Former Red Sox pitcher Oil Can Boyd has a tell-all book coming out and yesterday he told all — he really told all — to WBZ radio’s Jon Miller in an interview. Specifically: he said that he was on cocaine two-thirds of the time he was on the mound during his career:
“Oh yeah, at every ballpark. There wasn’t one ballpark that I probably didn’t stay up all night, until four or five in the morning, and the same thing is still in your system … Some of the best games I’ve ever, ever pitched in the major leagues I stayed up all night; I’d say two-thirds of them. If I had went to bed, I would have won 150 ballgames in the time span that I played. I feel like my career was cut short for a lot of reasons, but I wasn’t doing anything that hundreds of ballplayers weren’t doing at the time; because that’s how I learned it.”
Boyd isn’t exactly peddling a redemption story here. While, yes, he admits that he could have doubled his win total if he wasn’t on blow all the time, he says that he has no regrets about anything he said or did. It just happened and that’s life, basically. Teammates like Dwight Evans and Bill Buckner reached out to him, but he never went to rehab because he felt he needed to stay with the team. Baseball, he said, never gave him a single drug test.
Oh, and he thinks that he had his career cut short and was blackballed from baseball because he’s black and was outspoken:
“The reason I caught the deep end to it is because I’m black. The bottom line is the game carries a lot of bigotry, and that was an easy way for them to do it. If I wasn’t outspoken and a so-called ‘proud black man,’ maybe I would have gotten the empathy and sympathy like other ballplayers got that I didn’t get; like Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Steve Howe. I can name 50 people that got third and fourth chances all because they weren’t outspoken black individuals.’’
Hard to judge that part of it. While he was still effective enough a pitcher in the final couple of years of his major league career, it’s quite possible given how much of an open secret he implies that his drug use was that the league viewed him as a huge risk.
Indeed, while he name-checks Strawberry and Gooden, there are two facts beyond their relative lack of “outspokenness” that makes them different cases than Boyd: (1) they at least attempted rehab on multiple occasions; and (2) to put it bluntly, they were way better players who were worth the greater risk. Right or wrong, it’s totally understandable for a team to sign a drug addict who could win an MVP or Cy Young award if clean — especially if they have at least tried rehab — than it is to take a chance on an unrepentant mid-rotation guy like Boyd.
Whatever the case, Boyd was always interesting as a player. And it sounds like he has written a really interesting autobiography. As a rule, the “this is what happened” books by the less-famous are always way better than the “this is why I was great” books by the superstars. This sounds like no exception.