By Frank Lewis
The memory of Scioto County native Branch Rickey, best known for breaking the color barrier in baseball by signing the great Jackie Robinson to a Major League Contract, is about to receive another honor
State Representative Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) announced Thursday that legislation containing a provision naming a stretch of U.S. 23 after the baseball legend, has passed both chambers of the legislature and is on its way to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.
House Bill 483 was agreed to by both chambers of the General Assembly Wednesday and wraps up a two year effort by Johnson to memorialize the former Dodgers’ manager by naming U.S. 23 between the corporation limits of Lucasville and Portsmouth in his honor. The road will be called the “Branch Rickey Memorial Highway.”
“I’m happy we finally got this done,” Johnson said. “A lot of times, something you think would be slam dunk bill that should be easy to pass gets bogged down in the legislative process. What really made the difference was the help of Al Oliver and Gene Bennett who testified in support of the bill during the committee process this time around. Branch is a tremendous source of pride for Scioto County, and he is well deserving of this honor.”
One of Portsmouth’s favorite sons, former Major League great Al Oliver, himself an 18 year veteran with a lifetime batting average of .303, was also happy to hear about the honor.
“This couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy,” Oliver said. “What he meant, what he did for young African Americans like me is incredibly important. Without Branch Rickey, I wouldn’t have been able to have a career as a major league baseball player. It couldn’t have happened.”
Rickey was the manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945 when he made the decision to sign Jackie Robinson, breaking the long standing race barrier to which the MLB had adhered. He went on to become a prominent civil rights spokesman. He was recently portrayed by Harrison Ford in the Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures film “42.”
House Bill 483 now goes to the Governor’s desk for his signature.
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 252, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.