They Call Me Oil Can: Baseball, Drugs, and Life on the Edge


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The last time he held a gun, he said, was in the late eighties, when his Mets teammate Kevin McReynolds took him hunting in the backwoods of Arkansas.

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I proposed that we ride the 7 train out to Citi Field together, and he seemed game, if a little flummoxed. Maybe The New Yorker can get us an Uber? She chuckled. Got to have something to look forward to. Conversation with Dykstra is always free-associative, and this led into a digressive discussion of the indignities of prison—where, he said, he read a book from start to finish for the first time in his life. They came out of trees. For writing OxyContin prescriptions. In the L. County jail, meanwhile, his cellmates included a member of the Mexican mafia.

He is still in touch with a former member of the Lomas gang, who managed to beat a life sentence through an insufficient-evidence appeal. His name is Isaac Pedroza. Pedroza used to relay messages from Dykstra to the outside world. Dykstra repaid the favor after their respective releases. Got him money to live.

That felt good! He is now a married father and living straight, on the outskirts of San Diego. I was fighting a murder case, so I had no other place to turn but to God. Most people that have money, they still end up empty. Makes you wonder about God. Out of all of us—all of the people that partied, and all that—and he dies?

The nicest guy, best husband, best father? You got to sell the people out in the stands. What do they call them out there? They call it something different in church.

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The congregation! You picked up that I was selling. We were running late for the 7 train, and for the Mets game. Where are they all going? You ever wonder? Hey, bro! I like the honesty. It is a story that subliminally or loudly purports to travel across generations to an era when athletes were heroes and sports were an oasis of purity, a time that never existed but which we are forever seeking to rediscover. In the spring of , Brenham, Texas, was that place and Jon Peters was that athlete. The story reached its climax on the evening of Friday, April 28, at Fireman's Park in Brenham, a town of 11, residents 75 miles northwest of Houston and the home of Blue Bell Ice Cream, a detail that made its way into all the stories about Peters, including the one you're reading right now.

More than 5, spectators squeezed into a stadium that seats 1,, while in the parking lot half a dozen satellite trucks provided news coverage. SI sent Rick Reilly, then the best-known writer at the magazine, to watch Peters try to set a national record with his 51st consecutive victory. Reilly got right into the throwback spirit:. This legend is 18 years old, shaves twice a week and just had a big fight with his best girl.

His name is Jon Peters and he's from Brenham, Texas.

Oil Can Boyd F.C. 16

Peters was a relative unknown in , ripe for discovery by the media. Such a revelation would be impossible in , when his feats would have gone viral. Peters played his part perfectly that night.

Baseball, Drugs, and Life on the Edge

He threw a strikeout no-hitter and in the fifth inning stroked a single to right for the run that gave the Brenham Cubs a mercy-rule victory over Snyder High. He rode off the field in twilight on the shoulders of his teammates. He was surrounded by cameras and notebooks and provided just the right quotes. There was nothing wrong with this tale, as far as it went. It was just incomplete.

The fans in attendance, the reporters covering the event could not have known that not only was this the best day of Peters's young life, but it was also the worst. They couldn't have known that Superkid was in fact a bundle of adolescent insecurity and anger, dating to when he was first nicknamed Big Pete and had to wear an adultsized Little League uniform that looked different from his teammates'.

Or that on the eve of the record-setting game, Peters says he swallowed three-quarters of a bottle of Tylenol, one tablet at time, in an attempt to end his own life. They couldn't have known that Jon Peters, the athlete, had peaked two years earlier, when his fastball reached 92 mph in winning the Class 4A state championship game. Shoulder surgery in the summer after his sophomore year dropped Peters's heater into the low 80s and prompted mechanical changes that led to three more operations by age Through two high school seasons and the final 23 of his 51 record-setting wins, he got hitters out with a funky delivery, mixing guile and control with just enough speed.

In fact, that was no longer a practical option.

Oil Can Boyd

They couldn't have known that Peters would walk out of Fireman's Park that night and into more than 20 years of adulthood spent battling physical pain, depression and alcoholism, a divorced father of two children whose life was slipping away. Three decades have passed. It is a late-spring afternoon in southeast Texas, where a restless, warm breeze promises the summer heat to come and a gray sky portends the dangerous thunderstorms that will follow.

Much has changed since Peters's big night. The population of metropolitan Houston has nearly doubled to seven million; Brenham has grown to almost 17,, some of them moving from Houston in search of space and tranquility. Blue Bell has recovered from a health-scare shutdown, and Peters's old high school has been replaced with an updated facility.

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Yet Fireman's Park seems nearly frozen in time, from the green, wooden grandstand to the tall oaks beyond the outfield fence to the railroad tracks at the top of a grassy berm, freight trains rolling past at all times of the day and night. As ever, an iron gate in the shape of a baseball diamond provides entry to the field.

Other than a giant baseball-shaped sign on the outfield fence that displays Peters's name and number 21, it is as if, in this place, time has stood still. Peters's life experience, however, is a reminder that it never does. Earlier in the day I had met Peters, 48, in Houston, where he lives with his wife, Lauren, not far from his two children and ex-wife, and we drove the 75 minutes to Brenham.

Along the way, Peters narrated the years before and after his big night in '89, the former a road map to the anguish that gripped him in high school, the latter a long, hard climb to physical and mental health. He is almost nine years sober now, since Sept. He works in business development for an oil and gas company but hopes to build a career as a public speaker, telling others the story of his life and his faith, which he has done on several occasions, including in a memoir, When Life Grabs You by the Baseballs. It is the great paradox of Peters's life that the one thing he loved best and excelled at most became the vehicle by which his demons found him.

Not that he blames baseball. He doesn't blame anybody or anything, including the media that made him a minute celebrity when he was not prepared for it. It wasn't a miserable experience, I was just miserable inside.


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Jon had an older brother, Ronnie. The family owned 20 acres and every year kept a few cows for slaughter. Jon and his buddies would fish in nearby ponds, which they called honey holes. Jon grew quickly into a tall and pudgy boy, painfully self-conscious. But even in his awkward youth, baseball discovered him. The Cubs have a proud tradition, with seven state high school titles and numerous homegrown pros.

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And I liked it. Some family friends two hours away in San Antonio saw his name in the local paper, though the story was picked up nationwide. It was the beginning. When Peters reached seventh grade, nearly fully grown, he met Driggers, who was in his first year as Cubs coach.

Driggers made Peters the varsity team manager and offered him guidance on getting ready for his high school career.


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No, we must go back to and the small city of Meridian, Miss. Boyd recalls sitting on the lap of either Schwerner or Goodman at his home; he was too young to remember which.

They Call Me Oil Can: Baseball, Drugs, and Life on the Edge They Call Me Oil Can: Baseball, Drugs, and Life on the Edge
They Call Me Oil Can: Baseball, Drugs, and Life on the Edge They Call Me Oil Can: Baseball, Drugs, and Life on the Edge
They Call Me Oil Can: Baseball, Drugs, and Life on the Edge They Call Me Oil Can: Baseball, Drugs, and Life on the Edge
They Call Me Oil Can: Baseball, Drugs, and Life on the Edge They Call Me Oil Can: Baseball, Drugs, and Life on the Edge
They Call Me Oil Can: Baseball, Drugs, and Life on the Edge They Call Me Oil Can: Baseball, Drugs, and Life on the Edge

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