Los Angeles Angels: Gene Autry

Angels Moment No. 12: Lyman Bostock

July, 15, 2011
7/15/11
9:20
AM PT
In the 50 years of Angels baseball, most seasons ended in disappointment, with failed pennant races or pennant races that never began. But what has defined this franchise, every generation or so, has been tragedy.

Something seems to go terribly awry, never more so than in September of 1978 when one of the most promising young players in baseball wound up dead in the back seat of a car in Gary, Indiana, a rifle blast from a jealous husband snuffing out his life.

Lyman Bostock Jr. was a smooth-fielding center fielder and a brilliant slap hitter in the mold of Ichiro Suzuki. In 1978, he was 27 years old and a career .311 lifetime hitter. He had started so poorly that season (.147 in the first month) after signing a five-year, $2.25 million contract, that he approached owner Gene Autry and offered to forfeit a chunk of his salary.

General manager Buzzie Bavasi refused the gesture, so Bostock donated a month's salary to charity. Four months later, on the day he died, Bostock had gotten his average up to .296, best on the team, and many people around baseball predicted future batting titles.

Bostock had gotten permission from Bavasi to visit family in nearby Gary after a Saturday afternoon game against the Chicago White Sox. After dinner, Bostock went with his uncle, Thomas Turner, to visit Joan Hawkins, a woman Bostock had tutored as a teenager.

Turner agreed to give Hawkins and her sister, Barbara Smith, a ride after the visit. Smith's estranged husband, Leonard Smith, was outside the house and became enraged when he saw Bostock and his wife get in the back seat together. Bostock had met Barbara Smith 20 minutes earlier.

At the intersection of 5th and Jackson streets, Smith's car pulled up. A bullet punctured Bostock's right temple. He died two hours later. For more on Bostock's career, that awful day and the residue of it, read Jeff Pearlman's excellent E-ticket story on the 30th anniversary of his death.

Who knows how far Bostock's career would have taken him? He was only in his fourth major-league season, so anything was possible. Instead, he lies buried in an Inglewood Cemetery.

Longtime observers of the Angels would see echoes of the Bostock tragedy in pitcher Nick Adenhart's death caused by a drunk driver 31 years later. In both cases, a young player with brilliant potential was taken away from their team, their fans and -- most sadly -- their families far too young. All anyone could ask afterward was, "Why?"

This story is part of an occasional series of Angels Moments which, when it's complete, will -- we hope -- add up to 50. The Angels are celebrating their 50th anniversary this season. These are not intended to be an exhaustive list, but simply an assembly of scenes and anecdotes that are part of the team's colorful past.

Angels Moment No. 9: Opening Anaheim Stadium

June, 24, 2011
6/24/11
8:36
AM PT
Before the Angels opened the doors at Anaheim Stadium with an exhibition game against the San Francisco Giants on April 9, 1966, they were in the uncomfortable position of paying rent to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

After playing their first season at quaint, but fading Wrigley Field, the Angels played at Dodger Stadium for the next four seasons, 1962 through 1965. It wasn’t a particularly friendly landlord-tenant relationship, according to reports.

Ross Newhan, who covered the Angels for decades for the Los Angeles Times, wrote that they “had to pay for every roll of toilet paper, every darkened light bulb and all the landscaping that had to be maintained whether the Dodgers were in or out of town.”

He quotes Peter O’Malley saying, “There was friction having two teams in the same stadium.”

The Dodgers were never particularly keen on an American League team moving into their Southern California domain, but things got easier for both teams when owner Gene Autry elected to follow his friend, Walt Disney, and build the team’s new home in Anaheim.

It was a fairly risky proposition, but proved to be a smart move on many levels, particularly demographic. The I-5 had been completed just 12 years before the Angels’ move and the population of Orange County, once a sprawling array of fruit orchards, was in the process of exploding. By the 1980s, it topped 2 million, making Orange County the second most populous county in California.

The stadium went through a lot of changes, adding additional seats to accommodate the Rams in the late 1970s, then reverting to baseball only with $100 million renovation in 1996. It was called Anaheim Stadium, Edison Field and, now, Angel Stadium. It originally held 43,204 fans, then 65,158 and, now, about 45,000 for regular season games.

Before the 2004 season, new owner Arte Moreno – who had made his fortune in the billboard business – installed lots of new scoreboard displays and signage. The place seems to change every generation or so, but it’s still a place the Angels can rightfully call home, something they didn’t have in their early, vagrant years.

This story is part of an occasional series of Angels Moments which, when it's complete, will -- we hope -- add up to 50. The Angels are celebrating their 50th anniversary this season. These are not intended to be an exhaustive list, but simply an assembly of scenes and anecdotes that are part of the team's colorful past.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Howie Kendrick
BA HR RBI R
.293 7 75 85
OTHER LEADERS
HRM. Trout 36
RBIM. Trout 111
RM. Trout 115
OPSM. Trout .939
WJ. Weaver 18
ERAG. Richards 2.61
SOJ. Weaver 169