MIKE BURKE

Allegany Radio Corporation Sports

To the casual baseball fan, or even to the so-called hardcore baseball fan under the age of 40, Boog Powell is the big guy on Eutaw Street at the foot of the B&O Warehouse beyond right field of Oriole Park at Camden Yards who signs autographs at his very popular stand, Boog’s BBQ.

Or maybe he’s the big man in the old Miller Lite “Tastes great! Less filling!” television commercials who is the recipient of the line, “Hey! You’re Boog Powell!”

Or maybe he’s the friendly big man you see at ribbon cuttings or charity events, or golf tournaments or just picking up some hardshells and some cold ones somewhere in the Baltimore area during the baseball season, who stops to sign an autograph wherever and for whomever he is asked to.

John Wesley Powell, of Lakeland, Fla., who made Baltimore his home in 1961 is one in the same man. It is him, and in Baltimore he is all of that and much more, forever in the fabric and in the heart of all that is Baltimore. In fact, from 1966 through 1971, the most prosperous time in franchise history, when one thought of or spoke of the Baltimore Orioles, the thought and the discussion began with “Brooks, Frank and Boog.”

Boog Powell was one of the best, most skilled, most accomplished and most decorated players in Baltimore Orioles history. That would be Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, two Baseball Hall of Famers, and Boog Powell, who were at the heart of the late 1960s and early 1970s Orioles dynasty that produced four American League pennant winners, two World Series championships, five American League East Division champions and three Most Valuable Players, won by Brooks (1964), Frank (1966) and Boog (1970).

An Orioles Hall of Famer, Powell ranks among the franchise leaders in many categories: third in home runs (303), having been the franchise leader for the many years before Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken came along, fourth in runs batted in (1,063), fourth in walks (889), fifth in games played (1,763), and fifth in total bases (2,698).

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound left-handed-hitting first baseman was in the top three in American League MVP voting twice in that time before finally winning the award by an overwhelming margin in Baltimore’s world-championship season of 1970, prompting Detroit Tigers ace Denny McLain, who won two Cy Young Awards in his career and 31 games in the Tigers’ 1968 World Series-championship season to say, “It’s about time the Booger won it.

“He’s been doing it for Baltimore for a long time. You, know, without him, I regard the Orioles as just another team because you can pitch around Frank Robinson. With Powell behind him, though, you’ve got to throw strikes and everybody knows what those guys can do to pitches over the plate.”

This is not merely a stroll down Memory Lane; there is an actual point to this: Boog Powell was one of the most feared hitters and best baseball players of his time and helped lead the Orioles to many championships and many, many wins.

Not only is he and his barbecue pit one of the biggest attractions at Camden Yards (goodness knows, the baseball team hasn’t been lately), Boog has long been a community, state- and nationwide advocate for Baltimore and for the Orioles. He remains an all-time face of the Baltimore Orioles franchise, as he has been almost from the time he arrived on the scene in the summer of 1961.

The Maryland Stadium Authority and the Baltimore Orioles need to very publicly acknowledge this, and they should do so by commissioning a Boog Powell statue to stand beyond right field of Camden Yards near his barbecue stand on Eutaw Street.

Yes, the six statues beyond left field are of the likenesses of the six Orioles who were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame as Orioles – Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, Earl Weaver and Cal Ripken Jr.

Boog Powell is not a Hall of Famer, at least not in the eyes of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Yet the jolly slugger, as Hall of Fame broadcaster Chuck Thompson (who does not have a statue either, by the way) called him, is a Hall of Famer in the hearts of every Orioles fan, because he was one hell of a good baseball player and remains a forever fond, prominent and beloved face of the Baltimore Orioles as well as the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland.

We need a Boog Powell statue on Eutaw Street.

(The Top 10 Baseball Movies of All-Time continues. Previously: No. 1, A League of Their Own)

  1. Bull Durham (1988)

The day to day (and night to night) of minor league baseball, written and directed by Ron Shelton, a former Baltimore Orioles farmhand, and starring Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins.

Costner plays Crash Davis, an aging minor league catcher who is sent down from Triple A to the “bus leagues” and the Durham Bulls to mentor Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh (Robbins), a young pitcher who has “a million-dollar arm and a 5-cent head.” Both, however, become involved with baseball groupie Annie Savoy (Sarandon), and the story goes from there.

Actually, the story and the movie begin with Annie’s brilliant sermon on The Church of Baseball.

Best line: “It’s a long season, and you gotta trust it. I’ve tried `em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in and day out, is the Church of Baseball.”

Or, a line ahead of its time that explains the sad state of today’s game of baseball perfectly, “Don’t try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring. Besides that, they’re fascist. Throw some ground balls — it’s more democratic.”

Best tune: “Sixty Minute Man,” by Billy Ward and his Dominoes

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Radio and Pikewood Digital. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT