As El Gordo, Boog didn't deliver

John Staedman

December 28, 1992|By John Steadman

All was in readiness for the grand celebration. Famil members and friends had been alerted to keep the date open on their social calendars. A formal invitation would be forthcoming. John "Boog" Powell had promised to make us rich. It wasn't something born of a dream since there were countless witnesses throughout Maryland to what he was saying.

The only requirement was an investment in the Maryland Lottery, an intriguing game with an imaginative new twist called El Gordo. Powell made it sound automatic. Yes, we'd be an instant millionaire. In fact, ten times over. A total of $10 million was within easy reach.

From past experience, the reputation "Boog" has earned for credibility is first-rate. When he tells you something it's legit. Take a ticket on it -- even when engaging in the precarious business of playing the lottery.

We asked Powell if he had any "inside" information to support the belief El Gordo offered a fat opportunity to become independently wealthy. Admittedly, it would have been a strange circumstance for a mere sportswriter to be the recipient of such a bounty but, yes, "Boog" said it was indeed possible.

Maybe we reacted prematurely, but our intention was to share the good fortune of such a pleasing windfall by utilizing the prize money to pay for a momentous victory party. Just about everyone we ever knew, going back to when we carried golf bags as a caddy and then worked in Kerr's Potato Chip factory, would be there. The old neighborhood, Blessed Sacrament School, Clifton Park Junior High and City College would be represented.

Men and women from newspapers, radio-TV stations, the National Football League and even some once-upon-a-time teammates, dating to a brief interlude as a minor-league baseball player, had been alerted. They would be coming in from San Francisco, Dallas, Nashville, Coral Gables, Fla., Old Greenwich, Conn., and Jessup, Pa.

Most of them were eager to travel and sent word their bags had been packed. They wanted, especially, to come to Baltimore, to see Babe Ruth's birthplace and, if time allowed, the Washington Monument, Fort McHenry, Edgar Allan Poe's grave and the Wells-McComas Statue.

Singers Dave Hardin, Ronnie Dove and Bobbie Martin were to perform at the gala. Garth Brooks, Lori Morgan and Bill Anderson had schedule conflicts but were attempting to make changes. There was a remote chance Elvis and Hank Williams Sr. would at least send greetings even if they couldn't be there.

The humongous personality, "Boog" himself, planned to be present to greet all the guests of the happy winner. In case you didn't recognize him, he'd be wearing sombrero, poncho, bandoleers, chaps, boots and carrying $10 million in gold bullion. He would, of course, under the conditions, be afforded a momentous welcome.

During his career with the Baltimore Orioles, Powell, the slugging first baseman, was a joy to behold. He was always giving away autographs and Chesapeake Bay hard crabs, steamed in his secret seasoning, to friends and neighbors. Never, once, did he ask for remuneration or even a free lottery ticket. He was a walking-around Santa Claus 12 months of the year.

At one point, we entered into a business deal with Powell that became costly. An effort had been made to mate a crab with a sea cow. But nothing happened. It was a losing proposition. Shortly thereafter, when Powell's name was nominated for the Most Valuable Player award in 1970, he pleaded we not cast a vote in his behalf. He said he didn't want friendship to influence the outcome of the election but he won in a romp.

Again, Powell was being self-effacing. Then when he began going on television and radio making assurances he wanted to "make us rich" we took him literally. We bought the would-be lucky ticket in Hagerstown, the night after Thanksgiving. Why Hagerstown? To divert any aspersions that might be cast and to keep it from looking like some kind of a hometown decision when our name was announced.

Before any of the $10 million was to be spent, equal contributions would be allocated to Jewish, Protestant and Catholic charities. "Boog" cheered this as an excellent idea. The party where the money would be utilized for the celebration would start in Baltimore. At an appropriate time, the entire guest list would be airlifted to Tolchester, or Spain, where Powell thoughtfully agreed to act as the interpreter if there was a need.

With the bulk of the $10 million to be spent on the festivities, there would be adequate food, drink and lodging, plus gifts to take home, such as automobiles, yachts, campers, surfboards, skis, golf clubs, fishing gear and even toasters and waffle irons. But, alas, none of this is to come to pass.

It became a numbers game. That's what beat us. Our ticket was 0176096. The winning seven digit figure was 2185023. So we missed by a mere 2,008,927. Powell's explanation for the defeat is we should have waited and calculated a more propitious moment to make the buy.

Since we couldn't read the computer's mind, there's no other alternative than to call off the party. He claims he can get us even diving for sunken treasure off Key West.

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