'Oil Can' Boyd discusses drug use

Updated: May 2, 2012, 4:46 PM ET
ESPNBoston.com

Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd, who pitched eight of his 10 major league seasons with the Boston Red Sox, says he used crack cocaine every day of the 1986 season while with the Red Sox, including one day in Oakland when he smoked in the clubhouse before one of his starts and had the drug tucked in his cap while on the mound.

[+] EnlargeDennis
AP Photo/Peter SouthwickRed Sox pitcher Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd fires a pitch against the White Sox at Fenway Park on Aug. 5, 1986.

In an interview with ESPN's Buster Olney that appeared in an episode of "E:60" on Tuesday, Boyd said his teammates knew of his drug use during the 1986 season and that he occasionally would talk about it with team doctor and minority owner Arthur Pappas, but never was drug tested.

"I would come into the ballpark, (Pappas) would call me in the back and he ask me, 'How you feel? Did you do some last night?' And I was honest with him, 'Yes I did,' " Boyd said.

"OK. So that was my drug test, you got me? Ain't nobody made me pee in no cup."

Asked why he thinks he wasn't tested, Boyd said, "Because I was honest about what I was doing and told 'em to leave me alone and I'll be all right. I learned to deal with it myself, because not one time I've ever played baseball I'd ever pissed in a cup. Not one time. I've never been tested. In no form or no fashion.

"I'm killing myself but they loved my ability and my talent ... so they condoned it."

Boyd told of his start on May 11, 1986, at Oakland when he smoked crack before taking the mound.

"I get to the ballpark, all the ballplayers are on the field, you know, taking batting practice and everythin'. And I walk in the clubhouse and I -- I got my pipe with me.

"I can remember going and locking myself up in the bathroom and smoking some dope right there at the ballpark. I was afraid that they knew and that the clubhouse manager had smelled it, he was gonna tell on me. So I gotta get rid of it.

"I had it under the bib of my cap, inside the crease inside of the cap. And when I was warming up in the ballgame -- third, fourth inning -- it fell off my head."

I can remember going and locking myself up in the bathroom and smoking some dope right there at the ballpark. I was afraid that they knew and that the clubhouse manager had smelled it, he was gonna tell on me. So I gotta get rid of it. I had it under the bib of my cap, inside the crease inside of the cap. And when I was warming up in the ballgame -- third, fourth inning -- it fell off my head.

-- Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd on a start in Oakland in '86

Boyd's violent delivery often led to his cap falling off.

"Every other pitch I pick it up, put it on. So it's one time, you know, I'm so into what I'm doing, I forgot that the dope is under my hat. So I look on the ground and I'm like, 'Damn, there's little rocks everywhere, man.' So I play it off as I'm walking back, I pick it up like -- dirt -- picking up (expletive), mashing it into the ground."

Boyd won a career-high 16 games in 1986 with a 3.78 ERA, helping the Red Sox win the American League pennant.

Boyd had been scheduled to pitch Game 7 of the 1986 World Series against the Mets in New York, the game after the infamous ground ball rolled through Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner's legs as part of the Mets' improbable comeback to tie the series, 3-3. But when the game was rained out, Red Sox manager John McNamara instead turned to left-hander Bruce Hurst, who already had beaten the Mets twice in the series.

Boyd said after McNamara told him he wasn't pitching, he went "right down the street to the crack house."

"I never forget I was dressed really, really nice and had a lot of gold on," Boyd said. "And he said, Man, you got a lot of nerve.' I said, 'I damn sure do got a lot of nerve. This is what I need. And you don't -- you don't wanna (expletive) with me.' I was very angry at the time, and could have probably gotten myself in some real trouble."

After making 35 starts in 1985 and 30 in 1986, Boyd made a total of 40 starts for the Red Sox over the next three seasons, going 13-12 with a 5.24 ERA. He signed with the Montreal Expos as a free agent before the 1990 season and was traded to the Rangers during the 1991 campaign, his last in the major leagues.

Boyd said he was introduced to alcohol when he was seven years old and was high on marijuana in every game he played from "Little League all the way through college."

Boyd pitched at Jackson State and was drafted by the Red Sox in 1980 at age 20. He said he was introduced to cocaine during winter ball in South America, and after he was called up by Boston at the end of the 1982 season, he said his habit increased. Even so, he won 12 games in 1984 and 15 in '85.

During spring training in 1986, a drug dealer introduced him to crack, he said. Boyd said he did crack every day of the '86 season and that his addiction led to him losing 40 pounds early that year.

Boyd, who was known for his flamboyance and volatility during his big league career, also said he regrets the Negro Leagues were broken up because of the loss of individuality that thrived in the leagues.

"I'm not real thankful to Jackie (Robinson) at all because I'm me, my style of baseball, the way I played it in the major leagues transpired from the Negro Leagues," said Boyd, whose father played in the Negro Leagues. "So that's why people found that I was a hot dog or I was flamboyant.

"Now the kids don't even know the ballplayers anymore, it's so commercialized. And they wonder where the black ballplayer went. Well, black ballplayers went to jail. In the last 20 years, that's where they are."

Boyd's autobiography "They Call Me Oil Can: Baseball, Drugs, and Life on the Edge" is due out in June.

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