Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Oil Can't Be Stopped

The opposite of the man with history's worst nickname of all time, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, naturally has history's best: "Oil Can." When Oil Can Boyd, Boston Red Sox pitcher from 1982-1989, refers to oil he means beer. Oil is the nickname of choice for beer in Oil Can's hometown of Meridian, Mississippi. On the other hand, Scooter Libby confused oil with beer when he helped start a war to gain greater access to oil reserves (had Saddam been sitting on a large portion of the world's hops, imperialist expansion may have been more understandable).

According to legend, Dennis Eckersley (the Eck) bestowed Dennis Ray Boyd with the name Oil Can not just because Boyd called beer oil, but because Boyd consumed the brown and fizzy in such quantity that calling him Oil Can just seemed obvious. At the time Eckersley was Red Sox beer drinking royalty, and I picture Boyd's nicknaming not unlike King Arthur knighting Lancelot.

Boyd's professional career peaked with the Sox in 1985 when he recorded 15 wins and 117 strikeouts, but Oil Can is remembered most for his style. On the pitcher's mound, Oil Can notoriously fought with umpires, managers, and opposing players, as well as talking to himself, the ball, and the spirit of Satchel Page. In July of 1986, Oil Can was institutionalized after getting left off the All-Star Team, but emerged from the nut house in early August to pitch the rest of the 86 season (finishing the season with a career high 16 wins).

The Oil Can was also a keen critic of sports complex design declaring "that's what they get for building a stadium on the ocean," after a game was cancelled due to fog in Cleveland.

Blood clots in Oil Can's arm stymied Boyd and contributed to his retirement in 1991 from the Texas Rangers. The Oil Can continued to distinguish himself after his career in the MLB ended pitching in Puerto Rico, Mexico, and thoughtout the semi-pro American leagues. In 1994, while playing in the Northern League, Oil Can became the first male professional pitcher to start against a team of girls, the Colorado Silver Bullets. The Oil Can dominated the girls, shutting them out 19 - 0. On May 30, 2005, Oil Can started for the minor league Brockton Rox against the Worcester Tornadoes. A 45-year-old Oil Can filled Fitton Field in Worcester with 4,296 fans. "There's a lot of people in a lot of places that want me to succeed," Oil Can told reporters. "Right now, there's a lot of love going from me." Brockton's manager added, "he [Oil Can] is not normal."

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