"Then strange things started happening," Boyd remembers. "I got calls threatening me because I owed money. I told them my agent took care of that. Then my phone got shut off. I'd tell Dennis that I couldn't live on chump change, that something was wrong, but nothing happened." Coleman refuses to comment, citing his attorney-client relationship. But he did tell the Herald he and Boyd had "philosophical differences." Boyd claims that he realized on May 22 he had no money. "It really hit me hard," he says. Teammate Jim Rice put Boyd in touch with his agent, George Kalafatis of International Management Group, and Kalafatis says he has made progress in sorting out Boyd's financial situation. Kalafatis is Boyd's fourth agent in five years.
While rumors of Boyd's financial problems were rampant, so were tales of his involvement in the street life of Chelsea. The economic boom in Massachusetts hasn't reached Chelsea, a city of 23,432 across the harbor from East Boston and Charlestown. The Wall Street Journal said in 1981 "it is probably the poorest city in Massachusetts." Things haven't improved much since. The city is in debt, its beleaguered police force has been cut back from 125 to 49 and its image is that of the drug capital of the area. "There's more coke in Chelsea than anywhere else in Massachuetts," says Metropolitan District Commission officer Dennis Febles. "It's cocaine heaven out there." Much of the drug trade is associated with Bossom Park, between Grove and Bellingham Streets, a small playground consisting of a children's play area and a basketball court. The park was a place the Can liked to visit.
"Back in Meridian, I always hung out at the park," Boyd says. "Chelsea has a lot of Spanish people and a lot of kids, and they love baseball. I guess I ended up around some people I shouldn't have, but I didn't think about it. I'm the type of person that likes people. If you're a bank robber but you don't harm me or my loved ones, I'll give you a chance. But being that way almost drove me crazy. The city may be more than a country boy can handle."
In the middle of July the MDC police joined the local force to begin patrolling the park from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., and since then drug trade in the Grove Street area has been cut significantly, according to police and Chelsea residents. "Before the MDC cops came there was always a traffic jam because of the drug trade," one local resident said. The procedure, he said, was like that at a ballpark concession stand: You drove down Bellingham Street, paid the dealer, drove to the corner, came up Grove Street, picked up your drugs and left.
The Red Sox are known to have been concerned about some of Boyd's associations, and Boyd himself recalls one of the team's concerns. "Dr. Pappas told me I'd been seen at [a bar reputed to have considerable drug trade]," Boyd says. "I'd never even heard of the place. It turns out that I'd parked across the street to go into a variety store and the police reported that I was outside the place." There were other incidents that angered Boyd. "I caught a guy going through my trash on my back porch," he says. "I started to get paranoid."
Boyd still managed to pitch well, and when he achieved his 10th victory of the season in Baltimore June 28, he called home to Meridian. "I got my 10 wins; now I'm going to be an All-Star," he told Willie Jr. "I get an incentive bonus [$25,000] for making it, so I want the family to go to Houston." Willie Jr. made arrangements to rent a van for the 400-mile trip. "They've never seen a Boyd pitch professionally," says Dennis. "What better way than to have them see me in the All-Star Game? I wanted to pitch with some of those great players behind me, even guys I've had controversy with because they say I'm showing them up. I'd like to sit with them in the dugout and have them realize I'm not like that. It would mean a lot to have Lou Whitaker playing behind me. It would mean a lot to be able to say to Don Mattingly, 'Way to stroke the bat.' It took a lot away from me when Sparky Anderson didn't pick me last year. Then this year...."
The Red Sox want to make sure that Boyd is completely on his feet before he rejoins the team, possibly this weekend, and resumes pitching the following week. He and Karen are selling their Chelsea condo and plan to stay in East Providence for the rest of the season.
"Maybe getting away, cooling down and doing what I did was for the best," Boyd said as he sat on a bench in the East Providence park last Friday. "I'm getting my finances straightened out. I'm with family. I've got 13 or 14 starts left. I can help the Red Sox win the pennant. I'm no angel, but at least I'll admit it. Fire and desire got me to the big leagues, but I've got to control it.
"So all I need from here on in is the ball, because the one thing Oil Can Boyd wants most in the world is to pitch in the big leagues. They can take my money, they can take my car, but please don't mess with my family or take the ball out of my hand."