Okay, I've never posted a vintage card except for Fridays, but this is a special occasion. This morning, I took a trip to Rosedale Federal. I don't usually spend my weekends hanging out at banks, but I'd gotten word from my eagle-eyed mother that Boog Powell, Tom Matte, and the Oriole Bird were schedule to appear from 11 am to 1 pm as part of an open house celebrating the organization's 100th anniversary. I was sure to arrive promptly at 11:00, and was relieved to see that the line was relatively short, stretching only to the door. The Bird was making his way down the line to mug for the crowd and sign autographs while we waited for our moments with the two retired athletes. I had him sign this hat, which I plan on raffling off this week on my website (details to come later). The mascot took one look at his own likeness on the hat, and kissed it several times while whistling appreciatively. (The Bird speaks only in a series of short whistles, but he's a very gifted communicator.)
Boog and Tom were sitting at the same table, so you could save time by getting autographs from each of them in turn. When I got to the front of the line, Matte was free for the moment, so I handed him my old Baltimore Colts pennant. He signed it, "Tom Matte, Baltimore Colts 41", with a blue Sharpie. We chatted a bit about the Ravens: He likes their chances vs. Cleveland tomorrow, but thinks the schedule will be tougher after that. Obviously, he says that injuries will be a big factor throughout the season. I talked about how impressed I was with the offensive playcalling in Week 1, and he agreed that new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was a good guy for the job. He also suggested that ex-coach Brian Billick "wouldn't know offense if it bit him..." before trailing off. At that point, Boog piped up, wondering aloud why more football teams don't run the ball behind an unbalanced offensive line. Matte agreed: "Christ, I ran behind an unbalanced line in high school and averaged 11 yards a carry!".
Now I had my audience with Boog. I produced the 1965 Topps card above, since I'm trying to complete the set and I thought it would be neat to have at least one autograph included. As he made it out to me, I picked his brain about the photo. I wanted to know if he'd ever actually worn #8 in the regular season. "Never," he replied. He suggested that they'd handed it to him for about two hours on the first day of Spring Training, so probably just long enough for the photo shoot. In my research for the NumerOlogy site, he'd also been connected to #30, but he insisted that he'd only worn #16 and #26. He had started in #16 in 1962 (since he played just 4 games in 1961, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt), but the following season outfielder Al Smith joined the team from the White Sox. As Boog related to me, Smith had worn #16 for most of his ten-year career, and "who was I to say he couldn't have it?". So it was that Powell switched to the #26 that became his trademark. "Of course if it happened today, he'd have to give me $100,000", he chuckled.
Ever the enterprising webmaster, I offered a quick plug for my site, which actually elicited a request for the hulking former first baseman. "If you're one of those 'web freaks' (a term that I've never heard, but I'll have to adopt as a badge of honor), maybe you can look something up. See who's hit the most home runs by a left-handed hitter in Yankee Stadium." Apparently, several Yankee fans have approached Boog suggesting that he himself holds this honor (presumably for visiting players), but he's never heard it repeated by the local media. So I assured him that if it were so, I would spread the word. But based on my crack research, he's tied with Reggie Jackson for second. They each hit 22 longballs as visitors in The House That Ruth Built. The leader, as near as I can tell? Rafael Palmeiro, who passed Boog and Reggie with a three-run shot off of Javier Vazquez in September 2004. His 23rd Yankee Stadium home run would be his last.
So: sorry, Boog. But there's no shame in being Number Two, especially when you still top lefty Yankee Killers like Carl Yastrzemski and Ken Griffey, Jr.
P.S.: For what it's worth, Powell's 41 home runs total against the Yankees were the most he hit against any opponent.