Oil Can Boyd

Oil Can Boyd

October 6, 1959
6' 1"
155 lbs
Major League Debut:
9-13-1982 with BOS

 Oil Can Boyd was a highly visible ballplayer, only partly due to his colorful nickname. He won 78 games in his career as a pitcher, and was on the 1986 Red Sox World Series team. His nickname referred to the usage of the term "oil" as a slang term in Mississippi for beer. The word "oil" was sometimes pronounced "earl".

Biographical Information

The son of Willie James Boyd, a performer in small black leagues of the Negro League era, and brother of minor league second baseman Don Boyd, Boyd was the 16th round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox in the 1980 amateur draft. He began his career with the Elmira Pioneers and went 7-1 with a 2.48 ERA and was fourth in the New York-Penn League in ERA. In '81, Oil Can went 14-8, 3.63 for the Winter Haven Red Sox, tying for third in the Florida State League in ERA. In 1982, Boyd went 14-8, 2.81 for the Bristol Red Sox, tying for fourth in the Eastern League in wins and finishing about as high in ERA.

As a September call-up to the Red Sox, he made his big-league debut. He split 1984 between Boston and the Pawtucket Red Sox, doing better at Boston (4-8, 3.23) than Pawtucket (5-8, 4.04). By '85, he was with the Red Sox, more or less to stay, at least until the Red Sox traded him.

In 1986, after being left of the All-Star team, Boyd threw a highly publicized tantrum that got him suspended from the team and landed him in the psychiatric ward of a hospital. It was also Boyd who was to start Game 7 of the World Series against the Mets, but rain prevented him from making that start, and manager John McNamara elected to pitch Bruce Hurst instead. Boyd cried when he learned of the decision. 

He finished his big league career in 1991 with a 78-77 record and a 4.04 ERA (101 ERA+) in 214 games. His best season was with the 1990 Expos (10-6, 2.93, 8th in the 1990 NL in ERA).

Boyd developed blood clots that ended his major league career. He did not play in 1992. The next year, he threatened to sue Boston for not inviting him to spring training. He returned to baseball with the '93 Monterrey Industrials, losing all three decisions and had a 4.91 ERA. He did save 11 games in 14 relief appearances. Moving to the Yucatan Lions the next year, he went 2-0 with a 1.02 ERA in three starts. The rise of the independent leagues saved his career as it did for so many other washed-up veterans. He joined the Sioux City Explorers and went 4-1 with a 1.89 ERA before a blood clot in his right shoulder sidelined him. He set a Northern League record with 14 strikeouts in a game and pitched 10 shutout innings only to see his team lose in the 11th. He was also the first pitcher to face the Colorado Silver Bullets.

In 1995, the 35-year-old showman tried to break back into the big leagues as a replacement player for the Chicago White Sox and then went 6-6 with a 5.09 ERA for Sioux City after the 1994 strike ended. Boyd went 10-0 with a 3.23 ERA for the 1996 Bangor Blue Ox, making the Northeast League All-Star team. 1997 was a 6-2, 3.71 turn for the Massachusetts Mad Dogs and 0-1 with a 3.00 ERA for the Greenville Bluesmen.

Boyd came out of retirement as a 45-year-old in 2005 to pitch for the Brockton Rox of the Can-Am League. In the preseason he faced fellow old timer Rickey Henderson in a game. Overall, the popular pitcher went 4-5 with a 3.83 ERA as the staff's most-used hurler. That November, he was indicted by a federal grand jury in Mississippi for allegedly threatening a former girlfriend and her son.

In 2009, Boyd is expected to pitch for the Ottawa Lynx, also of the Can-Am League.

Further Reading

  • Oil Can Boyd (as told to George Vass): "The Game I'll Never Forget," Baseball Digest (May 1992), pp. 71-72


Related Sites

Profile of Boyd in 1986

1986 World Series, Boston Red Sox, Bristol Red Sox, John McNamara, Montreal Expos, Negro Leagues, Oil Can Boyd, Pawtucket Red Sox, Texas Rangers
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