Get to know a guy: Bob Boyd

(Public domain)

The AP short published in the New York Times on September 2, 1951 regarding the latest White Sox transaction was brief:

The White Sox today recalled Bob Boyd, 25-year-old Negro first baseman, from Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League. A left-handed batter and thrower, Boyd currently is the second leading hitter in the P.C.L. with a mark of .339 and leads in stolen bases with thirty-seven. Boyd will report to the White Sox tomorrow when they arrive in Cleveland to open a three-game series.

The significance of the move, of course, isn’t mentioned in the above blurb: Bob Boyd was the first Black player to sign with the Chicago White Sox when he did so the year prior to that story, in 1950. Perhaps this is knowledge that is well-known around these parts, but I’m not above admitting that I wasn’t aware of this fact, likely because my primary association of “first Negro League player to play for the White Sox” is Minnie Miñoso. I thought a brief post with a couple of links to interesting resources might enlighten others who also may have been unaware.

This all came to light when I was putting together the Sporcle for Opening Day outfielders: Boyd started in left field for the team on April 13, 1954. When I was entering his name, I thought to myself, “huh, I wonder if he’s related to Oil Can Boyd? So, I went to Bob Boyd’s Baseball Reference page and sure enough, he’s listed as the uncle to Oil Can Boyd.

At any rate, Bob Boyd –nicknamed The Rope, for his hard line drives—played for the White Sox in parts of the 1951, 1953 and 1954 seasons before having some truly good years in Baltimore. While he’s covered on-and-off by the White press during his career, contemporary African American newspapers covered Boyd and other Black players pretty extensively.

Here he appears in the Kansas City Plaindealer on March 23, 1951 in a blurb entitled, “Bob Boyd is Heavy Stick Man with White Sox”:

First baseman Bob Boyd, first Negro player to sign a contract with the Chicago White Sox, is proving himself to be a heavy stick man in exhibition games. Batting in the cleanup spot against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Boyd pounded out two hits in four trips to the plate to lead his team to a 12 to 10 victory. One of his hits was a home run, and the other a triple. He drove in three runs. So far Boyd has played errorless ball in three games.

And another from The Crusader (Rockford, IL) on August 7, 1953:

Watch Bob Boyd who has been brought back up to the Chicago White Sox, go places with that big stick of his. Right now he is subbing at first for the slumping Ferris Fain. There are those who say that Bob has no finesse around first base, but for the six years that he has been in organized ball, he has never hit under .300. Given the opportunity to play regularly, Boyd will cause the departure of Mr. Fain, which would be very embarrassing for the Sox front office.

And finally, here are the aforementioned biographies I wanted to highlight:

Bob Boyd, SABR BioProject

A terrific biography written by Bob Rives, this is a nice encapsulation of his baseball career and life after, aided in part by extensive interviews with Boyd just prior to his passing in 2004.

Forgotten Heroes, Bob “The Rope” Boyd, Center for Negro League Baseball Research

For an incredibly detailed and well-researched biography of Boyd (52 pages!), check this out. Dr. Layton Revel delves deep into Boyd’s time in the Negro and minor leagues, as well as his career with the White Sox and beyond. It also includes some fantastic primary source photography.

Take a second to support Sox Machine on Patreon
Become a patron at Patreon!
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Great piece, Ted. Thank you.

I want to say Peter Gammons did an interview with Oil Can Boyd back in the mid-80s about his family’s ties to the Negro Leagues. I may be misremembering, but the first I ever heard about Bob Boyd was around that time, definitely in relation to his nephew. Given Gammons’s great enthusiasm for Oil Can Boyd, my memory places the interview with him.


Thank you for shining some light on this man. I had no idea.


Great story and great nickname.


I’d love to know the backstory on how we came to sign Leury to that contract.

Did LaRussa go over Hahn’s head to get that deal through?

Did Hahn get duped by LaRussa into making that deal?

Was Hahn just dumb enough to give that contract out on his own?

I suppose we will never know with the opaque nature of this organization.

To Err is Herrmann

Thank you for this piece. This only adds to my appreciation for Oil Can Boyd,
one of the great names in baseball.