Famous for Something Else: Charlie Powell, the minor-leaguer with 83 NFL games and a fight against Ali

Today’s “Famous for Something Else” is one who I honestly am surprised I hadn’t heard of until recently: Charlie Powell. After all, I doubt that there were any other former minor leaguers who had the honor of getting knocked out by Muhammad Ali. And even if there were (and if there were I will find out), I doubt any of them also played several seasons in the NFL.

Charlie (sometimes spelled Charley) Powell, however, did all of these things. Born in Dallas in 1932, he would grow up in San Diego. His was in an athletic family, and his brother Art would go on to be one of the lead receivers in the American Football League of the 1960s. According to the Los Angeles Times, Charlie’s time at San Diego High School was to that point perhaps the most decorated student-athlete career in the history of the city, as he lettered 12 times in four different sports (football, baseball, basketball, and track). The Harlem Globetrotters and major college football programs wanted to him to join up, but instead he decided to go into professional baseball.

It was a season that, as the Times obituary put it, left him “realizing his sporting riches would be elsewhere.” Looking at the admittedly bare-bones stats of that lone short season in Stockton that Baseball Reference has, it isn’t hard to see why:

Register Batting
Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
1952 20 -2.6 Stockton CALL C SLB 10   30   5 0 0 0           .167   .167   5          
All Levels (1 Season)       10 30 30   5 0 0 0           .167   .167   5          
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/24/2021.

And so, Powell instead went into football, joining the 49ers in time for the 1952 season at the age of 20, making him the youngest NFL player at that time. In 1953, he had his first boxing match, drawing with a fighter named Fred Taylor in Hollywood.

As evidenced by the fact he’s the subject of an installment of this series, it should be obvious he had far more luck on the gridiron and in the ring than he ever did on the diamond. Although his statistics from his time in the NFL are a bit hazy due to some less-than-stellar record-keeping during that era as well as the fact that some statistics (such as sacks) weren’t even officially recognized yet, anecdotally it is said that Powell once sacked Bobby Layne (himself someone you may see in a future installment of this series) ten times in one game. To put that into perspective, the most sacks in a single game from an era where NFL record-keeping existed well enough where we can be sure is seven.

Here are the NFL statistics for Powell that we do know:

Defense & Fumbles Table
          Game Game Def Def Def Def Fumb Fumb Fumb Fumb  
Year Age Tm Pos No. G GS Int Yds TD Lng Fmb FR Yds TD Sfty
1952 20 SFO RDE 87 7 7                 1
1953 21 SFO LDE 87 12 10         1 1 0 0  
1955 23 SFO RDE 87 12 7 0 7 0 7 0 1 0 0  
1956 24 SFO RDE 87 12 11                  
1957 25 SFO RLB 87 12 8         0 1 3 0  
1960 28 OAK RDE 87 14 14                  
1961 29 OAK RDE 87 14 14                  
Care Care       83 71 0 7 0 7 1 3 3 0 1
5 yr 5 yr SFO     55 43 0 7 0 7 1 3 3 0 1
2 yr 2 yr OAK     28 28                  
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/24/2021.

Perhaps Charlie Powell’s most interesting athletic career, however, came in the ring. In 39 career bouts, Powell went 25-11-3, with 17 of his victories coming by knockout.

He was, according to my research, a legitimate heavyweight fighter, not some sideshow coasting on his achievement in football. According to his obituary, he once was rated the fourth-best in the world by The Ring magazine. His brother Art and a promoter named Don Chagrin both say that he could have been even more successful if he had had better management and had focused entirely on boxing. In fact, he himself admitted it later in life.

Still, he had some great success. In 1959, he defeated the Cuban Nino Valdes, who at the time looked like a possible challenger to then-champion Floyd Patterson. A few years later, he would step into the ring against a young hotshot with a big mouth but the talent to back it up, a man then called Cassius Clay but later known as Muhammad Ali.

The Jan. 24, 1963 match-up in Pittsburgh was over quick. Clay declared before the fight that he’d beat Powell in three rounds, and, of course, he did just that, winning by KO. According to a newspaper account from the time, Clay declared himself the “greatest” and then went to badmouthing future opponents, including then-champion Sonny Liston, who he said he hoped to unseat by the next November and who he categorized as being neither as fast or as rough as Powell, who he complimented in his own Ali-like way:

“Powell was rough. They couldn’t call him a push-over. I was concentrating on three. The man was strong for two. He’s the roughest fighter I’ve met yet for three rounds.”

That wouldn’t be the end of Charlie Powell’s boxing career, however, as he would fight six more times after that, perhaps most notably a six-round loss against Floyd Patterson in 1964 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in Puerto Rico. Hiram Bithorn, of course, is most notably used for the sport that Powell began his professional sports career in: baseball.

Powell died on Sept. 1, 2014 after a years-long battle with dementia. He was 82. Although his brother believed that his dementia was the result of his years on the gridiron and in the ring, he had never joined any of the major lawsuits against the NFL.

(2016 Blogathon!) Famous For Something Else: Eddy Alvarez, Silver Medal Speed Skater

This post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.

This “Famous For Something Else” is notable because the player in question has a chance of maybe one day becoming best known for baseball. It’s Eddy Alvarez, a middle-infielder in the White Sox organization who won a silver medal in the 5000 meter relay in short track speed skating at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He’s hit very well, but the fact he’s two to four years older than most people in the leagues he is in probably hurts his chances. Still, you never know.

Here are his stats:

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF
2014 24 3.6 2 Teams 2 Lgs Rk-A CHW 45 210 182 32 63 11 1 5 26 9 10 27 34 .346 .433 .500 .933 91 4 1 0 0
2014 24 4.4 White Sox ARIZ Rk CHW 27 130 110 20 32 5 1 2 12 5 6 20 24 .291 .400 .409 .809 45 3 0 0 0
2014 24 2.5 Kannapolis SALL A CHW 18 80 72 12 31 6 0 3 14 4 4 7 10 .431 .488 .639 1.126 46 1 1 0 0
2015 25 3.2 2 Teams 2 Lgs A-A+ CHW 123 553 450 88 133 29 7 5 53 53 15 88 85 .296 .409 .424 .834 191 8 2 8 5
2015 25 3.5 Kannapolis SALL A CHW 89 410 330 64 94 23 6 2 39 42 8 69 68 .285 .408 .409 .818 135 8 2 6 3
2015 25 2.4 Winston-Salem CARL A+ CHW 34 143 120 24 39 6 1 3 14 11 7 19 17 .325 .411 .467 .878 56 0 0 2 2
All Levels (2 Seasons) 168 763 632 120 196 40 8 10 79 62 25 115 119 .310 .416 .446 .862 282 12 3 8 5
A (2 seasons) Minors 107 490 402 76 125 29 6 5 53 46 12 76 78 .311 .421 .450 .872 181 9 3 6 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/27/2016.

At 2 AM: Baseball Card Haiku

This post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.

Famous for Something Else: Danny Kanell

A College Football analyst and radio co-host on ESPN who had started at QB for Florida State and who played in the NFL and Arena Football League (usually as a back-up), Danny Kanell was drafted in the 24th round of the 1995 Draft by the Yankees. While he would go on to choose football, he later would have a brief stint in independent ball in 2001 for Newark of the Atlantic League:

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
2001 27 -1.5 Newark ATLL Ind 25 79 76 11 18 2 2 1 6 2 1 3 24 .237 .266 .355 .621 27 2 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/3/2015.

Kanell remains somewhat involved with baseball at ESPN, occasionally commenting on games during his appearances and sometimes even serving as a color commentator for college baseball games on the networks of ESPN.

Famous For Something Else: Will Ferrell

For April Fool’s Day, here are the statistics for Will Ferrell from his “Every Position In One Day” charity stunt:

Year Tm Age POS G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB OppQual
2015 OAK 48 SS 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0 0
2015 SEA 48 2B 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0 0
2015 LAA 48 CF 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0 0
2015 CHC 48 3Bc/PH/1B 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0 0
2015 ARI 48 LF 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0 0
2015 CIN 48 3B 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0 0
2015 CHW 48 DH 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0 0
2015 SFG 48 C 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0 0
2015 LAD 48 P 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0 0
2015 SDP 48 RF 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/1/2015.
Year Tm Age GS W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W OppQual
2015 LAD 48 0 0 0 0.00 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0.000 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/1/2015.

In other April Fool’s Day news, check out how Baseball Reference has added a feature to add a ‘stache, afro or beard to any player picture.

Really, is there anything that that site doesn’t do?

Famous For Something Else: Bill Murray, American Treasure

Due to other stories I’m working on, there will be no BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE this weekend. Apologies. Instead, here’s a Famous For Something Else that I’ve been meaning to put up.

Bill Murray, member of the early days of SNL, star of Ghostbusters, Caddyshack, Groundhog Day, Stripes, Lost In Translation and all-around cool guy, was, ever so briefly, a professional baseball player.  He played for the independent Northwest League Grays Harbor Loggers in 1978 in-between SNL gigs, partly for a “what I did over summer vacation” segment for the show. The crazy tale is recounted here in a Oral History put together by Rob Neyer. And here are the stats of the player who Baseball Reference has recorded as “William Murray“:

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB HBP SH SF
1978 28 6.7 Grays Harbor NORW A- 2 2 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 1 0 0 0
1 Season 2 2 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 1 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/1/2015.

Bill Murray. Ballplayer. Nobody would ever believe it, and yet it happened.

Murray remains involved with baseball to this day, owning stakes in a few independent clubs.

For Super Bowl Weekend: “Famous For Something Else” Football Players

Here are the previous “Famous For Something Else” installments about players who dabbled in baseball but who are more famous for playing (or coaching) football:

Urban Meyer

Herman Wedemeyer (also an actor)

Ernie Nevers

Russell Wilson

Vic Janowicz

Jim Thorpe (also, perhaps most famously, an Olympian)

George Halas

Josh Booty

John Lynch

John Elway

Ricky Williams

 

There are, of course, still others who have played both baseball and football, and they will be covered in future “Famous For Something Else” installments!

 

 

FAMOUS FOR SOMETHING ELSE: Kevin Johnson, NBA Star and Sacramento Mayor

Kevin Johnson is the current mayor of Sacramento, and was also a three-time All-Star for the Phoenix Suns. But he also briefly had a baseball career of two games in 1986 in the Athletics organization:

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB HBP SH SF IBB
1986 20 -2.5 Modesto CALL A OAK 2 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
1 Season 2 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/17/2015.

And now you know!

Famous For Something Else: NBA Ref David Guthrie

David Guthrie is a referee in the National Basketball Association. But before he was a ref on the hardwood, he played hardball in the Reds organization. Drafted in the 26th round of the 1995 draft out of NC State, Guthrie played infield positions from 1995 to 1998. Although he never hit well, he did reach AA by the end of his career:

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
1995 21 1.1 Princeton APPY Rk CIN 55 207 181 28 37 11 0 0 13 7 1 18 41 .204 .286 .265 .551 48 4 3 4 1 1
1996 22 1.4 Billings PION Rk CIN 48 219 181 45 41 6 3 4 28 10 1 26 48 .227 .343 .359 .702 65 4 7 3 2 0
1997 23 1.5 Charleston WV SALL A CIN 73 264 233 27 50 7 2 3 26 6 2 20 75 .215 .295 .300 .595 70 5 7 3 1 0
1998 24 -0.1 Chattanooga SOUL AA CIN 67 225 203 23 39 5 4 0 9 1 1 16 58 .192 .261 .256 .517 52 3 3 3 0 0
4 Seasons 243 915 798 123 167 29 9 7 76 24 5 80 222 .209 .296 .294 .590 235 16 20 13 4 1
Rk (2 seasons) Rk 103 426 362 73 78 17 3 4 41 17 2 44 89 .215 .315 .312 .627 113 8 10 7 3 1
A (1 season) A 73 264 233 27 50 7 2 3 26 6 2 20 75 .215 .295 .300 .595 70 5 7 3 1 0
AA (1 season) AA 67 225 203 23 39 5 4 0 9 1 1 16 58 .192 .261 .256 .517 52 3 3 3 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/9/2015.

By the way, the players who Guthrie was drafted before in the 1995 draft and signed a contract include Pedro Feliciano, Justin Speier, and Gabe Kapler.

Famous for Something Else Repost: Urban Meyer

Today, Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes will play in the Sugar Bowl in an attempt to reach the College Football Playoff Championship Game. So, here’s a repost of his famous for something else post.

Did you know that Urban Meyer, head coach of Ohio State’s football team and former coach of the Florida Gators, had a brief minor league career? It’s true! He played two seasons in the low minors in the Braves organization.

Here are his stats:

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB HBP SH SF IBB
1982 17 -2.9 Braves GULF Rk ATL 20 61 53 6 9 0 2 0 5 1 2 6 9 .170 .267 .245 .512 13 1 1 0 0
1983 18 -2.0 2 Teams 2 Lgs Rk ATL 24 77 57 13 11 2 0 1 6 1 1 16 15 .193 .365 .281 .646 16 0 3 1 0
1983 18 -2.4 Pulaski APPY Rk ATL 15 41 32 8 8 2 0 1 4 0 0 8 9 .250 .400 .406 .806 13 0 1 0 0
1983 18 -1.5 Braves GULF Rk ATL 9 36 25 5 3 0 0 0 2 1 1 8 6 .120 .324 .120 .444 3 0 2 1 0
2 Seasons 44 138 110 19 20 2 2 1 11 2 3 22 24 .182 .321 .264 .585 29 1 4 1 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/20/2014.

Now, as you can see, he didn’t do very good, but, according to a recent episode of Real Sports, it was a defining moment for him. Frustrated by his struggles, he told his father he was going to quit and come home, enraging his father, who told him that he would have no losers in his family. This would fuel a long obsession with winning that would define his career for years and ended up forcing his family to have him sign a contract to make sure he didn’t essentially abandon them for coaching.

One interesting thing to note, by the way, is that Urban Meyer played alongside Ron Gant and Mark Lemke during his 1983 stint in the Gulf Coast League.

So, anyway… now you know!

Famous For Something Else: Herman Wedemeyer (College Football HOFer and ‘Hawaii Five-O” Actor)

Herman Wedemeyer was a All-American football player at St. Mary’s College and would later go on to be elected to College Football’s Hall of Fame. He also played two years of professional football and was a politician in his native Hawaii- where he also dabbled in acting, appearing as “Duke” Lukela in 143 episodes of the original Hawaii Five-O.

However, he also had a brief baseball career, playing in 15 games in 1950 for Sal Lake City in the Pioneer League, where he played alongside future MLB player Mike Baxes and also Wally Yonamine, who would be the first American to play in Japan after WWII.

Here are his stats:

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev G AB H 2B 3B HR BA SLG TB
1950 26 2.8 Salt Lake City PION C 15 48 12 0 1 0 .250 .292 14
1 Season 15 48 12 0 1 0 .250 .292 14
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/6/2014.