Thursday, November 29, 2012

#460 - Boog Powell

 Boog Powell gets an action card in this set and it appears to be a shot in Oakland with a pretty fat crowd which, as we have seen, was not the norm for that fan base. So this may be an action shot from the playoffs, which adds some appeal. Boog had a pretty good run of these cards as this year would be the second of four consecutive ones with him in motion. I think the best is the one from ’75 when it looks like he’s about to catch a whale at first base. ’73 was not his best year since between a shoulder injury and manager Earl Weaver’s platooning Boog got in just over half a season at first base. His numbers that year were just a nudge above his ones in ’67, his worst season and another one decimated by nagging injuries. Still, he was a crowd pleaser with his big body and super friendly personality. Boog grew pretty much every year and his listed 250 pounds is probably a bit generous on the low side. His ’74 season would be even more of a downtick but he’d have one more year of All-Star-type performance when his buddy Frank Robinson rescued him in ’75.

Boog Powell was born in Lakeland, Florida, where as a kid he was so big that he was initially banned from his Little League for a year. That was when he was 12 and they let him back in before the season was over, which was a good thing since as a pitcher he led his team to the Little League World Series. Boog pitched eleven straight games to get his guys there in ’54 and unfortunately those games took a toll as he went down 17-0 in the first round to the eventual champs, a team from Schenectady, NY. When Boog was a sophomore in high school his family moved down to Key West where he was all-state in football as a tackle for two years, both of which his team won the state championship. He also turned the double in baseball – in which he was now a slugging outfielder/first baseman – his senior year. He received lots of interest from colleges for his football and signed a letter of intent with one school when the Orioles came down and swooped him away to the tune of a $25,000 bonus. That was in ’59 and his first summer as a pro he claimed he was overwhelmed by the pitching in D ball, though it sure doesn’t come across in his stats: .351 with 14 homers and 59 RBI’s in only 191 at bats. In ’60 Boog moved to B ball and first base full-time and racked up a .312 average with 100 RBI’s. Then in ’61 was a big jump to Triple A by which he apparently wasn’t fazed since he hit .321 with 32 homers and 92 RBI’s. Late that year he made his debut in Baltimore.

Powell was always a big boy and pretty tough but he was awfully slow and was always getting nailed by nagging injuries. In ’62 he was kept upstairs where he played leftfield and put up good enough rookie numbers to make the Topps team despite playing through, in order: a sprained wrist; a blood clot in his leg; a beaning that took him to the hospital; and a shoulder injury. In ’63 he was relatively healthy and stepped up his power numbers significantly. Then he did that again in ’64 despite again spraining his wrist. He also put up a .399 OBA that year, by far his best in the majors up until then. In ’65 Boog split his time between the outfield and first base as it was decided his lack of speed would make him a better defender at the latter position. He actually turned out to be quite nimble there over the years and became a whiz at scooping balls out of the dirt. But he had a relative slump at the plate, ironically the one year he didn’t lose time to injury. He came back strong in ’66, so strong in fact that he won the AL Comeback Player of the Year award. He also got his first post-season action and hit .357 against the Dodgers during the surprising Orioles sweep. After his disappointing ’67 – again, no big injuries – came ’68 when Boog did an about-face from the rest of the AL and raised his numbers significantly. Big years and AL championships followed in ’69 and ’70 and the latter year he won the AL MVP.

In ’71 Powell had all his injuries in about the same place, breaking a wrist and getting hit in each of his hands. His offensive numbers came in pretty hard and continued to do so in ’72 when the nagging wirst injury made it difficult to hold the bat. Things didn’t improve in ’73 or ‘74 and after hitting .265 with 12 homers and 45 RBI’s in 344 at bats the second year he was sent after the season to Cleveland with Don Hood for Dave Duncan and a minor leaguer. Frank Robinson, who'd come to Cleveland himself late in '74, had also been named manager and he opted to give Boog first base solo which worked out pretty well as Powell hit .297 with 27 homers and 86 RBI’s to win his second AL Comeback Player award. But it was a one-season revival as ankle, shoulder, and wrist injuries would demolish his ’76 season in which his numbers fell to .215 with nine homers and 33 RBI’s in 293 at bats. After the year he was released and then picked up by the Dodgers for whom he primarily pinch hit before his August release ended his career. Boog hit .266 with a .361 OBA with 339 homers and 1,187 RBI’s. His post-season numbers were .262 with six homers and 18 RBI’s in 33 games.

After playing Powell returned to Key West where he opened a marina which he ran for a few years. In the early to mid-Eighties he made some high-profile beer commercials for Miller Light and also wrote a cookbook. In the early Nineties when Camden Yards opened Boog got together with Oriole brass and suggested opening a barbecue stand in the park under his name. The stand has been wildly successful, allowing Boog to open another one on the Baltimore waterfront and act as sort of a traveling Johnny Apleseed for barbecue foods, even getting to Tahiti in recent years. He signs lots of autographs and is still a huge – in more ways than one – fan favorite.

Boog gets a couple good star bullets and his signature barely fits in its spot. That’s some cartoon picture of him. That hat would have been actually more appropriate for China but nobody was going to that nation from MLB back then.

In 1976 the Baltimore contribution to the baseball centennial was its Series victory in 1970. No surprise there, though the ’66 one was a more dominant and surprising win. The O’s went up against the Big Red Machine and sort of beat them up, winning the Series four games to one. Baltimore hit nearly .300 as a team – only Don Gullett and Clay Carroll had any success for Cincinnati on the mound – and the O pitchers and especially Brooks Robinson helped the Machine to a .213 average. Brooks was the Series mvp with his amazing fielding.

Coincidentally we get to hook up Boog with the team he helped beat in 1970:

1. Powell and Merv Rettenmund ’68 to ’73 Orioles;
2. Rettenmund and Pete Rose (and many others) ’74 to ’75 Reds;
3. Rose was on the ’73 Reds.


  1. Looks more like Tiger Stadium......?

  2. The old Sub Pop band Hazel has a song/spoken word thing called Boog Powell where they discuss both his baseball career and BBQ stand.

  3. Got to agree with the first Commentor....not Oakland. Seats are blue, not green and there are railings within the seating area that aren't present in Oakland.