Boog Powell was back in the national news recently when another Boog Powell—the Oakland A’s rookie who takes his nickname from the former O’s great—paid a visit to his renowned BBQ stand before a game.
The meeting of the Boogs got us thinking it was time to catch up with the 76-year-old former MVP, who famously liked to fire up his rowhouse backyard grill behind Memorial Stadium after home games as a ballplayer.
It’s impossible to measure the positive public relations Boog has generated for the O’s since their move to Camden Yards. As PressBox founder and publisher Stan “The Fan” Charles notes, several teams have tried to replicate the success of Boog’s BBQ, the Phillies, for example, with Greg “The Bull” Luzinski at Citizens Bank Park, but none compare to Boog’s success, which took everybody by surprise—including Boog—when he opened his stand on April 6, 1992.
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I guess the first question is—what did your namesake, the 24-year-old budding Oakland outfielder order when he stopped by?
We got him a real nice pork sandwich with a little mustard BBQ sauce—he said he didn’t like horseradish—and some onions.
Nice. He deserved it after nearly reaching the BBQ stand with his first career home run the night before. Whose idea was it to launch a BBQ stand at Camden Yards?
My idea. I’d tried to do it years earlier at Memorial Stadium, but we couldn’t find a place that would work—that people could get to. Then, a year before Camden Yards opened, I was playing golf with Bobby Footlick, of Bond Distributing, and Hugh Gallagher, who was with Aramark, which had the concession at the ballpark. Hugh and I were celebrating our good round over some drinks when I brought it up.
The bar, where all good ideas are born.
Well, I had been running a marina in Key West and they flew me up for meeting soon enough. They said: ‘What’s it going to take to get you out of Florida?’ I threw out a number.
You already had the recipes.
I had my own ideas about how I liked BBQ sauce. They put me with Camden Yards chef Russell Szekely and we further developed my dry rub. I like it spicy and we took some of the cayenne pepper out of it [laughs]. We kept it simple at first—pork and beef. We sold out on Opening Day. We were caught off guard. It just totally exceeded everybody’s expectations. We’ve could’ve done 10 times as much business that day.
What were the initial struggles?
We were just trying to figure how to handle the lines. It was a great problem to have, but I didn’t want people waiting in lines like they did.
Has anyone come by that stands out?
We’ve had everyone from astronauts to politicians. Donald Schaefer stopped by when he was governor and we shook hands. That was memorable for me. I was a big Donald Schaefer fan.
The main thing I do out there is to try to make people feel good about coming to the ballpark. We talk a little baseball and it never feels like work to me. The only hard part is the drive to the ballpark. I live in Grasonville.
You were known in your playing days for firing up your backyard rowhouse barbeque—you lived near Memorial Stadium—and eating and drinking beer pretty late with some of your teammates after games. Was that the start of all this?
Well, I’m from the South and that’s really where it all starts. But yes, I lived about five blocks from Memorial Stadium and my neighbors would occasionally complain about the noise—we might start at 11 p.m. and be outside until 2 a.m. We didn’t have to go to work in the morning, but they did [more laughter].
So, last question. What about future plans? Hopefully, you’re not retiring anytime soon.
“I’ve got three more years on my contract. I’ll be here until then, I hope. I’ll be 80. We’ll see after that. I’ll be a free agent. I guess, I deserve that after all these years.