Bob Baumhower — From Killer B To Bimini Bob
By Michael Vatalaro
Boating is in my blood," says five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman turned restaurateur Bob Baumhower. "My mom's family were shrimpers in the Outer Banks, and my dad was in the Navy." Throughout his life, Baumhower never strayed too far from the water. Born on the Chesapeake Bay in Portsmouth, Virginia, his family moved to a town just outside Toledo, Ohio, near the shores of Lake Erie, where he learned to fish for walleye and pickerel. "We moved to South Florida when I was a freshman in high school," says Baumhower, "and I'd fish out of Palm Beach inlet all the time." Somewhere along the way, he spent at least a little time on land, enough to land a spot on the University of Alabama's football team, coached at that time by Paul "Bear" Bryant. Two SEC championships and 246 tackles later with the Crimson Tide, he was drafted by the Miami Dolphins, for whom he played for 10 years (1977-1986) as a member of the "Killer B" defense. He still holds the team's single-season record for tackles by a defensive lineman.
"I bought a 28-foot John Allmand during my second year with the Dolphins. Richard Todd, who played for the Jets, asked me to take it to Bimini to go diving. I fell in love with the islands and the people, and spent as much time as I could there. Richard Todd also got me into the restaurant business. He and Joe Namath opened a restaurant in Miami called Bachelor's III; I was more of an investor." Shortly afterward, former Dolphin linebacker Steve Towle introduced Baumhower to the concept of Buffalo chicken wings. Baumhower thought he was crazy until he saw the line out the door. Baumhower soon took the concept home to Alabama, opening his first restaurant on the strip in Tuscaloosa at the University of Alabama. "After football, I was either going to be a boat broker or try to make the wings thing happen."
Over the next three decades, he's added 13 more restaurants of various themes — two based on his love of the islands, the Compleat Angler grills, and Bimini Bob's, which opened at The Wharf in Orange Beach, Alabama. The Compleat Angler restaurant, named after the Bimini hotel where Ernest Hemingway was a guest when he spent two years on the island, is hung with photos from Bimini, fishing, and fellow football players, and Hemingway memorabilia. During those years, he also worked through a series of boats from a 65-foot cockpit motoryacht to a Forest Johnson Prowler called PT-73. "Everybody thought it meant Pro-Tackle 73, my number, but it was a 'McHale's Navy' reference," says Baumhower. However, in the early '90s, he took a break from boating, selling a 53 Hatteras named after his wife, Leslie Marie.
"I've got four kids, 21 and under, and for years they've been bugging me. 'Dad, why'd you sell all the cool stuff?' I've been working hard to get back to where I could keep a boat again." About a year ago he took the plunge, with a 1973 Huckins Sportsman that he keeps in Ft. Lauderdale, also named Leslie Marie. "We went back to Bimini for the first time last summer, and I loved it," says Baumhower.
— Published: December 2013
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