Dave Boswell was an important part of the first division-winning team in the history of the Twins, but then faded into forgetfulness. A onetime workhorse for the Twins, Boswell died on Monday at the age of 67. His name is likely unknown to many younger fans, but he made news on at least two fronts during his 1960s hey day.
As a young follower of the game, I had my own trouble keeping Boswell’s name straight. I used to confuse him with Ken Boswell, but they were completely different players. Ken was a second baseman/third baseman who hit line drives for the Mets and Astros, while Dave emerged as an important part of the Twins’ rotation in 1966. At the age of 21, the electric right-hander put up a 3.14 ERA and led the American League in winning percentage.
He continued to win in double figures for the rest of the 1960s, but then he hurt his back, an injury that may have resulted from him pitching over 900 innings before his 25th birthday. Before his body gave out and ended his career at the age of 26, Boswell enjoyed a career season in 1969. Boswell logged 256 innings in winning 20 games and helping the Twins claim the inaugural American League West title. Teaming with Jim Perry, Jim Kaat, Tom Hall and Dean Chance, Boswell helped form one of the league’s deepest and most talented rotations.
Boswell’s 1969 season became even more impressive considering that he missed several starts because of injuries suffered in a fight. That August, Boswell tangled with his manager, Billy Martin, in an alley behind a Detroit bar. (Yes, Billy Martin was actually in a bar. Imagine that.) The incident’s roots might have been planted earlier in the day at Tiger Stadium, when Boswell refused Billy’s order to run 20 warm-up laps along with the rest of the Twins’ pitchers.
Outside of the bar, Boswell began fighting with veteran Twins outfielder Bob Allison for reasons that remain unknown. When Martin heard about the fight, he ran outside, apparently with the intent of breaking up the fisticuffs. Pitching coach Art Fowler, Martin’s ever-present drinking buddy, joined Martin to offer moral support. Rather than break up the fight, Martin hit Boswell repeatedly in the face. If it were a boxing decision, Martin would have been declared a winner by knockout.
The pummeling left Boswell unconscious, and in need of 20 stitches. Yet, Boswell held no grudges. Many years later, when asked about Martin for a 1988 magazine article, Boswell said: “I love Billy.”
There’s something impressive about a man willing to forgive his own manager for essentially beating him up. It would have been easy for Boswell to hold a grudge, to answer a question about Martin with a grimace and a terse “no comment.” But Boswell was better than that. If only for that reason, Dave Boswell deserves something more than a place in baseball obscurity.