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Sunday Mail: Lyman Bostock, the real Red Sox MVP, and Patriots throwback blues

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  September 22, 2013 09:43 AM

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Lyman Bostock was murdered on September 23, 1978, when I was 8 years old and falling in love with baseball. It made no sense, none of it, but especially how that image on my baseball card was now a dead man. Maybe that's why Bostock's legacy has continued to matter to me as I've grown older and continued to love the game, why I've written about him from time to time through the years.

I'd hoped Bostock, a .311 hitter in four major league seasons who was renowned as a good and generous man long before that awful night when he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, would be remembered as more than a tragic footnote. It just seemed to me that there was so much more to know about it him.

More than three decades after his death at 27, that he's getting the acknowledgement he always deserved. Jeff Pearlman wrote a beautiful, detailed takeout on Bostock for ESPN.com five years ago on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of his death, which was accompanied by a Tom Rinaldi video segment on, I believe, "Outside The Lines.''

Now, on the occasion of the 35th year since his death, MLB Network is doing Bostock justice as well. Tonight at 10 p.m., the network will air The Lyman Bostock Story. Narrated by Bob Costas, it includes the first on-camera interview with Bostock's widow, Yuovene Whistler, since his death.

I couldn't even say that he was murdered,'' she says in the piece. "The words would not come off. He just 'died.' Just admitting that he was murdered was very traumatic. Once I was able to work through my own personal pain and get clarity on that, it really was about Lyman and just his legacy."

There is plenty here that sheds new light on how Bostock's teammates felt about him, his final day and night, and the heartbreaking aftermath.

Here's Don Baylor on the day after Bostock's death:

10bostock3.jpg"There was a photographer inside the locker room wanting to take pictures of [Bostock's] locker, and somehow I picked him up and threw him out of the locker room."

Dick Enberg recalled calling the Angels at White Sox game the day after Bostock was killed.

"It was horrific. I mean, who expects to go on the air having to announce that one of your ballplayers, someone that everyone cares about is dead suddenly?,'' he said. "You came on the air and you started with, 'We begin today's broadcast telecast with terrible news,' and then just bluntly saying, 'Lyman Bostock was murdered last night in Gary, Indiana.' We are not trained to handle a tragedy like that, are we? You think in all of baseball history how many times has that happened? Where a ballplayer plays one day and the next day he's expected to appear, but he's gone."

Bostock has been gone for but thanks to his teammates' and loved ones' shared memories and the MLB Network's excellent tribute, he'll be remembered for more than just how he died.

THE MAILBOX

I know there's been a lot of debate about who the Red Sox MVP is, but in my mind, there is no debate whatsoever. Doesn't it have to be David Ortiz? He's been (knock on wood) healthy virtually all season, and though he doesn't play defense or steal bases, you can never underestimate the presence of someone who inspires legitimate fear in opposing pitchers. And as much as I love guys like Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Daniel Nava and Shane VIctorino, none of them are feared like Papi is. He's our Miguel Cabrera, our Chris Davis. And I cannot fathom how any player's presence has been more crucial to the Sox success than his.
-- Matt

It's an interesting question, Matt. I think in terms of players they could most ill-afford to lose, he's right there with Pedroia and Koji Uehara. While he's a good distance from that Cabera/Davis two-man class of elite sluggers this year, he is in the top eight in the AL in homers, RBIs, and batting average, needing two homers and three RBIs to join the 30-100 club for the sixth time. The lineup changes significantly if he isn't in there anchoring everything. But his overall value in terms of Wins Above Replacement isn't great because he has no defensive value whatsoever. According to baseball-reference, he's fourth among Red Sox batters in WAR (4.0), behind Pedroia (6.4), Shane Victorino (6.0), and Jacoby Ellsbury (6.0), players who do a lot more than hit. Fangraphs has him fifth, behind Ellsbury, Victorino, Pedroia, and Mike Napoli. He's more essential to the Sox than either WAR total suggests because of the current structure of their lineup, and his good health as been as pleasant a surprise as anything that has happened this season. I'd probably have him right there behind Pedroia in my hypothetical team MVP balloting.

mcdowelloddibefinn923.JPGThe Olympics have eliminated baseball, so did my '84 Topps Oddibe McDowell Olympic Team edition just skyrocket in value?
-- Oil Can

I believe it has seen a roughly 40 percent bump, from 5 cents to 7 cents, so go make the downpayment on that beach house you've always wanted in St. John right now, Dennis! Man, we are all fooled by Oddibe, weren't we? College superstar -- he was the biggest and coolest name in an Arizona State outfield that included Mike Devereaux and skinny Barry Bonds -- in that mid-'80s era when ESPN started showing a lot of college games and there was a ton of future major-league talent on TV regularly. Then he hit .400 in Triple A in his first 146 plate appearances in pro ball before coming up to the Rangers in '85 and hitting 18 homers with 25 steals at age 22. Who knew that was his peak? He basically ended up having Darryl Boston's career.

And that concludes our walk down Oddibe McDowell memory lane for this week ...

Chad, why haven't the Patriots worn the '90's blue throwbacks yet? Would be something to see TB12 rocking the old school Bledsoe. You have the power...

I most certainly do not have the power, but I am completely on board. I'm in the minority, I think, in at I liked those jerseys a lot, even though they give me Ray Crittenden flashbacks. (Actually, is he available for a couple of hours starting at 1 p.m. today?) The ones they wore with the red numbers weren't so great, though. It was tough to see the numbers that I think they nearly drove Gil Santos to a premature retirement. ("Bledsoe p, steps uthrows ... CAUGHT, GREG MCMURTRY! ... Wait a minute ... That's Michael Timpson ... No, it's actually Vincent Brisby ... GINO, IF I'VE SAID IT ONCE, I'VE SAID IT A MILLION TIMES, THEY HAVE TO GET RID OF THESE GODFORSAKEN RED NUMBERS ... Anyway, Marv Cook with the catch, first down Patriots ...")

Let's grab one from Twitter:

That's a great analogy, though there's obviously no comp with these Red Sox for the Tom Brady out-of-nowhere fairy tale. That Patriots team also had a pretty good core of veterans that was rotting and regressing under previous management and revived under Belichick -- Ty Law and Willie McGinest most notably. They were desperate for competent leadership, and that leadership did a brilliant job filling in the roster with middle-class, dependable talent. You say Roman Phifer, I say Jonny Gomes. Here's hoping for a similar ending for the '13 Sox, though hopefully one that doesn't require winning a key game in a snowstorm.

THIS WEEK IN ANCIENT MEDIA GUIDES

The guide: 1985-86 Boston Celtics

birdfinn2.jpg

The discovery: No real discovery in this one, unless you didn't know or do care that Rick Carlisle once had hair and is a classical pianist. Just felt right to go with Larry Legend, scoring over the Lakers back court at the height of his powers, back when watching that team and that player was as much fun as sports could possibly be.

Until next Sunday, the mailbox is closed. Exit music, please.

Basketball has always been my thing/I like Magic, Bird, and Bernard King ...

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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