PDT Staff Writer
The name Al Oliver and the title “Mr. Ambassador,” for the city of Portsmouth seem to fit like a first baseman’s mitt. Because it is a natural match, First Ward City Councilman Kevin Johnson wants Portsmouth City Council to make it official.
In an e-mail sent out Wednesday morning, Johnson said, “When I read the story below, concerning Black History Month at Portsmouth Elementary, I was drawn to the picture featuring and referring to the individuals as: Mr. Clarence Parker, President of the Portsmouth City School Board; Pastor David A. Malone, Mayor of Portsmouth; and Al Oliver, former professional baseball player,” Johnson said, referencing a link to a Daily Times story dated March 10. “What struck me immediately is that I expected our friend, Al Oliver, to be referred to as “Mr. Ambassador”; a sobriquet and title I believe he deserves and is already recognized as such by many not only in our community but from Columbus to Washington, D.C. My question to you this morning: Should council consider a resolution recognizing our friend for what he has become; Portsmouth’s Ambassador? And would you support this if I introduce such a resolution to council?”
Oliver said he had not thought about the honor in detail, but believes it to be a perfect fit for him in his role to bring positive changes and growth to the community.
“First of all, it’s a compliment,” Oliver said. “And being born and raised here and especially coming back home, I see the changes. I have seen a lot of positive people I know that can make a change in Portsmouth, and that’s the reason why I got involved.”
Oliver credits Portsmouth businessman Rick Morgan for being responsible for his current involvement with a group of area business leaders that meet Thursday mornings at the Holiday Inn and talk about ideas on how to bring growth and progress to the community.
“Rick was the one that called me one day and asked me to come down. He thought that possibly I could be an asset to the group,” Oliver said. “I know that when Jeff (Albrecht) tagged that (Mr. Ambassador) on me, I knew his reason behind it. It was because I cared about Portsmouth; and I want to see some good things happen and I think the key to it all was the time when the governor came down. I think, after that, they thought, ‘hmm, if the governor likes this guy, he could be an asset to this group that we have started.’”
Ohio Governor John Kasich recently went to bat for Oliver, by writing a letter to the Baseball Hall of Fame, urging Oliver’s election.
“It’s a good name (Mr. Ambassador) for me because when I go to the golf tournaments, and I’m not a golfer, but they still invite me and that’s what they call me,” Oliver said. “I’ve always been one who wants to see positive things happen, and I’ve always been people orientated. So I would say it does fit. And I look at it as a positive.”
Oliver is a former Major League Baseball player. Over the course of his 18-year career, he played for the Pittsburgh Pirates (1968–77), Texas Rangers (1978–81), Montreal Expos (1982–83), San Francisco Giants (1984), Philadelphia Phillies (1984), Los Angeles Dodgers (1985) and Toronto Blue Jays (1985). Nicknamed “Scoop,” Oliver batted and threw left-handed. Oliver was a center fielder who also played left and right as well as first base. He was signed by the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1964. From 1970 to 1976 he played on five Pirates division champions, including the team that defeated the Orioles in the 1971 World Series. He won the National League batting title in 1982.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at email@example.com.