Reusse: Sean wanted to know why Twins didn't sign Lyman Bostock
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Sean McGuire (@Williesworld24) sent a Tweet asking why the Twins and owner Calvin Griffith did not sign Lyman Bostock after his 1977 season in Minnesota. I can help him and younger generations of Twins followers with that:
Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally pitched the 1975 season without contracts. Arbitrator Peter Seitz ruled this made them free agents and struck down baseball's reserve clause in the process. That clause had tied players to a club as long as said club wanted to keep them.
The Seitz decision forced the owners to negotiate a free agency system with the players. Marvin Miller, the head of the players association, was always the smartest guy in the room during negotiations.
There were a number of free agents after the 1976 season. The No. 1 loss for the Twins was Bill Campbell, the relief pitcher who had won 17 games, saved 20 and pitched 167 2/3 innings that year for the Twins.
Campbell signed a 5-year contract for a total of $1 million _ a kingly sum at the time _ with Boston after the season.
The Twins entered 1977 season with numerous free agents. The most-significant were outfielders Bostock and Larry Hisle. Rod Carew had a longer-term deal and would stay in Minnesota through the 1978 season.
Bostock was 26 during the 1977 season. He was a left-handed hitter, fast, and a solid center fielder. Hisle was 30 during the season; he was often the DH and did not have a strong arm.
Calvin was mortified by the arrival of free agency and the rich contracts were starting to appear. He also loved Bostock as a player. Considering age and position, if you had offered Calvin the choice between keeping Bostock or Carew over the next half-dozen years, I'm certain that he would have taken Lyman.
The Twins actually made a full effort _ by their standards _ to sign Bostock. It was never going to happen.
First, Lyman wanted to go home to southern California. Second, his wife was a major influence and had much to do with Lyman hiring an agent named Abdul Jalil.
The impression was that Abdul came out of the Black Power movement. Calvin and his brain trust came out of Washington, D.C., which was more South than North in attitude in the 1950s, with some Virginia twang mixed in.
The talent for playing the game, and the attitude in playing the game, were always most important to Calvin, but even with the money was close, a contract negotiation between Calvin's people and Mr. Jalil was never going to work.
Lyman had the heartbeat of a hummingbird. He was always on the move, always jabbering. He's right there with Randy Bush as all-time Twins that I've covered extensively.
He signed with the Angels, of course. When he didn't hit for a month, he tried to give his salary back to owner Gene Autry, then donated it to charity. He started hitting and was his usual upbeat self when I last saw him.
The Angels were at Met Stadium for Tuesday and Wednesday games, Sept. 18-19. Bostock had four hits and knocked in a pair of runs. We ran into each other in the corridor as he was headed for the Angels' team bus.
"Hey, Poison,'' shouted Bostock, using the nickname I had come to appreciate from him. "Take it easy on my boys. Willie [Norwood] and Hosken [Powell] tell me you've been tough on them.''
We shook hands and he got on the bus for the airport. The Angels flew to Chicago. Four nights later, he was dead. He was visiting relatives in Gary, Ind., as was his custom on Chicago trips, when an estranged husband misinterpreted the situation, drove alongside the car in which Lyman was riding and fired a shotgun blast through a backseat window.
This will mark the 35th season since Bostock last played for the Twins, and the 34th year since his death.