When Oriole Park at Camden Yards first opened, one of its more striking features was the constant flow of smoke from that green tent in the outfield. Games shown on ESPN would always include a shot of Eutaw Street next to the B&O warehouse, full of patrons waiting in line to shake Boog Powell’s hand and partake of some pit beef.
Boog’s Barbecue is usually featured on a top ten list of signature ballpark food items, and it’s frequently mentioned as a “can’t miss” part of visiting Camden Yards. People stand in line and meet the big fella, and then order a smoked beef or turkey sandwich covered with BBQ sauce and served with beans and cole slaw.
The culinary revolution at ballparks owes a lot to Boog Powell. After Camden Yards opened, for the first time, there was a popular food item at a ballpark besides the ubiquitous dog. Whether or not Boog’s Barbecue would have been a hit without the friendly local star shaking hands and signing autographs is hard to say, Boog’s place added an especially nice touch to an already spectacular ballpark.
The big power-hitting first baseman was a perfect choice to head a food stand at Baltimore’s new ballpark. He is not a Hall of Famer, and somehow one can’t imagine Cal Ripken or Brooks Robinson meeting fans every night. But he was certainly a great ballplayer, and every Orioles fan who was there in the late 60s and 70s knows who he is. Such stands featuring local stars are commonplace today especially in newer ballparks, but in 1992 this was a very unusual and interesting idea.
Since the success of Boog’s, the local baseball heroes who weren’t quite national superstars have places of their own, like Greg Luzinski in Philadelphia, Luis Tiant in Boston, Gorman Thomas in Milwaukee and Manny Sanguillen in Pittsburgh. It’s not that the Hall of Famers wouldn’t represent the team or the city as well, but these guys make the local fans feel like the team didn’t forget the lesser known names that were just as important to a team’s greatest moments.
The lines for Boog’s aren’t as long as they once were. In the 90s when Oriole Park was a very hot commodity and had a winning team on the field, the place sold out or nearly sold out every night, and plenty of folks waited in line for Boog’s autograph, even during the game. Today, while Camden Yards is still highly regarded, many Orioles fans have grown disgusted enough with 13 straight losing seasons and on especially slow nights, the once familiar smoke no longer wafts out from the green tent shortly after the game starts.
But Boog is still there, shaking hands and taking photos, and there’s now a Boog’s on the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland–advertised as the “Best Beef on The Beach – No Bull!”, a sly dig at Bull’s BBQ in Philly, perhaps?
Whatever, as long as he’s still at the Yard.