His father, Willie James Boyd Sr., played against Satchel Paige as a member of the Meridian White Sox, and his uncle, Mike Boyd, was the Hall of Famer’s teammate on the Hattiesburg Black Sox.
Oil Can Boyd (above), his family’s deep tradition in the Negro Leagues considered, always has had great appreciation and knowledge of baseball, Paige in particular.
But as the former Red Sox [stats, schedule] right-hander, now a graying 45, made his first professional appearance of any sort in seven years last night for the Brockton Rox against Worcester in a Can-Am League exhibition game, the old legend had grown some legs.
“He is Satchel Paige,” said Rich Gedman, Boyd’s old Red Sox catcher and now the manager of his hometown Worcester Tornadoes.
It all seemed a bit surreal last night for Boyd, who struck out three and allowed just a hit and two walks in three solid innings of the Rox’ 17-5 win. He threw 43 pitches in his first appearance since 1997, when he played for the Lynn Mad Dogs and another old friend, George Scott.
“(Gedman) came in here before the game and told me, `Do what you do best,’ and that’s something he used to tell me 20 years ago,” said Boyd, seated in front of his locker wrapped in a towel with the book “The Mental Game of Baseball” in his hand.
As if he needed any help with the mental aspect now, after a career that has carried Boyd from Boston to Mexico and back, with long stops in his native Mississippi. That’s where Boyd was the past five years, attempting and failing to find backers for a minor league baseball franchise in Meridian.
“We had a lot of doors slammed in our face while we tried to get this going,” said Boyd, who has no doubt that race was at the root of his troubles. “That was probably 85 percent of it. The people there knew us very well, but these are people who don’t want to change.”
That quest likely is not finished, but the good news is that his right arm, thanks to years of weight training and rehabilitation, is strong again. He does not have the dead-arm sensation that marked his time in Mexico in the mid ’90s, or the troubling blood clots that surfaced towards the end of his Red Sox career.
“I love how my arm feels,” Boyd said. “It feels rejuvenated. I’m as good a pitcher. My body says so, my mind says so, and they work together pretty good.”
Boyd was untouchable last night against Worcester, and when he pitched around two second-inning walks, he hopped off the mound while pumping his fist on the way to the dugout, just like at Fenway.
His pitches have the same names too – the curveball he calls the “Yellow Hammer,” and the screwball he calls the “Backdoor Screwgee.”
Boyd used them all.
“It was fun to see the lefties going for my straight change again,” he said with a laugh. “I threw two screwballs, one for a strike and one for a ball. All my pitches had good location. There was a little twinge in my hammy that wouldn’t let me get the fastball down, but I felt good. I may have overthrown a bit trying to show you guys that I can still do it.
“I got some runners on base in the second inning, but I didn’t scare. . . . I just love to pitch. Throwing a ball 95 mph has little to do with getting people out. I threw in the high 80s tonight, and it was enough to get anyone out.”