ESPN’s feature on Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd conjures questions about athletic performance while medicated
Dennis got the nickname “Oil Can” when he was seven years old for drinking whisky out of the makeshift glass available in any garage.
“We would sit back in my backyard, and play as kids growin’ up, that’s where we’d drink this at and smoke cigarettes,” Boyd said bluntly. “I smoked pot my whole life, ain’t never been a ball game I wasn’t high off some marijuana. From fuckin’ Little League all the way through College.”
In 1981 he “met” cocaine in Columbia while playing winter ball, a typical off-season assignment while maturing with a ball club.
“We’d run into it and it ran into us,” he said of the 80s obsession with the white powder. “When we started doing it it was supposed to be the coolest shit in the world to do. And it was introduced to us as that.”
Oil Can used to as he put it, “jump at the mound,” when he pitched. By 1986, when the Red Soxs were in the World Series, Oil Can had become addicted to crack. He kept “rocks” in the bill of his cap even while he pitched, and often smoked crack in out of the way corridors of ballparks around the country. His hat flew off while pitching at one point during the season and crack was literally on the playing field next to the mound.
He met with team doctors during that season about his substance abuse. Oil Can was always candid about it, and the team didn’t drug test him his entire career. Obviously they knew what they were dealing with and didn’t want to draw attention, as long as he performed he would get a pass.
This was the year of the infamous Bill Buckner error at first base during Game 6 with the NY Mets, that continued the curse in Boston which lasted 86 years. Oil Can was set to start Game 7 which never happened.
Now he has a new book out called “Baseball, Drugs and Life on the Edge.”
He lives in rough and tumble East Providence, Rhode Island and makes appearances for the Red Sox while also coaching kids. He still admits to smoking cannabis regularly, without a bit of shame on National TV.
4E wonders about this obsession with performance enhancing drugs. The idea of a level playing field and a squeaky clean image of professional sports franchises for sponsorship purposes is big business. Players are treated as assets and managed in that fashion. For the same reason they are drug tested for recreational substances, to protect the investment.
Oil Can Boyd had total independence to do as he pleased. Nowadays privacy is shredded when you sign the big money contract, but if Oil Can Boyd could have been a medical cannabis patient while also being a Big League pitcher things might have been different. The hypocrisy of treating all drugs the same, encourages a young talent to not distinguish between what is harmless and what is going to ruin a career.
Needless to say 4E doesn’t promote the use of cannabis in Little League kids. But we do not consider it a coincidence that Oil Can made it to the majors despite this habitual cannabis use. Healing properties, anti-inflammatory and pain relieving effects, all things the medical establishment is starting to admit are reproducible reactions to cannabis use could obviously assist athletes with the rigors of daily competition. Athletes today should be extended the courtesy of the choice, and if performance suffers executives are certainly going to cut the player from the roster anyway.
Another of Oil Can Boyd’s brash opinions was that he wished the Negro Leagues were still around, and criticized Jackie Robinson who broke the color barrier in the MLB with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
“Players got to be individuals back then,” Boyd maintains.
For better or worse.