By Wayne Allen
The 10th Annual Portsmouth Murals Baseball Banquet was held Wednesday night at the Friends Community Center. The event is designed to bring together a number of current and past Major League Baseball officials and players to celebrate the regions rich baseball history.
The money raised at the banquet is used for maintenance and upkeep of the murals located along Front Street in Portsmouth.
“People continue to support the baseball banquet because they have the chance to rub elbows with major league (baseball) people,” said Bob Morton, President of Portsmouth Murals Inc.
This years keynote speaker was Branch Barrett Rickey, the grandson of Branch Rickey.
Rickey serves as President of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) since 1998. Prior to his time with the PCL, he served as the American Association League President from 1991-97. This follows several decades of involvement at the Major League level with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds, serving both clubs as director of player development.
Branch earned a philosophy degree from Ohio Wesleyan University. After graduation, he became a Peace Corps Volunteer, working in Venezuela for two years, before working as a Peace Corps Recruiter for several years after his return to the U.S.”
The Rickey name was recently brought to the national spotlight when the movie “42” was released earlier this year.
In 1942, Rickey moved to Brooklyn as president of the Dodgers and signed African-American baseball player Jackie Robinson to play for the Dodgers in 1947.
Robinson was the 1947 Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year, 1948 National League Most Valuable Player, six-time All-Star, and played for the Dodgers until 1956. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
Rickey died in 1965 and is buried in Rushtown Cemetery in Scioto County.
“Gene Bennett with the Cincinnati Reds always arranges the banquet speakers and he has again obtained an outstanding baseball personality to highlight the banquet. Bennett and Rickey have been friends for many years. Greg Gibson, last year’s banquet speaker and personal friend of Rickey helped persuade him to come to Portsmouth,” said Bob Morton, president of Portsmouth Murals Inc.
Morton said Gibson is an active Umpire in the Major League Baseball and is anticipated to be in attendance at this year banquet.
Al Oliver a Scioto County resident and former major league baseball player was among the many former Major League Baseball Players in attendance.
“It’s good that the community can come together for this common cause. They have done a great job with the upkeep of the murals, when I look at those murals it’s amazing,” Oliver said. “It’s good that everyone can come together and have a fun evening.”
Oliver said over the 10 years of the banquet he has only missed one year.
“I would not miss this for nothing and I’m glad to be apart of it,” Oliver said.
Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228 or on Twitter @WayneallenPDT