The highlight of Saturday was a one-on-one with Boog Powell, and the room was fuller than for any other speaker. The Athletic’s Dan Connolly had interviewed him before, and mainly let Powell do his thing. As expected, Boog was the funniest speaker. Given all the deserved praise Brooks Robinson received for his defense over the years, the great first baseman pointed out that “someone has to catch those balls”. When someone asked if he could talk about his one inside-the-park home run, Boog gleefully responded, “absolutely!” Because the ball bounced so far away from the fielders, “I didn’t even slide…I’m quite proud of that.”
Speaking about his teammates, Powell says that “it’s like almost no time has passed” since the ones still living get along so well. During the Orioles heyday, the players had something called Kangaroo Court where they would “accuse” and fine each other for poor play after wins. “You couldn’t have thin skin in this bunch.” Boog thinks he should have won the MVP award in 1969, so the following year “I only hit 35 home runs and drove in 100, it was an OK year.” He did in fact win it in 1970.
Powell was a talented athlete long before donning the orange and black, as he led Lakeland, Florida to the Little League World Series. He was the pitcher on the team and nearly threw his arm out since there were no limits back then. He also played football in high school and nearly went to Florida, but the Orioles signed him for $25,000.
When he started Boog’s Barbeque, it was meant to be a one-off thing. He and his business partners bought 300 pounds of meat and sold out before first pitch. The next day they bought 800 and sold out in the third inning. The restaurant has been a mainstay at Camden ever since. Powell still frequents on gamedays, talking to fans and signing autographs. “I thought it was important to be there every night”.
There is much more to say, but I am already at 2000 words and missing my self-imposed deadlines. I will have a companion piece in the coming days on some of the best quotes from the SABR conference. Feel free to reach out to me if you want to know more about any of the presentations or SABR in general. In the meantime, I will let Kevin Brown have the last word:
“We get paid to talk about baseball, that’s insane. How?”