It was nearing the end of the 1969 season when the two titans of the American League, John Wesley “Boog” Powell (at 6’ 4” and 230 lbs.) and Frank “Hondo” Howard (at 6’ 7”, 260 lbs) couldn’t agree. Over beers in a Washington, DC pub, The Hungry Lion, on a hot August night, they were ready to come to blows. The Baltimore Orioles were just up the road playing their rivals the Washington Senators. The Senators won 7-6. Both Howard and Powell slugged two home runs each and when all was said and done, the two friends retired to their favorite watering hole to share a good time.
As the story goes, they pounded 13 beers each, could barely stand and were ready to come to fisticuffs when a mutual friend, John Sprague, stepped in and broke the two pickled behemoths up. Sprague suggested the two step into the squared circle to settle their differences with a wrestling match. They agreed but Sprague thought it was all drunken chatter and would be forgotten the next day. That was not the case.
The following day, a day off for both players, they each called Sprague and asked to set up the match. He would build the hype and both Howard and Powell thought that maybe they could each earn a little money. Smith had some connections and before you knew it the two physically biggest players in major league baseball were all set to wrestle in our nation’s capitol at the old 9:30 Club (a rock venue!) on a Saturday in October following the baseball season (since neither team was in playoff contention).
They scoffed when asked what their training regimen would be. Training regimen?! “I’ll see if I can drink more beer each night!” snorted Howard while Powell concurred, “This gut will be no smaller by fight time.” Finally the night came. In the front row at the club ready to watch these two heavies rip each other’s heads off was their biggest fan, Yogi Berra, as well as plenty of hard-working, blue collar Washingtonians ready for a night of hard drinking and pure entertainment. Most thought that Howard, by his sheer size alone, would get the job done. The match was one fall and set to be 60 minutes. Someone was going to come out a winner and someone a loser.
The bell rang. The two came out and shook hands and the grappling began. Both were wearing the sleeveless wrestling suit (you know the kind), Hondo’s was black while Boog’s was a shade of red brighter than his hair with white stripes. With Powell facing the crowd and raising his hands and accepting the cheers, Howard sucker punched him, knocking him to the mat. The boos began to rain down on Howard but he didn’t seem to care. He threw out some vulgar hand gestures to the fans which made them boo even louder. Powell, meanwhile, was slow to get up and a cut had opened on the back of his head where Hondo had clocked him.
Hondo shouted in his ear, “Hey Boog, I nailed your old lady last night!” and then put a few well-meaning kicks into Powell’s left ribs. Powell got to his feet and with the crowd chanting “Boog! Boog! Boog!” Powell raised his hands as a show of force and was recharged. He went after Howard shouting, “You always were a crude sumbitch, Hondo!” before first getting him into a headlock and then tossing him off the ropes and giving him a clothesline maneuver which laid Howard flat on his back. Powell then whispered “Nighty night” in his ear and dropped a few atomic skull crushers onto Howard’s head while he was still down on the mat.
At that point Howard’s manager, Ted Williams came into the ring with a chair, attempting to blast Boog with it but Powell caught the chair in mid-swing, turned the tables and nailed Williams on the head while the crowd, led by Boog’s manager, the feisty Earl Weaver, roared with approval. Blood streamed down Howard’s forehead. He pleaded with Powell not to hit him anymore and in a moment of pity Howard kicked Boog right in the groin, sending Powell to his knees. Howard went to work on Powell with a series of punches, chops and kicks. Powell, down and nearly out, gathered up all of the strength he had and came back, thwapping Howard with a series of punches and kicks. With Howard down, Boog pounded Howard with a powerful knee right to Howard’s neck. Boog then did the seemingly unthinkable, he climbed up to the top rope and, while the crowd was going bananas, leaped off the rope with a knee to Howard’s skull. The crowd was loving it, seeing the suddenly unfair and dirty Howard get his just desserts. Then, pulling off a finishing move as if he invented it, Powell scooped up Howard attempting to body slam him.
Powell struggled at first, but the crowd chanted and he slowly lifted his opponent. Finally, he had Howard up over his head, blurted out, “I’m buyin’ the beers tonight, Frank,” and then tossed him down with a ferocious body slam. Powell climbed on top of a stunned, dazed and defeated Howard while the ref did the three-count. Powell was victorious!
The match was over, Boog was victorious and the crowd continued chanting “Boog! Boog! Boog!” Howard and Williams sat in the corner of the ring, dazed and astonished. The classier Powell walked past them on his way out of the ring and extended his hand. Howard refused and the two baseball titans never spoke again.
Tim Hinely wishes he was the referee for the Boog/Hondo fight. And he still lives in Portland, Oregon. And still publishes DAGGER zine.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
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