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Where Are They Now?: Oil Can Boyd

Oil Can Boyd continues to love baseball, a game he played for 10 seasons in the major leagues. What Boyd does not like about the game is the declining number of black Americans playing it.

African-Americans accounted for just 13 percent of Opening Day major league rosters in 2019, but Boyd has an idea that could change that.

“When the black parent is not involved in the game, the kids are not going to be involved in the game,” Boyd said. “So we’re trying to get the fan base back.”

Boyd, now 60, failed several years ago in an attempt to revive minor league baseball in his hometown of Meridian, Miss. Now he is out to organize and build a Meridian community baseball academy that appeals to parents as well as black youth.

He wants baseball in Meridian to again be the focal point of the community as it was in his youth.

“It was a home-based community,” Boyd said of Meridian. “The community was behind you. The community came out and supported the kid who played baseball. It’s not that way anymore. The kids have traded in Little League baseball for the streets.

“We’re trying to get the black fan back at the ballpark. That’s what’s going to put the black ballplayer back on the field: the black fan. The kid won’t come and participate in the game unless he has some encouragement from the home.”

Boyd’s father Skeeter played and loved baseball.

“You knew about the Satchel Paiges, and the Josh Gibsons and the Cool Papa Bells,” Boyd said of the Negro League superstars. “We knew about baseball growing up because our grandparents and parents would tell us about it.”

So when Boyd appeared on the cover of Baseball America May 1, 1983, as “The Second Coming of Satchel Paige,” he was well aware of the Hall of Fame pitcher and his impact on the game. Boyd was also aware of Paige’s similar stature at 6-foot-1 and 155 pounds.

“My dad played against him,” Boyd said of Paige. “I got a chance to meet him as a kid. We knew the history of the game. It inspired us to be like those guys.”

Boyd entered 1983 ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the Red Sox organization and would finish the season in Boston. He won 12 games for Boston in 1984, 15 in 1985 and 16 in 1986 when he started Game 3 of the World Series.

By the time his big league career concluded in 1991, Boyd had compiled a 78-77 record with a 4.04 ERA with the Red Sox, Expos and Rangers. His career ERA was almost exactly league average when adjusted for ballpark.

Boyd later admitted to pitching under the influence of cocaine and spent two months in prison following a dispute with a former girlfriend.

That is distant part of his past, Boyd said. He now lives with his wife Karen in Providence, R.I. He participates in Red Sox fantasy camps, autograph signings and fundraisers for cancer research. His focus, though, is on getting the baseball academy off the ground in Meridian.

“Wherever the baseball takes me,” Boyd said, “that’s where I’m going.”


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