John Wesley Powell was born on August 17, 1941 in Lakeland, Florida (spring training home of the Tigers and of their high-A minor league club). He shares a birthday with Jorge Posada and Dustin Pedroia. Blue Jays pitcher Drew Hutchison and Chris Sale of the White Sox also hail from Lakeland.
He grew up in Lakeland and as he told Baseball Digest in February 1987, he played in the 1953 Little League World Series. He pitched, his brother Carl caught and his other brother Charlie played the outfield. Carl was his step-brother and played for six years in the majors as a catcher/outfielder. Charlie spent two years in the Orioles farm system in 1962 and 1963, including a stint in Bluefield in '62.
His family moved to Key West when he was 13 and he was signed by the Orioles straight out of high school in 1959. That summer, he destroyed Appy League pitching in Bluefield, batting .351 with 14 homers and a .607 slugging percentage. He was an Appalachian League All-Star, but despite two Baby Birds sharing MVP honors, he was not one of them. Shortstop Bob Saverine hit .353. Right-hander Arne Thorsland beat out teammate Dean Chance for the ERA title (2.93 to 2.94). In 107.1 innings he struck out 180 batters to set a league record that still stands today*.
* Saverine had a one-game call-up as a pinch runner at the end of the '59 season. He played for Baltimore again from 1962-64 and for Washington from 1966-67. Thorsland pitched for four more seasons in the Orioles system, getting as high as Triple-A, but he never made the majors.
Boog moved up to the Fox Cities Foxes in 1960, then to Triple-A Rochester in 1961, where he led the International League with 32 homers and finished second in hitting at .321.
That earned him a brief call-up to the Orioles at the end of the season. He made his debut on September 26, 1961 at Yankee Stadium. In the third inning, Roger Maris hit his 60th home run of the season to tie Babe Ruth's record. The Yanks led 3-2 with two outs in the eighth and Powell was tabbed to pinch hit. He struck out against Rollie Sheldon, who K'd the side in the ninth to secure the win for New York. The next day, he got his first start and drove in a run in a 3-2 victory.
He became Baltimore's regular left fielder in 1962. In the Baseball Digest piece I linked to earlier, Powell recalls that he struck out three times against Whitey Ford in his first game. He was probably remembering the '62 opener, when he struck out twice and popped up. He said Ford was the best pitcher he ever faced, and you could see why he'd think that when you look at his head-to-head mark of 5-for-32 with 11 strikeouts.
Powell's home run total climbed from 15 to 25 to 39 over his first three full seasons. The 39 homers in 1964 were second in the league to Harmon Killebrew's 49, but he led the American League in slugging percentage with a .609 mark. He also led the circuit in HR rate as he went deep every 10.9 at bats. That ratio is the second-best single-season mark in Orioles history. Jim Gentile was at 10.6 in his 46-homer season in 1961.
It was the fifth time that a player 22 years old or younger hit that many home runs. It has been done three times since, but I bet that Marlins right fielder and destroyer of scoreboards Giancarlo Stanton joins them this year (he already has 13).
He got some down-ballot love in the MVP voting, but he finished a distant 11th behind teammate Brooks Robinson.
1966 was another big year for Boog. He hit .287/.372/.532 to finish fourth, fifth and fourth in the three slash categories . He slugged 34 homers and reached the century mark in RBIs for the first time with 109 as the O's won the pennant. He finished third in the MVP vote behind Triple Crown winner Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson. It's one of only three times that teammates finished 1-2-3 for the MVP. The 1959 Go-Go Sox Nellie Fox-Luis Aparicio-Early Wynn and the 1941 Dodgers had Dolph Camilli-Pete Reiser-Whit Wyatt.
I made this chart for my Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray posts, here are all the times that teammates have finished 1-2 in the MVP voting:
|SF||Jeff Kent||Barry Bonds|
|1990 NL||PIT||Barry Bonds||Bobby Bonilla|
|1989 NL||SF||Kevin Mitchell||Will Clark|
|1983 AL||BAL||Cal Ripken||Eddie Murray|
|1976 NL||CIN||Joe Morgan||George Foster|
|1971 AL||OAK||Vida Blue||Sal Bando|
|1968 AL||DET||Denny McLain||Bill Freehan|
|1967 NL||STL||Orlando Cepeda||Tim McCarver|
|1966 AL||BAL||Frank Robinson||Brooks Robinson|
|1965 AL||MIN||Zoilo Versalles||Tony Oliva|
|1962 AL||NYY||Mickey Mantle|| |
|1961 AL||NYY||Roger Maris||Mickey Mantle|
|1960 AL||NYY||Roger Maris||Mickey Mantle|
|1960 NL||PIT||Dick Groat||Don Hoak|
|1959 AL||CWS||Nellie Fox||Luis Aparicio|
|1956 AL||NYY||Mickey Mantle||Yogi Berra|
|1956 NL||BKN||Don Newcombe||Sal Maglie|
|1955 NL||BKN||Roy Campanella||Duke Snider|
|1945 AL||DET||Hal Newhouser||Eddie Mayo|
|1944 AL||DET||Hal Newhouser||Dizzy Trout|
|1943 NL||STL||Stan Musial||Walker Cooper|
|1942 NL||STL||Mort Cooper||Enos Slaughter|
|1941 NL||BKN||Dolph Camilli||Pete Reiser|
|1934 AL||DET||Mickey Cochrane|| |
In the World Series against the Dodgers, Powell led all players with five hits in a four-game sweep.
Boog made his first All-Star team in 1968. He didn't start the game, but Harmon Killebrew snapped his hamstring in the third inning and Powell played the rest of the game at first base, striking out against Juan Marichal and Tom Seaver. Fittingly for the Year of the Pitcher, it was a 1-0 game with Willie McCovey's first-inning double play providing the lone run for the NL.
After the break, Earl Weaver took over for Hank Bauer as the manager of the Orioles and he would lead the club for the rest of Powell's time there.
Boog had a monster year in 1969. He hit over .300 for the only time in his career (.304) and cracked 37 homers with a career-high 121 RBIs, finishing second to Killebrew for the MVP. He got the start and batted cleanup for the AL in the All-Star Game and the Orioles won the very first AL Eastern Division crown.
With expansion and divisional play added in 1969, there would now be a best-of-five series before the World Series. The Orioles played the Twins in the first American League Championship Series. The O's trailed the opener by a run, but Powell led off the bottom of the ninth with a home run off Jim Perry to force extra innings. Baltimore won in 12 innings to start a three-game sweep.
They were heavy favorites over the upstart New York Mets, but they were knocked off in five games. Powell did not drive in a run in the Series.
After previously finishing second and third in the MVP balloting, Powell got over the hump in 1970 and won the award. He hit 35 home runs with 114 RBIs and a .297/.412/.549 slash line. His SLG was second-best in the AL and his OBP and RBIs were third.
The ALCS was another sweep of the Twins, with Powell knocking in six runs in three games.
The first game of the World Series against Cincinnati's Big Red Machine was the "Game I'll Never Forget." The Reds led 3-0 in the fourth inning when Powell hit an opposite-field two-run homer to put the O's on the board. Elrod Hendricks and Brooks Robinson later homered to cap the comeback and Baltimore won 4-3. Powell's homer was immortalized in this baseball card, which I found long ago when my dad gave me his baseball card collection. It was then that I learned what "opposite field" meant.
Powell jump-started another comeback in Game Two. Cincy led 4-0 in the fourth until Powell's solo shot. In the next frame he hit an RBI single and scored the go-ahead run and the O's were on their way to another win. Baltimore won in five games and Powell earned his second ring.
Coming off that title and MVP campaign, he was the cover boy on this funky Sports Illustrated 1971 baseball preview issue:
He made his fourth and final All-Star team in 1971 and was elected to start for the third straight year, but this time he could not play due to injury. This was the famous All-Star Game at Tiger Stadium that featured about 8,491 Hall of Famers* and Reggie Jackson's home run off Dock Ellis. It was the AL's only win in a 20-ASG stretch from 1963-1982.
* That number is not exact, but there were a combined 21 players on the rosters that day. There were 12 on the NL team (Bench/McCovey/Aaron/Mays/Stargell/Carlton/Jenkins/Marichal/Seaver/Santo/Brock/Clemente) and nine on the AL team (Carew/Aparicio/Robinson/Robinson/Yaz/Palmer/Killebrew/Jackson/Kaline). Both managers were Hall of Famers (Sparky Anderson and Earl Weaver) and there was also NL coach Walter Alston and all-time hit king Pete Rose. There were six home runs hit in the game (tying an ASG record), all by future Hall of Famers. The answer to a great trivia question: Bench, Aaron, Clemente, Reggie, Frank Robinson and Killebrew.
The O's won the division again and this time swept the A's to win their third straight pennant. Powell hit two home runs off Catfish Hunter in Game Two, the first of 23 multi-homer games in ALCS history. While the ALCS has been around since 1969, the ALDS has also had 23 multi-homer games and that's only been played since 1995. Here are all 23 ALCS multi-homer games:
|Rk||Player||Date||Series ▴||Gm#||Tm||Opp||Rslt||PA||AB||R||H||2B||3B||HR||RBI||BB||SO||HBP||GDP||SB||WPA||BOP||Pos. Summary|
|1||Boog Powell||1971-10-04||ALCS||2||BAL||OAK||W 5-1||4||4||2||2||0||0||2||3||0||0||0||0||0||0.104||3||1B|
|2||Reggie Jackson||1971-10-05||ALCS||3||OAK||BAL||L 3-5||4||4||2||3||0||0||2||2||0||0||0||0||0||0.238||3||RF|
|3||Sal Bando||1973-10-07||ALCS||2||OAK||BAL||W 6-3||5||4||2||2||0||0||2||3||1||1||0||0||0||0.276||3||3B|
|4||Graig Nettles||1976-10-13||ALCS||4||NYY||KCR||L 4-7||4||4||2||2||0||0||2||3||0||1||0||0||0||0.146||6||3B|
|5||George Brett||1978-10-06||ALCS||3||KCR||NYY||L 5-6||5||5||3||3||0||0||3||3||0||0||0||0||0||0.301||1||3B|
|6||George Brett||1985-10-11||ALCS||3||KCR||TOR||W 6-5||4||4||4||4||1||0||2||3||0||0||0||0||0||0.482||3||3B|
|7||Gary Gaetti||1987-10-07||ALCS||1||MIN||DET||W 8-5||4||3||3||2||0||0||2||2||1||0||0||0||0||0.326||5||3B|
|8||Rickey Henderson||1989-10-07||ALCS||4||OAK||TOR||W 6-5||5||4||2||2||0||0||2||4||1||0||0||0||0||0.237||1||LF|
|9||Manny Ramirez||1995-10-11||ALCS||2||CLE||SEA||W 5-2||4||4||2||4||0||0||2||2||0||0||0||0||0||0.206||7||RF|
|10||Jay Buhner||1995-10-13||ALCS||3||SEA||CLE||W 5-2||5||5||2||2||0||0||2||4||0||1||0||0||0||0.387||6||RF|
|11||Darryl Strawberry||1996-10-12||ALCS||4||NYY||BAL||W 8-4||4||4||3||3||0||0||2||3||0||1||0||0||0||0.195||6||LF|
|12||Jim Thome||1998-10-09||ALCS||3||CLE||NYY||W 6-1||4||4||2||2||0||0||2||3||0||0||0||0||0||0.199||6||1B|
|13||Adam Kennedy||2002-10-13||ALCS||5||ANA||MIN||W 13-5||4||4||3||4||0||0||3||5||0||0||0||0||0||0.634||9||2B|
|14||Jason Giambi||2003-10-16||ALCS||7||NYY||BOS||W 6-5||5||5||2||2||0||0||2||2||0||1||0||0||0||0.018||7||DH|
|15||Hideki Matsui||2004-10-16||ALCS||3||NYY||BOS||W 19-8||6||6||5||5||2||0||2||5||0||0||0||0||0||0.265||4||LF|
|16||Johnny Damon||2004-10-20||ALCS||7||BOS||NYY||W 10-3||6||6||2||3||0||0||2||6||0||0||0||1||1||0.253||1||CF|
|17||Milton Bradley||2006-10-11||ALCS||2||OAK||DET||L 5-8||5||5||2||4||0||0||2||4||0||0||0||0||0||0.328||3||RF|
|18||Magglio Ordonez||2006-10-14||ALCS||4||DET||OAK||W 6-3||5||4||2||2||0||0||2||4||1||1||0||0||0||0.570||4||RF|
|19||Dustin Pedroia||2008-10-11||ALCS||2||BOS||TBR||L 8-9||6||5||4||3||0||0||2||2||1||1||0||0||0||0.449||2||2B|
|20||Josh Hamilton||2010-10-19||ALCS||4||TEX||NYY||W 10-3||5||5||2||2||0||0||2||2||0||0||0||0||0||0.004||3||CF|
|21||Nelson Cruz||2011-10-10||ALCS||2||TEX||DET||W 7-3||5||4||2||3||1||0||2||5||0||0||1||0||0||0.417||7||RF|
|22||Delmon Young||2011-10-13||ALCS||5||DET||TEX||W 7-5||3||3||2||2||0||0||2||3||0||0||0||0||0||0.167||5||LF|
|23||Miguel Cabrera||2011-10-15||ALCS||6||DET||TEX||L 5-15||4||4||2||2||0||0||2||2||0||2||0||0||0||0.080||3||1B|
He fell off in the World Series against the Pirates. He was 3-for-27 with no extra-base hits and only one RBI and the O's lost in seven games.
Boog's performance slipped a little bit over the next three seasons, averaging 120 games and 15 homers from 1972-74. He was still productive with a 127 OPS+ and Baltimore won the division twice. They lost both ALCS's in '73 and '74 to Oakland.
In spring training prior to the 1975 season, he and lefty reliever Don Hood were traded to Cleveland for catcher Dave Duncan and prospect Al McGrew. Duncan didn't do much in two seasons with Baltimore while Powell had a big resurgence with the Tribe.
Boog hit 27 homers (seventh in the AL) and slugged .524 (third in AL) with a 154 OPS+ (fourth in AL). For that return to power he was named the AL's Comeback Player of the Year.
1976 was a setback though as he hit only nine home runs in 95 games and was released right before the '77 season. The Dodgers picked him up a week later to be a pinch hitter, but he only mustered ten singles in 53 plate appearances and was released in August. His last major league appearance was a tenth-inning groundout against Goose Gossage of the Pirates.
Powell retired after 17 seasons. He hit 339 home runs, which was 31st on the all-time list in 1977 (now he's tied for 90th with Dave Parker and Tino Martinez). He garnered five votes on the 1983 Hall of Fame ballot in 1983 and fell off after getting only 1.3 percent.
Boog's closest comparables by similarity score include slugging Hall-of-Very-Good-type players like Gil Hodges, Frank Howard, Norm Cash, Rocky Colavito and Willie Horton.
Over the course of 13 seasons from 1963-75, Powell hit 315 home runs, trailing only Killebrew's 395 for the most in the American League.
His prime years from 1964-71 (ages 22-29), he averaged 27 homers, 93 RBIs and a 143 OPS+.
He's fifth on the all-time games played list in Orioles history. Four of the top five came up with the Baby Birds and are on the All-Time Bluefield Team (Cal Ripken, Mark Belanger, Eddie Murray). Brooks Robinson is second on the list as the only one in the top five that never played for Bluefield.
On the franchise home run list, only Ripken (431) and Murray (343) hit more for Baltimore than Powell's 303.
Perhaps Boog Powell's greatest contribution to the baseball world came off the field. On the Eutaw Street pedestrian walkway behind the right-field fence at Camden Yards, Boog runs an immensely popular and delicious barbecue stand.
This entry on Powell now completes the 25-man All-Time Bluefield roster. I did a rundown of the pitching staff at the end of my Storm Davis post and I'll do the same for the hitters here. Using the 13 position players, this is the lineup I'd use if this fictional team were real:
2B Bobby Grich
SS Cal Ripken
1B Eddie Murray
DH Boog Powell
LF Don Baylor
3B Doug DeCinces
RF David Dellucci vs. RH/C Gregg Zaun vs. LH
C Zaun vs. RH/ CF Luis Matos vs. LH
CF Matos vs. RH/RF Bob Bailor vs. LH
The top six of that batting order is outstanding. Ripken and Murray are Hall of Famers and the others were All-Stars. The bottom third isn't great, but at least there's some depth, like having Mark Belanger as your backup shortstop. John Shelby and Bob Bailor were excellent outfielders and can contribute defensively.
The average career bWAR for the starting nine is 38.1, the same exact total as Phil Rizzuto. That's within a win of Ken Singleton and higher than David Justice, Maury Wills, Hack Wilson, Jesse Barfield and Tim Salmon among others. If you take the three best seasons for each and average their bWAR, it's 4.9, which was totaled by All-Star catcher Alex Avila last year. Their five-year average is 4.3, which is the same total as Prince Fielder's last year.
Here are the 13 position players with their career bWAR, along with the average of their best three-year and five-year stretches in bWAR and their career OPS+. The bottom row averages the first three columns for only the nine "starters" and the average OPS+ for all 13 players:
|C||Gregg Zaun (s)||12.1||2.5||2||91|
|C||Johnny Gooch (s)||4.2||1.2||1||80|
|1B||Eddie Murray (s)||63.4||6.5||5.9||129|
|OF||John Shelby (s)||1.7||1.8||1.3||79|
Looking at the 1-6 portion of the lineup, the lowest career OPS+ among them is surprisingly Cal Ripken (112). Here are the teams since 1901 to have six or more qualified players with an OPS+ over 112:
|1||2009||New York Yankees||7||Robinson Cano / Johnny Damon / Derek Jeter / Hideki Matsui / Alex Rodriguez / Nick Swisher / Mark Teixeira|
|2||1932||New York Yankees||7||Samuel Byrd / Ben Chapman / Earle Combs / Bill Dickey / Lou Gehrig / Tony Lazzeri / Babe Ruth|
|3||2007||New York Yankees||6||Bobby Abreu / Robinson Cano / Derek Jeter / Hideki Matsui / Jorge Posada / Alex Rodriguez|
|4||2006||New York Yankees||6||Robinson Cano / Johnny Damon / Jason Giambi / Derek Jeter / Jorge Posada / Alex Rodriguez|
|5||2003||Boston Red Sox||6||Nomar Garciaparra / Bill Mueller / Trot Nixon / David Ortiz / Manny Ramirez / Jason Varitek|
|6||1982||California Angels||6||Rod Carew / Doug DeCinces / Brian Downing / Bobby Grich / Reggie Jackson / Fred Lynn|
|7||1981||California Angels||6||Don Baylor / Rick Burleson / Rod Carew / Brian Downing / Dan Ford / Bobby Grich|
|8||1978||Milwaukee Brewers||6||Sal Bando / Larry Hisle / Sixto Lezcano / Don Money / Ben Oglivie / Gorman Thomas|
|9||1977||Cincinnati Reds||6||Johnny Bench / Dan Driessen / George Foster / Ken Griffey / Joe Morgan / Pete Rose|
|10||1976||Cincinnati Reds||6||George Foster / Cesar Geronimo / Ken Griffey / Joe Morgan / Tony Perez / Pete Rose|
|11||1975||Cincinnati Reds||6||Johnny Bench / George Foster / Ken Griffey / Joe Morgan / Tony Perez / Pete Rose|
|12||1971||Baltimore Orioles||6||Don Buford / Davey Johnson / Boog Powell / Merv Rettenmund / Brooks Robinson / Frank Robinson|
|13||1969||Cincinnati Reds||6||Johnny Bench / Alex Johnson / Lee May / Tony Perez / Pete Rose / Bobby Tolan|
|14||1950||Boston Red Sox||6||Dom DiMaggio / Bobby Doerr / Walt Dropo / Billy Goodman / Vern Stephens / Al Zarilla|
|15||1949||Brooklyn Dodgers||6||Roy Campanella / Carl Furillo / Gil Hodges / Pee Wee Reese / Jackie Robinson / Duke Snider|
|16||1933||New York Yankees||6||Ben Chapman / Earle Combs / Bill Dickey / Lou Gehrig / Tony Lazzeri / Babe Ruth|
|17||1931||New York Yankees||6||Ben Chapman / Earle Combs / Bill Dickey / Lou Gehrig / Lyn Lary / Babe Ruth|
|18||1930||New York Yankees||6||Ben Chapman / Earle Combs / Bill Dickey / Lou Gehrig / Tony Lazzeri / Babe Ruth|
|19||1929||Philadelphia Athletics||6||Mickey Cochrane / Jimmy Dykes / Jimmie Foxx / Mule Haas / Bing Miller / Al Simmons|
|20||1919||New York Giants||6||George Burns / Hal Chase / Larry Doyle / Benny Kauff / Lew McCarty / Ross Youngs|
|21||1914||Philadelphia Athletics||6||Home Run Baker / Eddie Collins / Stuffy McInnis / Eddie Murphy / Wally Schang / Amos Strunk|
|22||1913||Philadelphia Athletics||6||Home Run Baker / Eddie Collins / Stuffy McInnis / Eddie Murphy / Rube Oldring / Amos Strunk|
|23||1911||New York Giants||6||Larry Doyle / Art Fletcher / Fred Merkle / Chief Meyers / Red Murray / Fred Snodgrass|
|24||1910||Boston Red Sox||6||Clyde Engle / Larry Gardner / Duffy Lewis / Tris Speaker / Jake Stahl / Heinie Wagner|
|25||1906||Cleveland Naps||6||Harry Bemis / Bunk Congalton / Elmer Flick / Nap Lajoie / Claude Rossman / Terry Turner|
|26||1902||Pittsburgh Pirates||6||Ginger Beaumont / Kitty Bransfield / Fred Clarke / Tommy Leach / Claude Ritchey / Honus Wagner|
25 of those 26 clubs had winning records (the 1981 Angels were 51-59 in a strike-shortened season). Overall, the 26 teams combined to finish 882 games above .500, on average that's 98-64 over a 162-game season. Six won the World Series and another five won the pennant.
It's been fun putting these together and learning about some of the former Bluefield players that did well in the major leagues. I'll do one more to select a manager and then my posts will be just about exclusively Bluefield Blue Jays-related with Opening Day just two weeks away.
|SP 1||Dean Chance|
|SP 2||Mike Boddicker|
|SP 3||Bill Monbouquette|
|SP 4||Pete Harnisch|
|SP 5||Storm Davis|