Last updated: July 24. 2013 2:22PM - 548 Views

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Bob Strickley

PDT Content Manager

Baseball royalty and passionate fans gathered for the Annual Portsmouth Murals Baseball Banquet Wednesday evening at the SOMC Life Center.

Local former players Al Oliver and Don Gullett and Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy were among the baseball greats in attendance.

The annual banquet benefits Portsmouth Murals Inc. and the ongoing efforts to maintain the floodwall murals that feature Portsmouth’s history and also much of its sports history.

Robert Morton, Portsmouth Murals Inc. President, addressed the gathered baseball dignitaries and patrons on the importance of maintaining the murals.

“The reason for holding our banquet is to raise money for new murals and for maintenance of the ones we have,” Morton said.

Morton also recognized members of the family of Branch Rickey and of former baseball scout Billy Doyle before opening the banquet and welcoming the guests.

Absent from the occasion was former Reds front office member, Wheelersburg native and local baseball institution Gene Bennett. Portsmouth Murals representative Bill Warnock explained to the guests that Bennett’s absence was due to his wife’s illness.

“I think we need to remember the Bennett family in our all of our prayers,” Warnock said. “Loretta (Bennett) is special to me and my family. She was one of my mother’s best friends and God bless the Bennett family this evening.”

Oliver then gave the invocation, asking for those in attendance to keep the Bennett family in their thoughts.

After dinner the 2012 State Champion Wheelersburg Pirates baseball team was recognized for their achievement and Wall Honorees were introduced by Warnock.

Annual Mural Honorees Gullett, Oliver, Greg Gibson and Gene Bennett each gave their comments before the keynote speaker for the evening Randy Marsh, Director of Umpiring for Major League Baseball, addressed patrons.

Marsh is a former umpire for Major League Baseball who worked in the National League from 1981 to 1999 and throughout both leagues in 2000 to 2009. He umpired the World Series Games in 1990, 1997, 1999, 2003 and 2006, serving as crew chief for the last three of these series.

During the course of the evening, Morton lightheartedly reminded those enjoying the banquet of the date of next year’s banquet.

“Again welcome to our ninth annual banquet and remember we moved the date to the third Wednesday of January, so next year, 2014, the date will be Jan. 15, so already put that one on your calendar,” Morton said.

Bob Strickley may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 296, or bstrickley@civitasmedia.com.

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