From blasts to BBQ, Bull feeds Phillies fans

From blasts to BBQ, Bull feeds Phillies fans

He was known for "Bull Blasts" at Veterans Stadium, including a home run that hit the Liberty Bell some 500 feet away in center field. He was among the first Phillies players to treat underprivileged kids to free seats, doing so through his "Bull Ring," which earned him the 1978 Roberto Clemente Award. Since Citizens Bank Park opened, he's been in the lineup every day in the outfield.

In Phillies lore, there is only one "Bull" -- Greg Luzinski, and his place isn't in left field any more, but behind Section 104, manning Bull's BBQ. Instead of playing, he's greeting fans and filling their bellies.

Luzinski is there for all home games, tucked in the corner right next to the big green structure that identifies Bull's BBQ. Baseball's largest grill is located up front next to a large smoker. Smoke billows from the grill, filling the air with the aroma of ribs.  

"In all the years we've been here, we've only had one complaint from a fan about the smoke," Luzinski said.  

During the design process of Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies and their concessionaire, Aramark, put a lot of thought into developing an outfield food court, an area that would eventually be called Ashburn Alley. Among the many amenities in Baltimore's Camden Yards was Boog's BBQ. Smoke revealed its right-field location. The Orioles had a burly first baseman named Boog Powell, and he was there every game. Since it was very successful, the Phillies decided to imitate that eatery with Bull's BBQ as the east end anchor to Ashburn Alley.

Ribs, pulled pork and half chickens were the original menu. "Being a spicy guy," in his words, Luzinski and Aramark came up with their own BBQ sauce.  

"It has a little bite to it, but that's the way I like it, "Luzinski said. "It's actually produced in 55-gallon drums in North Carolina and shipped up here to Hatfield's in gallon bottles. We use a lot of it."

At one time, smoked turkey legs were added to the menu.

"We had to stop serving them because fans thought the legs weren't cooked thoroughly," Luzinski said. "But when you smoke chicken or turkey, it is red looking, giving the wrong impression. WIP [the radio station] learned about the turkey legs being removed, started a campaign on the radio to have them put back on the menu. They've been there ever since."

Another menu addition is a Bull Dog, which is a foot-long kielbasa. Apparently the only item on the menu not labeled "Bull" are the baked beans.

"Not so sure 'Bull Beans' would sell," said Luzinski.  

Cole slaw, bags of Herr's potato chips, bottled water, soda and a variety of beer are also available. Fans file through two lines to load their trays and then munch while sitting on metal picnic tables, colored Phillies red, naturally.

The Bull arrives around 5:30 p.m. when the gates to Ashburn Alley open. Luzinski used to play all nine innings, but now he'll depart after the seventh. Aramark has a small souvenir area adjacent to the food area: caps of all sorts, color pictures of Luzinski as a player, his game jerseys and light blue Phillies T-shirts with his name and No. 19 on the back in white.  

The BBQ staff wears burgundy "Luzinski 19" shirts. Gail Pellicane is the supervisor. She's spent 23 years working for Aramark, first at Veterans Stadium and now with Bull.

"She's great. When a fan comes up with a complaint about the food or whatever, I send them to Gail," Luzinski said. "I played here for a long time, and really didn't realize that South Philly was really like a small town within a city. Everybody knows each other, and a lot of them work here."

Bull's station is a booth that resembles a place fans would buy tickets. There's a TV to Luzinski's right that is housed in a wooden doghouse-like structure. That's his connection to the game. He can hear the crowd roar but he is way too far from right-center field.  

"Can't even see the scoreboard, but the sunsets can be gorgeous," Luzinski said.

Luzinski is armed with an assortment of pens. Signing autographs, posing for pictures with fans, talking baseball, hugging children or elderly ladies. … It's all part of his game-day routine.

"People are outstanding," Luzinski said. "They love to talk baseball. Parents will bring their kids, 'When I was your age, this is the guy we loved to see play.' Makes me feel old."

Phillies have had cruises for fans in January and trips to different cities during the season. Luzinski and his wife, Jean, are part of the traveling party. Quite often, those fans will stop by Bull's BBQ to relive the good times they shared on the trips.  

During the season, Luzinski and Phillies PA announcer Dan Baker co-host a weekly one-hour radio show on WBWB of Levittown, Pa. Shows take place at various restaurants, yet another opportunity for the Bull to connect with the fans.  

As everyone knows, the Phillies had a five-year run of domination.  

"This place was always packed and filled with energy," Luzinski said. "It was something I'll always remember. There were so many fans over there [Section 104] that they blocked the concourse."

Bull proudly wears the 1980 World Series ring on his right hand and the one from 2008 on his left hand. Fans of all ages ask to see them, touch them and take pictures with cell phones.

With the Phillies in a rebuilding mode, success on the field has dwindled, as has attendance. Yet, Bull's BBQ keeps busy.  

"Last year I thought the fans were great," said Luzinski. "When they started playing better in the second half, you could feel energy in the park again. They liked seeing the young kids play. They wanted to talk about them, wanted to know what's coming in the Minors."

Does 81 home games mean eating BBQ 81 times?  

"I don't eat," Luzinski said. "I taste -- not just this, but other food in the Alley."

How does he sum up his business?  

"Good food," Luzinski said. "Lots of fun."

Finally, the most popular items, other than his autograph?

"Pulled pork is No. 1. Bull Dog next, and then ribs," Luzinski said.

Luzinski and Jean spend their winters in Florida. He'll be in uniform for Phantasy Camp in Clearwater, Fla., and later as a guest instructor for a week with the big league club. He'll also be part of a front-office group that entertains Phillies sponsors during their Spring Training weekend trips.

Come April, Luzinski is back north through another baseball season.

Larry Shenk is in charge of alumni relations and team historian for the Phillies. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.