Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Oil Can's pitch blaming racism misses the plate
DENNIS "Oil Can" Boyd has a million excuses why his baseball career was cut short.
But rather than blaming countless white ballplayers, managers and owners, he needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror.
The charismatic and enigmatic one-time Montreal Expo pitcher spends much of this angry memoir blaming the white man, his growing up in poverty and his forebears' slavery for virtually every negative development in his life.
It's a frustrating read, because whenever he has his dreams crushed -- such as getting benched in favour of another starter in Game 7 of the 1986 World Series, being left out of the all-star game that same season or not getting a single invitation to spring training in 1992 -- he plays the racism card while simultaneously admitting he spent much of his professional career high on cocaine and marijuana.
Denial ain't just a river in Egypt, Oil Can.
Growing up in the southern U.S. in the 1960s and '70s, Boyd was certainly exposed to more than his fair share of bigots and rednecks. But he uses this as a crutch far too much.
His failure to take responsibility for the disappointments in his life grows tiresome, because he fails to make the stunningly obvious connection between them and his drug abuse.
Getting sent to jail for leaving threatening messages on a mistress's answering machine and failing a drug test? Damn you, white man!
You'd think that his hired pen, veteran Boston sportswriter Mike Shalin, would have slapped him upside the head a few times.
Boyd spent eight years of his decade-long professional career with the Boston Red Sox and then bounced around minor league ball and the Mexican League.
Fans of the departed Expos will be disappointed with the treatment Boyd gives to his time there. He spent almost two seasons -- including what he called the best season of his life -- playing in Montreal, but that period merited a mere two pages.
Boyd is at his best, however, when relating short anecdotes in the latter part of the book about former teammates and opponents.
- Bill "Spaceman" Lee is "a left-handed Oil Can Boyd."
- Wade Boggs is a "a bigot."
- Michael Jordan "had real good hands ... he just had a lot to learn."
- Lou Whitaker "helped me out a hell of a lot, probably more than any other ballplayer in the major leagues."
- Roger Clemons: "regardless of whatever he did or didn't do, I love him to the bone."
Baseball fans will enjoy these digressions. It's all the excuses and whining that will get on their nerves.
Free Press reporter Geoff Kirbyson coaches several charismatic pitchers, including his son, Alex, on a River Heights Little League team.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 9, 2012 J8
(1 of 23 articles for this week)