The 40 Greatest Orioles of All-Time - No. 6 - Boog Powell

6. Boog Powell, 1B/OF (1961-1974)

1970 American League MVP
All-Star: 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971

"Boog" was short for "Booger," which his father called him when he was little, and it's always fun to have a guy named Booger on the team. He was born John Wesley Powell on August 17, 1941, in Lakeland, Florida, and signed by the Orioles in 1959.

I've heard stories that Boog actually ran well when he was signed, but continually putting on weight over the years and having almost constant nagging injuries ended up sapping whatever speed he did have. He was originally an outfielder, and a big one, at 6'4", with listed weights between 230 and 240. In those days, I guess, it was embarrassing to list anything over 235 or so, so big guys just didn't. But there's no way Powell didn't weigh at least 280 by the end of his career.

He made his major league debut at age 20 on September 26, 1961, and he went 1-for-13 in his audition. He never walked, struck out twice, and had an RBI single. He had 400 at-bats in 1962, hitting .242/.311/.398 with 15 homers and 53 RBI. He also had 13 doubles. Over his career, Powell had more doubles than home runs three times: 1967 (14-13), 1973 (13-11) and 1974 (13-12). He also had nine of each in 1976 for the Indians. Boog was a longball threat, preferring to hit it a little farther and jog rather than a little shorter and actually run.

In 1963, he broke out, hitting .265/.328/.470 with 25 homers and 82 RBI, and was even better in 1964, with a huge season. .290/.399/.606 with 39 homers and 99 RBI. He had only 424 at-bats that season. He won an MVP award later, but he had a few other seasons that were just as good, and his injury-hampered 1964 likely would have been his very best had he not missed almost 30 games. It was his best season by OPS (1.005) and adjusted OPS+ (176).

Powell had a down year in '65, hitting .248/.347/.407 with 17 homers, but bounced back in '66 (another one of his huge years) to hit .287/.372/.532 with 34 homers and 109 RBI. It was also the only season in which he struck out more than 100 times, with 125 whiffs. Better health would have given him a couple more years like that, though.

He was injured again in 1967, and commented, "Once, just once, I'd like to go through a whole seasson without an injury." So in 1968, he did, hitting .304/.383/.559 with 37 homers and a career-high 121 RBI. He had finished third in the MVP voting in 1966, and finished second in 1969. 1970 was his year to finally take it.

Boog hit .297/.412/.549 with 35 homers, 114 RBI, 104 walks (career high), and 28 doubles (career high) in 1970, winning the MVP award easily over Tony Oliva, Harmon Killebrew and Carl Yastrzemski, although frankly Yastrzemski was by far the best player in the league. Boog also lit up the postseason for the World Champion Orioles, hitting .429 with a homer and 6 RBI against the Twins in the ALCS, and then .294/.455/.706 with two homers and five RBI against the Reds.

The Frank Robinson/Boog Powell 1-2 punch in the heart of the Orioles lineup was the most dangerous they've ever had. Powell never quite got back to his MVP form after 1970, but he stayed with the Orioles through 1974. In '71 and '72, he was still effective, but the injuries were back. The latter two years, he could still hit, but the injuries were getting worse. He was traded to the Indians on February 25, 1975, and had a big year there in 1975, hitting .297/.377/.524 with 27 homers. He struggled in 1976, was released, and signed with the Dodgers as a pinch-hitter in 1977. He went homerless in 41 at-bats (though he still had a .415 OBP), and retired.

Who is the most purely beloved player in franchise history? I think Boog has a shot there. Cal and Brooks are legendary players and a bit of a different story. People loved them at least in large part because of what they did on the field. They were great human beings too, and they were surely genuinely admirable, but a player like Boog Powell is a different type of beloved, I think. Here you have a big, gentle giant type of guy that hit a lot of home runs, which people will always love. He was a good guy, and of course you have Boog's BBQ still. He's an Oriole lifer. Cal, Brooks and Boog have got to be the top three in this category. I don't know in what order.

FRANCHISE RANKINGS
9th, Slugging Percentage (.465)
9th, OPS (.826)
5th, Games (1763)
5th, At-bats (5912)
5th, Runs (796)
5th, Hits (1574)
4th, Total Bases (2748)
3rd, Home Runs (303)
4th, RBI (1063)
3rd, Bases on Balls (889)
6th, Adjusted OPS+ (135)

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