Birmingham’s Lyman Bostock Sr.

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Lyman Bostock Sr.

To shift gears a wee bit away from Cannonball Redding, I’m working on an article for Alabama Living magazine about the new Negro Leagues museum being built and opened in Birmingham, and the story will feature some of the lesser known — at least lesser known to the general public and readers of the magazine — Negro Leaguers from the state.

Many people in Alabama know, for example, that Satchel Paige was from Mobile, and that Willie Mays  began his pro career with the Birmingham Black Barons, but many readers of the magazine might never have heard of ‘Bama natives Dizzy Dismukes, Ted Radcliffe or Otha Bailey.

Or the man I’m going to spotlight in this post, Lyman Bostock Sr., who was born in Birmingham in 1918 and enjoyed a generally successful career from the late 1930s into the early ’50s. (Note that throughout the tale Bostock’s career crosses paths with that of Winfield Welch, a Louisiana native whom I’ve highlighted frequently on this blog.)

Many baseball fans have heard the name Lyman Bostock, but usually it’s Lyman Jr., who was a budding Major League star in the 1970s until he was murdered in 1978 in a case of mistaken identity.

But the younger Bostock inherited his love of and aptitude for baseball from his father, a star in the Negro Leagues in the 1940s …

Lyman Wesley Bostock Sr., according to Social Security records, was born on March 11, 1918, to parents John and Lilly (Greenwood) Bostock. John was an Alabama native, né 1886 in Daleville, but Lilly was born in 1890 in Georgia. Lilly died in 1980, far outliving her husband, who passed away in 1941 in Birmingham.

Little Lyman appears to have spent his earliest years living with his mother and her parents, Robert and Annie Greenwood, in Birmingham. But by the 1930 U.S. Census Lyman had joined his father, mother and siblings on 15th Street in Birmingham. John was a public school teacher, while Lilly was a housekeeper with a private family.

When it was time for the 1940 Census, the 22-year-old Lyman was an iron pipe worker along with his father and still living on 15th Street in Birmingham. By 1941, though, Lyman’s Negro Leagues career was already blooming. A first baseman for the Black Barons under skipper Winfield Welch, Bostock was voted into the prestigious East-West All-Star game in Chicago in 1941.

Bostock also took park in a special North-South doubleheader in August 1941, when the Barons took on the New York Black Yankees at Yankee Stadium. The Aug. 9, 1941, issue of the Norfolk New Journal and Guide featured a large photo of Bostock with the tagline “Star Player” over it. The cutline below the photo called Bostock “one of the top notch veterans the Southern team will throw in against” the Black Yanks. Bostock ended up scoring a run in the Barons’ 2-1 win that day.

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Bostock’s hardball career was interrupted in April 1942, when he enlisted in the Army to join cause in World War II; he was one of almost a dozen Black Barons who answered the call to serve.

By 1946, with the war won and military veterans coming home, Bostock restarted his baseball tenure, but a salary dispute with the Black Barons’ owner, Tom Hayes, Bostock was tempted to bolt from the Birmingham squad, which had already lost Welch, who had resigned as manager of the squad.

But Bostock apparently ultimately remained in the Birmingham fold, and in July 1946, in a doubleheader against Welch’s barnstorming Cincinnati Crescents team, Bostock bashed a home run, added a single and scored to runs in the Barons’ 4-2 victory, which completed the two-game sweep of the Cincinnatis.

Bostock did end up leaving the Black Barons later on, but after a stint with the Chicago American Giants, he seems to have returned to his hometown — he joined up with another former Barons manager, Tommy Sampson, on the latter’s Birmingham-based Sampson All-Stars in 1948.

Bostock enjoyed another career highlight in October 1948 when he was asked to join Jackie Robinson’s barnstorming all-star team as a capable outfielder.

The following season, though, Bostock was back with the American Giants, who were now skippered by none other than Winfield Welch (who by that point in his career had picked up the nickname Gus). Welch shifted Bostock from the outfield back to the latter’s natural position, first base.

In 1949, still as a Giant, Bostok was among the leaders in hits in Negro American League. In July of that year, Hall of Fame sportswriter Wendell Smith reported that Bostock might be signed by the San Diego Pacific Coast League to replace the injured Luke Easter at first, but that didn’t come to pass, and Bostock remained one of the best first sackers in black baseball. In its Aug. 9, 1949, issue, the Atlanta Daily World published a large photo of Bostock, calling him the “hard-hitting Chicago American Giants’ first base man … Bostock is hitting .346 and critics consider him the best first sacker in the Negro American League. He is a big man with plenty of power. Weight 200 lbs, 6’1″ tall and will hit the best of pitchers.”

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The 1949 campaign ended on a low note for Bostock, though: He became the last out in the NAL championship series between the American Giants and the Baltimore Elite Giants, who completed a four-game sweep over the hapless Windy City squad.

Bostock then floated around blackball until retiring in 1954. He remained close to the game, however; in spring 1956 he joined Goose Curry as the heads of a Black Barons tryout school for prospective signees, for example.

Bostock remained in his hometown until his death on June 23, 2005, at the ripe old age of 87. Unfortunately, he had tragically outlived his son.

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