There are certain first names in Baltimore that can stand alone. Cal and Brooks immediately come to mind, while Frank and Eddie work too. There’s old timers like Earl and recent ones like Manny, but none of them stand a chance against a name like Boog.
John “Boog” Powell earned the nickname as a child from his father. The name, his physical presence and blue-collar work ethic all contributed to his status as a fan favorite, but there’s only one reason he checks in at number seven on our list — his play.
Before Boog was a kind hearted man selling BBQ at Camden Yards, he served as an intimidating presence on the most dominant Orioles’ teams. At 6’4 and allegedly 230 lbs, Powell rarely got cheated on a swing. The Florida native broke into Baltimore as a left fielder in 1961 but eventually found a home at first base.
After a cup of coffee in ‘61, Powell slashed .243/.311/.398 and tallied 15 home runs in his first full season. All four of those numbers increased in ‘63, but his 25 home runs and .470 slugging percentage foreshadowed what would follow.
Powell led the league in ‘64 with a .606 slugging percentage. He batted .290, got on base at nearly a .400 clip and blasted 39 home runs. His 99 RBIs and 1.005 OPS were good for 11th in American League MVP voting, and his season totals showed Boog was no fluke. If not for a wrist injury that tabled him for a few weeks, Powell may have had an outside shot at 50 homers that year.
Powell stumbled a bit in ‘65, but nagging injuries could not prevent him from winning Comeback Player of the Year in 1966. Powell slashed .287/.372/.532 and totaled 34 homers during a magical season that saw Baltimore win its first World Series title.
Powell, along with non identical twins Brooks and Frank Robinson, helped the O’s to a four-game sweep over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Birds’ dominant pitching stole the show, but Powell led the club with five hits in the series.
Injuries plagued Powell once again in ‘67, but he bounced back to clinch his first All-Star game appearance in 1968. Powell would go on to represent the American League in four consecutive seasons. His .304/.383/.559 slash line and 37 home runs were good enough for runner up in the 1969 American League MVP vote, but second place was not good enough for Powell.
Boog tallied 35 home runs and a career-high 28 doubles the following year while slashing .297/.412/.549. Those numbers secured the 1970 AL MVP award, but that wasn’t the only hardware Powell helped lock up.
Boog homered in Game 1 and Game 2 of the 1970 World Series, and the Orioles took the crown in five games against the Cincinnati Reds. Brooks won the World Series MVP that year, but Powell played as big a role as any.
This list of the Top 50 Orioles has pointed out some tremendous individual accomplishments, but has also served as a reminder of exactly how talented those teams were at the turn of the decade. Most O’s fans know the history, but even those that witnessed can take a step back and truly appreciate what they saw.
Powell’s numbers regressed a bit, but he still secured over 20 home runs in ‘71 and ‘72. He blasted a pair of homers in Game 2 of the 1971 ALCS against Oakland, and there’s really no reason to talk about what happened after that.
Powell saw a dip in playing time in 1973 and was eventually traded to the Indians in 1975 for future pitching coach Dave Duncan. Powell spent two years in Cleveland and appeared in 50 games for the Dodgers in 1977 before calling it quits, but it was the 14 years in Baltimore that made him a legend.
Boog finished with 1,776 hits, 339 home runs, 1,187 RBIs, and somehow 20 stolen bases (seven of which came in 1968). His career slash line reads .266/.361/.462 and Baseball Reference has him good for 39.1 Wins Above Replacement.
Powell became the fourth player to be inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame in 1979. He left Baltimore a two-time champion, four time All Star and American League MVP. In retirement, Boog informed America about a certain Great Tasting/Less Filling beverage before serving up quality ballpark food at Camden.
Even if Sam Malone retired him in both ends of a double header, Boog Powell could swing the bat. We’re talking about a guy that insisted he could still hit the Warehouse as recently as 2017 — now that would impress Diane Chambers.
He signs autographs to this day at the ballpark, and he makes people laugh. He’s candid and a good storyteller. I would guess there’s probably been a lot of cats and dogs named Boog in the greater Baltimore area.
Powell played hard, hit the ball harder and never shied away from the moment. Put the whole package together and you’ve got the seventh best Oriole of all time.