Over the years, the Portsmouth area has been represented in a world-class manner when it comes down to the brilliant baseball minds and talent that have not only made it to the highest level, but have excelled at such a level.
On Wednesday, Jan. 10, much of those minds and talent will be present as local baseball strongholds Al Oliver, Don Gullett, Terry Craft, Greg Gibson, and Johnnie LeMaster, along with former Cincinnati Reds pitcher Tom Browning, the organization’s current Assistant Director of Baseball Operations, Nick Krall, and 2015 National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame inductee Hal McCoy, will all be attending the annual Portsmouth Baseball Murals Banquet that will be held at the Friends Community Center in Portsmouth.
For Bob Morton, who is the President of the Portsmouth Murals, the event is a way for baseball fans and aficionados around the area to pick the brain of each of the individuals who have confirmed that they will be at the event.
“We have a wealth of big-league players that have made the big leagues from this area,” Morton said. “We always have a lot of former ballplayers that do attend, and are able to spread their wealth and knowledge of the game to others. Getting to know professional baseball players and personnel can be difficult, but that’s never a problem at our banquet.”
In Browning and Oliver alone, the banquet will have enough baseball knowledge and pedigree to last a lifetime.
Browning, who became the first left-handed pitcher to throw a perfect game in 23 years when the Wyoming native did so against the Los Angeles Dodgers on September 16, 1988, later won the World Series as a member of the Reds in 1990 and made his lone All-Star appearance a year later.
Oliver, who has long been a spokesperson for the Portsmouth area in not only baseball, but a wide variety of disciplines, was a lifetime .303 hitter who collected over 2,700 hits in a career that spanned 18 seasons. He made seven All-Star Game appearances, including four straight from 1980 to 1983 as a member of the Texas Rangers and Montreal Expos, and won a World Series title in 1971 with the Pittsburgh Pirates alongside Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell.
However, the pair are far from the only duo with a great deal of pedigree.
Gullett, who was widely regarded as one of the best baseball and football preps in the entire country when he graduated from nearby McKell High School in South Shore before it was consolidated with Wurtland and Greenup High Schools to create Greenup County High School, went on to win three consecutive World Series Championships with the Reds (1975, 1976) and the New York Yankees (1977), posting a 3.11 ERA in the process, while Gibson and Craft have called 11 divisional playoff series, five championship series, and two all-star games between them.
LeMaster’s 12 seasons as a big-league player, along with McCoy’s 45 years in the sports journalism business, make the field as star-studded as any you’ll find. The former coaches at Ashland (Ky.) Paul Blazer and has already led the program to a 16th Region Championship Game appearance in just two seasons at the helm.
“Hal’s the one who came up with the famous ‘Big Red Machine’ name,” Morton said. “It’s always good to have Hal McCoy there.”
In addition to the eight confirmed guests that will be attending, Morton says that John Stephenson, who enjoyed a 10-year big league career and became a legendary coach at William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Miss., among others, could also be attending the banquet. Stephenson is from right across the river in South Portsmouth.
“Just in those two counties alone (Scioto and Greenup, Ky.), there’s been a wealth of big-league players,” Morton said. “I believe that Portsmouth and Greenup County have really rich baseball heritages.”
Overall, the banquet, which is in its 14th year of existence, helps cover maintenance costs for the murals, which are between $8,000 to $10,000. In most years, Morton says that the banquet clears over $20,000.
“The banquet gives us enough money for maintenance and to continue trying to do new murals,” Morton said.
The overall cost per person is $50, with food catered by the Scioto Ribber. Tickets can be bought at the Portsmouth Area Chamber of Commerce office inside the Scioto County Welcome Center, which is located at 342 Second Street, Portsmouth, Ohio 45662.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT