Book Review: “They Call Me Oil Can,” by Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd with Mike Shalin

"They Call Me Oil Can," by Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd, with Mike Shalin

They Call Me Oil Can is Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd’s autobiography. Boyd played for the Boston Red Sox for eight years, but his undeniable talent was too often overshadowed by disagreements with coaches and teammates.

The fast-moving book is a sounding board for any and all opinions Boyd has built up over his lifetime. Covering everything from life in the South to race relations, baseball to business, TCMOC gives the reader an uncensored, unabashed, unapologetic look at Boyd’s inner workings And if Boyd could’ve written without any of those previously mentioned “un’s,” his book might’ve been a lot better.

Lack of Structure Handicaps the Reader

Boyd admirably doesn’t hold back any of his life’s many conflicts, but he doesn’t inform the reader enough heading into them for the reader to fairly decide who’s right and wrong. Certainly Boyd wants us to like and respect him enough to always side with him, but how Boyd writes doesn’t make him particularly likeable.

Between Boyd’s delusional self-perception when it comes to his obvious cocaine addiction (a word barely used), his paranoia, his repetitive ranting, his refusal to apology even when he’s in the wrong, and his simultaneous wishes to have everyone treated equally and for him to get special treatment because of his background, the reader isn’t always inclined to take his side. And without enough information setting up a particular moment, the reader’s gut-reaction isn’t necessarily to believe Boyd’s interpretation.

A good example concerns a run in with some police officers in the early 80s. Without much reason other than Boyd’s drug history (basically, he’s the Dr. Rockso of professional baseball), the cops pull him out of his car in his own driveway. They harass him, they bend his arm back, they threaten him, and they don’t stop until a lawyer comes out of a nearby house and threatens to sue them.

It’s a sad story, one that helps explain why Boyd considers race relations in this country as bad now as they were 60 years ago. The reader sides with Boyd.

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