A lot of people probably won’t know who I’m going to write about here; probably many more won’t care. In the 1980’s, the Boston Red Sox had a pitcher who was named Oil Can Boyd. He has now written an autobiography, and in it he claims that he used cocaine extensively while throwing in the Show; he estimates that he used cocaine prior to starts in every park in the American League.
If that weren’t enough to ingratiate him with baseball fans everywhere, he claims that his career was cut short because of bigotry. Oil Can, who managed to amass the sterling record of 78-77 with an ERA of 4.04 in 10 years in the Major Leagues, argues that he could have won 150 games if it were not for the fact that he was ‘a proud black man.’ This, despite a number of baseball players getting caught up in the drug phase prevalent through that era, including Strawberry, Berra, Gooden, and Howe.
Well, I’m guessing that Boyd expects us to be shocked by his admission. To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, ‘I met Dock Ellis, I was a fan of Dock Ellis; Oil Can, you’re no Dock Ellis.’ Dock Ellis, you see, was a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1970s. In 1971, when the Pirates won the World Series, he won more games than any other pitcher on the team. But the story I’m going to relate predates that season.
The previous year, in 1970, the Pirates had a West Coast road trip. They had finished a series in Los Angeles; Ellis believed that they had an off-day before heading to San Diego. He was lolling in a hotel room in LA with his girlfriend when, at around noon, he decided to drop some acid (LSD). An hour later, his girlfriend happened to open the newspaper where they discovered that not only were the Pirates playing that evening, but Dock was scheduled to start. She hustled Dock to the airport; he arrived at the ballpark an hour before game time.
Now the story becomes one with legend. Dock pitched perhaps the strangest no-hitter in baseball history that evening. Most of the time, Padres batters were afraid to dig in, since his pitches could go anywhere. He walked 7 Padres and hit a handful more of them. As he said in his post-game interview:
“I was zeroed in on the catcher’s glove but I didn’t hit the glove too much. I remember hitting a couple of batters and the bases were loaded two or three times. The ball was small sometimes, the ball was large sometimes. Sometimes I saw the catcher, sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes I tried to stare the hitter down and throw while I was looking at him. I chewed my gum until it turned to powder. They said I had 3 or 4 fielding chances. I remember diving out of the way of a ball I thought was a line drive. I jumped, but the ball wasn’t hit hard and never reached me.”
You see, Oil Can, this is the stuff of baseball legend. And to top it off, a man named Chuck Brodsky turned the event into a ballad which I’ve embedded below for your listening perusal: