Lyman BostockJanuary 18, 2007
To me, Lyman Bostock was the first person who ever died. This may explain why I’ve been trying and failing to write about Lyman Bostock for days. Whenever I can’t write I get morose, withdrawn, and self-pitying. Well, I’m always sort of morose, withdrawn, and self-pitying, but when I can’t write it’s like a slightly enchanting fog around a run-down rustbelt city full of abandoned factories lifts. Yesterday I tried and failed to write about Lyman Bostock, took a subway to a bus to my job, proofread an old version of a test book written in Chinese against the new version of the same test book written in Chinese (I found one error in 60 pages of Chinese text, a leg-like stroke missing on a man-shaped character), took a bus to a subway home, fed the cats, fiddled with my online “Back to the 80’s” Strat-O-Matic lineup, Googled the name of an old boarding school friend and found out he now sold real estate in Jersey City for Remax, which alarmed and depressed me, partly because he was a funny, athletic, and charismatic guy seemingly destined for stardom as an action hero and more so because he had become an adult (the only other Google listing for his full name besides his Remax listing was an article from 20 years ago mentioning that he’d played the lead in a summer production of a Shakespeare play, the gap in years between those two Google listings suggesting a transition out of a life of “what if,” a transition I have yet to make) and here I was riding public transportation to a building along a strip in the suburbs to my part-time job to proofread a language I couldn’t understand. Also, there was a picture of him and he looked like a middle-aged guy, which I’m sure I look like, too, but since I’ve seen me the whole time I haven’t noticed the change as much.
And today I’m back at it, trying to write about Lyman Bostock. In previous days of failing to write about Lyman Bostock I have discovered a lot of stuff on the Internet about Lyman Bostock. There are in fact entire tribute websites devoted to him, or at least one tribute website, plus many other articles and columns, most of them mentioning that his father was a Negro League standout, that he himself became a major league standout with the Minnesota Twins before signing as a free agent for the Angels in 1978, that he tried to return his first month’s salary to the Angels’ owner, Gene Autry, for getting off to a poor start with his new team, that this humble, selfless act was par for the course for Lyman Bostock, about whom stories of being extremely helpful and of going out of his way to be nice to strangers abounded, that after trying to give his salary back he subsequently rallied to bring his batting average by mid-September of that year to a fine .296, that while riding in the back seat of a car in mid-September he was shot and killed by a man who was apparently aiming for his ex-wife, a woman seated next to Bostock whom Bostock had met 20 minutes earlier, and that the shooter avoided prison time with an insanity plea and was subsequently released from a psychiatric hospital, a free man, seven months after he’d been admitted.
I was 10 when Lyman Bostock was murdered, and prior to that time knew him solely as a name near the top of the list of batting averages printed in the Sunday sports section. I studied those averages religiously, as religiously as I’ve ever studied anything. I loved the exactness of them. I loved that there was a hierarchy, an order, Singleton and Brett near the top, Kingman and Belanger near the bottom, and I loved even more that at times certain previously unknown players moved into the upper echelon of that hierarchy, sometimes creeping up the list past the sturdy .280 Amos Otis types, sometimes materializing out of nowhere, as Bob Watson did for the Red Sox in 1979 as soon as he had amassed the minimum number of at bats. I don’t know which route Lyman Bostock first took, because I don’t clearly remember a time before Lyman Bostock was among the batting average leaders and yet I also do recall thinking of him as a new guy, a youngster storming the rarified realm lorded over benevolently by his wondrous teammate Rod Carew. In general, I thought about him this way: Lyman Bostock was rising, each year a little higher. His move to the Angels provided a temporary hiccup in his career’s rising motion, but within that last season there was a microcosm of his career, a smaller rising, his batting average going up and up after the first bad month. I looked for Lyman Bostock’s name throughout 1978 and was happy to see him rising, a little higher each week.