lyman Bostock. | MLB via Getty Images
On September 23, 1978, Lyman Bostock and the Angles were in Chicago to play the White Sox. He went 4-4 on a walk and run scored in the 5-4 loss that day, and then made the short drive to Gary, Indiana to visit his uncle Thomas Turner, as he always did when he was in the Windy City.
Turner was hosting a dinner party that evening. After dinner, he and Bostock drove to the home of Joan Hawkins, a woman Bostock had taught as a teenager. Hawkins & # 39; sister Barbara Smith lived with her at the time she was separated from her husband Leonard Smith. After a brief visit, Turner agreed to drive Hawkins and Smith to their cousin's house. Turner drove, Hawkins was in the front seat, and Bostock and Smith were in the back.
What no one knew is that Leonard Smith, who believed his wife had been unfaithful, was waiting outside Hawkins' house. Smith later said that when he saw his wife climb in the back seat with Lyman Bostock, he believed the two were having an affair. Smith followed Turner's car and at about 10:40 am, when both vehicles stopped at a traffic light, Leonard Smith got out of his car and fired a shotgun in the back seat. His target was his estranged wife.
However, Barbara Smith was hit in the neck with only one pellet, while the remainder of the single explosion struck Bostock on the right side of his head. Bostock died two hours later at the age of 27 in a nearby hospital. Fox Sports reported that Lyman Bostock had only known Barbara Smith for 20 minutes.
Leonard Smith was found not guilty of mental incompetence, prompting Indiana to change the madness laws
Leonard Smith has been charged with murder twice, with the first trial resulting in a hanging jury. Smith was found not guilty of insanity on the second trial and spent seven months in a mental health facility. At that point, he was released because it was believed that he no longer had a mental illness. Between that time and the time he spent in jail during his trial and awaiting trial, Leonard Smith was imprisoned for a total of 21 months. He died of natural causes in 2010.
When Leonard Smith was released from the mental health facility after just seven months, the community was outraged. People knew that Smith and his attorneys had worked on the system and the outcry was so overwhelming that the insane laws were changed in the first Indiana legislature after Smith was released. According to the Star Tribune, Indiana was the 12th state in which a person could be found both guilty and mentally ill. A person can be treated for a mental illness and then punished for the crime committed.
Had that law gone into effect when Leonard Smith killed Lyman Bostock, Smith would likely have received an extremely long prison term after his release from the mental hospital.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference