There remains a sad, strange incompleteness to the story surrounding the shooting death of Lyman Bostock, even 35 years after the fact.
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it was well known that Calvin Griffith wasn't going to spend money on his team, so it wasn't really a shock that he went to the Angles.
[Bostock] had become a star, and was the most sought-after player in the free agent market between the 1977 and 1978 seasons.
The new free agency system in major league baseball was turning players into millionaires overnight. After the 1976 season, Reggie Jackson had signed with the Yankees. Now, after the 1977 season, reports suggested that Jackson was helping New York court Bostock into the Yankee fold. Other reports surfaced that the Mets were willing to trade ace pitcher Jerry Koosman in exchange for Bostock, and a chance to sign him for the 1978 season. By the close of the 1977 season, Koosman had won 137 games in 10 seasons for the Mets, and posted ERAs under 3.00 four times, while crossing over 4.00 only once.
When the free agent draft (a process since abandoned) took place, Bostock was chosen by the maximum number of clubs, 13, and was selected in the first round by eight different teams. Twins owner Calvin Griffith claimed that financial considerations prevented the Twins from re-signing Bostock during the season.
Although Minnesota ultimately offered Bostock a sum of money that he found adequate, the manner in which they handled the negotiations had upset Bostock. "That was way more than enough money," he said, referring to the six-year, $2 million contract the Twins eventually offered.
"If they had offered me that at the beginning of the season, I'd have signed. But by the end I just didn't want to stay there. I'd be defeating the purpose of what Curt Flood has done for the players. He wanted everybody to be able to enjoy the beauty and the freedom of the game." Bostock's disdain for the penny-pinching Griffith was clear. "If it wasn't for the owner, Minnesota would be a great place to play."
The collaborative efforts of Reggie Jackson and Yankee owner George Steinbrenner to put Bostock in pinstripes were in vain. Although the Yankees reportedly offered Bostock a quarter of a million dollars more, and San Diego Padres owner Ray Kroc offered him McDonald's franchises in addition to a hefty contract, Bostock signed a deal with the California Angels that would reportedly pay him $2.3 million over five years, an astounding contract at the time. He had been paid $20,000 by the Twins in 1977. [Emphasis added]
On Dec. 23, 1975, arbitrator Peter Seitz struck down the reserve clause, which had been in effect since 1897 and bound a player to one team, in perpetuity, unless he was traded, sold or released. If a player's contract had expired and he had at least six years of Major League experience prior to the 1977 season, he was eligible for free agency.
Initially, and for some years thereafter, there was a so-called free agent "re-entry draft." The first one was held on Nov. 4 in the Plaza Hotel in New York and limited to the 24 existing clubs (the new Seattle and Toronto expansion franchises were not allowed to participate). The clubs drafted in inverse order of the 1976 standings, at no cost, and selected negotiation rights to as many players as eligible. When a player was chosen by 12 clubs other than his own team, his name was removed from the list.
Twenty-four players took advantage of the new system. Frantic bidding followed. It was the beginning of the salary revolution. Record-setting multiyear contracts sent salaries soaring as never before. The average annual pay -- $51,501 in 1976 -- jumped to $76,066, a 42 percent increase. I have no record of all 24 free agents and how they fared, except it is known that 12 signed long-term multi-million-dollar deals.
Relief pitcher Bill Campbell, of the Minnesota Twins, who in the spring had been denied a $7,000 increase, was the first to make a new connection. He signed with the Red Sox for four years for $1 million, $250,000 a year, a bonanza considering that his 1976 wage was $23,000. This shouldn't be interpreted that all of the free agents were rewarded with 10 times their previous pay, but it did indicate a player's value in an open market and the clubs' willingness to unlock the vault. A complete list of the 12 new millionaires follows:
Player Length Total New Team
of contract package
Reggie Jackson 5 yrs. $3,000,000 Yankees
Joe Rudi 5 yrs. $2,090,000 California
Don Gullett 6 yrs. $2,000,000 Yankees
Gene Tenace 5 yrs. $1,815,000 San Diego
Bobby Grich 5 yrs. $1,750,000 California
Rollie Fingers 6 yrs. $1,600,000 San Diego
Dave Cash 5 yrs. $1,500,000 Montreal
Sal Bando 5 yrs. $1,400,000 Milwaukee
Gary Matthews 5 yrs. $1,200,000 Atlanta
Don Baylor 6 yrs. $1,020,000 California
Bill Campbell 4 yrs. $1,000,000 Boston
Wayne Garland 10 yrs. $1,000,000 Cleveland
In 1978, a total of 33 players, qualified for free agency. This time 10 players agreed to long-term contracts for $1 million or more; six exceeded the $2 million plateau. Milwaukee outfielder Larry Hisle led the pack (with) $3,155,000 for six years, an annual average salary of $525,833, more than ten (10) times his previous $47,200 wage. The average pay was now $97,800, a 31 percent gain.
Among the top earners were relief pitchers Goose Gossage, who jumped from a salary of $46,800 to $458,000 and Rawly Eastwick, who went from $23,200 to $220,000. Outfielders Lyman Bostock ($20,000 to $450,000), Oscar Gamble ($100,000 to $475,000), Richie Zisk ($54,000 to $295,500) and Dave Kingman ($76,000 to $275,000) also seriously cashed in. [Emphasis added]
why the need to lock up Wayne Garland for ten years?
Wow, I know $20,000 in 1976 is probably more than twice that with inflation, but it's still surprising the league minimum salary was so low as late as the 70's. Since then it must have increased by around 1,000%
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