Sports

‘It was a lot different then..’

Every Wednesday and Saturday morning you’ll find Lyle Boyd and a group of his friends drinking coffee at Uncle Dave’s, coming up with solutions to the world’s most pressing problems — baseball in general and the Seattle Mariners in particular.

Boyd knows baseball. It’s been a huge part of his life ever since he first pitched for South Kitsap High School back in 1946.

And it has taken him to such remote spots as Lincoln, Neb., and Sweetwater, Tex., and allowed him to pitch against some the game’s most legendary teams — such as the Harlem Globetrotters and Kansas City Monarchs, and Hall of Fame names, like Satchel Paige and Bob Feller.

“It was a fun career,” Boyd said of his years in baseball. “It was a lot of fun. (Baseball) is a lot different now, but I had some good times.”

Boyd maintained his ties with the sport even though shoulder problems forced him to retire in 1950. He has coached multiple teams in the Port Orchard area, worked with Little League teams and is a lifetime member of the Association of Professional Ball Players of America.

Boyd, who has called Port Orchard home since 1929, was inducted into the Kitsap Oldtimers Association Hall of Fame this year along with eight other current or former Kitsap County baseball and softball players.

Now retired from the shipyard, he plays golf a couple of times a week, keeps up with today’s crop of Major League stars and attends a few Mariner games a year with his wife Lois.

His love of the game is stronger now than ever before and his stories are as entertaining.

New Beginnings,

Famous Teams

Boyd began his baseball career his senior year at South Kitsap High School, recording a 6-0 regular season mark, tossing a one-hitter and a pair of two-hitters.

The Wolves were selected —there was no state tournament back then — to play in the state championship game in Bellingham against Bellingham. The Wolves lost 9-3 and Boyd was tagged with his lone loss as a high school pitcher.

Boyd, a right-hander who threw a fastball, curveball and knuckleball, moved on to play semi-pro ball in Lincoln, Neb., going 13-0 and pitching both ends of three doubleheaders, something totally unheard of in modern baseball.

Boyd was making $25 a game in those days and supplemented his income by working at the Russell Stover chocolate factory, lugging around blocks of chocolate for 35 cents an hour.

“I was making more money on the weekend than some steelworkers were making in a week,” Boyd said.

It was in Lincoln that Boyd ran across three of the most famous baseball teams of the era. Boyd was selected to pitch for the Lincoln City All-Star team that ended up playing the Kansas City Monarchs, with Buck O’Neil managing and playing first base, The House of David and the Harlem Globetrotters with Paige pitching.

“(Paige’s) reputation back then was he would walk the first three guys of every ballgame he would pitch and then strike out the next three guys on nine straight pitches,” Boyd said. “That was just what he did. But that didn’t happen with us. He came in and pitched so hard. Man, he was so fast. I think he threw the ball as fast as Feller did but with a whole lot more control.”

Although Paige was close to the end of his career, Boys was impressed by him.

“He was pretty darn effective,” Boyd said. “He was a tough pitcher.”

Boyd lost 1-0 to Paige with former Brooklyn Dodger Mickey Owen, who had been banished from baseball by then commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis for playing ball in the Mexican League during World War II, catching for him. But he recorded a 6-2 win over the Monarchs and beat the House of David, 5-2.

“At the time, pitching against those teams was just another game,” Boyd said. “I was thrilled because I had heard of Satchel Paige and had certainly heard of Mickey Owen and that was a thrill for him to catch me.”

Boyd returned home in 1948 and pitched for the Bremerton Bluejackets in spring training, beating Washington State College, Great Falls, Mont., and the Yakima Indians, earning a roster spot.

Boyd relieved starter John Marshall on opening night and stayed in the bullpen, making a half dozen relief appearances before being optioned to Phoenix of the Class C California League. He ended the season with a 5-4 mark and an ERA of 4.20.

After returning from Phoenix, Frank Logue asked Boyd to pitch in the State Semi-Pro Championship game. Boyd, throwing for the Poulsbo Merchants, lost to the Demming Loggers and Herb Karpel, who had just finished his season with the Seattle Rainers.

Feller, Racism

and Polio

Boyd received a call from Alan Strange in 1949, asking him to play ball for Dick Gyselman in Sweetwater, Tex. He agreed, mainly because spring training was in Oakland with the Acorns.

It was in Oakland that Boyd went head-to-head with Bob Feller and the Cleveland Indians. Feller was in the middle of his Hall of Fame career with the Indians at the time.

Boyd pitched three innings against Feller and faced him and his famous 100-mph fastball once at the plate, grounding out.

“(Feller) had won a lot of ballgames by that time but he hadn’t developed his curveball yet,” Boyd said. “At that time, he was throwing his curveball as fast as his fastball and if it didn’t break, boy you were in deep trouble.”

After spring training, Boyd headed to Texas and played in the Class C Longhorn League for the Swatters, traveling around the western part of the state, where he encountered racism and segregation for the first time in his life.

“That was a tough, tough grind going from town-to-town,” Boyd said. “It was the first time I was ever in a city that was segregated. They had a river (running through town) and they had the blacks on one side and the whites on the other side. That was hard to get used to, but that was the way it was in those days down there. And it made it real difficult on me.”

Boyd, who made $400 a month, pitched well but not great that year, going 4-4 with a 3.50 ERA before the season was canceled when a polio epidemic broke out.

Boyd returned home to play semi-pro ball for the Atkinson and Jones all-black baseball club, beating such teams as the Richland Bombers, that featured Gene Conley, Walla Walla City, Kennewick, the General Electric Nukes and a team from the Washington State Prison.

Boyd was heading back south in 1950, starting out in Albuquerque, N.M., before being sold to a new team in the Rio Grande Valley League in Harlingen, Tex. After going 4-5, Boyd developed shoulder problems and decided to end his pro career.

Throughout the 1950s, Boyd played baseball for the Port Orchard Merchants in the Bremerton City League. In the early 1960s, he played and managed the Bremerton Oil slow-pitch softball team before becoming president of the South Kitsap Western Little League.

Boyd coached Babe Ruth baseball in the 1970s before retiring from baseball for good to concentrate on golf.

Golf and the Mariners

These days, Boyd is content to chase the other white ball around, playing golf whenever the chance arises. Instead of mowing down hitters, he is chasing down his friend Dick Hargrave’s career mark of 31 holes-in-one. He has just 31 more to go.

But he is always ready to talk baseball, especially when the topic turns to his beloved Seattle Mariners.

“I try to out-manage the Mariners,” Boyd said. “What are they doing? Why are they taking that pitcher out?”

He sees many differences in today’s game, mostly the lack of innings a starting pitcher will or can go.

“Pitching-wise, we didn’t have a closer, we didn’t have a setup guy,” Boyd said of his era. “If you were a starter and you didn’t go nine innings, you were terrible disappointed. That was your key. You didn’t expect anyone to come in a relieve you. I can’t understand why these guys today can’t go nine innings.”

The designated hitter rule, which came into effect in the 1973 season, is another one Boyd dislikes. Boyd said he was a decent hitter and carried a .180 average with one home run.

“Nowadays, your pitchers are your best athletes, usually,” Boyd said. “They excel in everything.”

He thinks today’s pitchers should pitch inside and the batters that dig in and stand on top of the plate shouldn’t be so alarmed when they get hit.

Among today’s players, Boyd said he admired Bortolo Colon and Jamie Moyer as pitchers, and thinks Alex Rodriguez is the best player in the league. And he is excited to watch fellow Port Orchard product Willie Bloomquist and, of course, Edgar Martinez.

He’s seen the game change over the decades, from the New York Yankee dynasty of the 1950s, to the pitcher-dominated 1960s and the offensive minded 1980s and 90s to today’s current brand of baseball.

“I don’t really care for the closers and setup guys and the DH, but that’s what they’re playing with,” Boyd said. “You have to adjust to the times I guess. It’s a lot different than it was when I played and disappointing. But I still enjoy it.”

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