Baseball legends from far and wide gathered in Portsmouth for an evening of old memories and celebrated history at the 13th Annual Portsmouth Murals Inc. Baseball Banquet Wednesday evening at the Southern Ohio Medical Center (SOMC) Life Center.
President of Portsmouth Murals Inc. Bob Morton estimated that there were close to 400 people who showed up for the event.
“That’s about what we get every banquet,” he stated before adding that there may have been a larger crowd that came from Kentucky considering that is home to this year’s keynote speaker.
Speaking this year was Reds Broadcaster and host on Reds Live with Jeff Piecoro, Doug Flynn.
“Doug signed by the Reds in August 1971 out of the University of Kentucky,” Morton stated. “Doug’s career spanned 11 seasons with the Reds, Mets, Expos, Rangers and Tigers.”
In addition to a large crowd, Morton confirmed that there were a record number of sponsors this year. Last year the banquet made close to $25,000 – an all-time record. As of press time, the proceeds had not been tallied; however, Morton was confident that this year’s event made just as much.
“It’s the sponsors that allow us to make the money,” commented Morton.
The Annual Baseball Banquet honors the city’s rich baseball heritage and local baseball legends as part of the area history depicted on the Portsmouth Murals.
Among those pictured on the murals are Gene Bennett, retired senior special assistant to the General Manager and former scout for the Cincinnati Reds; Al Oliver, former Pittsburgh Pirates player; Don Gullett, former pitcher and pitching coach for the Cincinnati Reds; Josh Newman, former player for the Colorado Rockies; Tim Maxey, strength and conditioning coordinator for Major League Baseball; Pat Borders, former Toronto Blue Jays player; and Major League Umpire Greg Gibson. Several of those were in attendance including Bennett, Gullett, Oliver, Newman and Gibson.
Aside from local legends, the event is known for drawing in some of baseball’s most notable characters from across the country, including several hall of famers. Morton explained that the event is quite popular among honored guest as well as patrons.
“A lot of them come and once they get here they want to come back,” Morton stated about the baseball dignitaries in attendance. “A good example of that is Tom Browning. Tom was a speaker twice and a guest three to four times,” Morton stated.
Browning is a famed left-handed pitcher who pitched for the Cincinnati Reds for more than a decade before going on to play for the Kansas City Royals.
“He’s a good supporter for us,” Morton added.
Also in attendance was baseball coach and manager Dave Tomlin, who played for the Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres, Montreal Expos and Pittsburgh Pirates. Tomlin attended the very first baseball banquet and finally returned this year.
Like Tomlin, former Major League Baseball (MLB) Umpire Charlie Reliford returned after being absent several year. Reliford attended the 6th Annual Banquet as the keynote speaker.
The banquet is also attended by those still active in their baseball careers, such as MLB Umpire Greg Gibson.
“Greg Gibson is always here,” Morton stated. “This is a great event. Its tremendous,” said John Herrnstein, who played college football in Michigan before getting injured and going to baseball. Herrnstein played for the Philadelphia Phillies most of his career before being traded to the Chicago Cubs for a month and then the Atlanta Braves from which he retired later that year in 1966. Herrnstein has attended nearly every banquet.
Marvin Lowe, host of “The Inside Pitch,” a radio program out of Anderson, Ind., which focuses on sports, entertainment and business. He also played against Bennett in the minor leagues back in 1953.
“This is my ninth consecutive banquet, and I’ve gotten to know the wonderful people of Portsmouth,” Lowe said.
He added that he also enjoys meeting all the other baseball figures in attendance.
“I’m a baseball person, and it’s a very wonderful program,” he said about the banquet.
Each year, the money raised from the banquet goes to help with the maintenance of the Portsmouth Murals and preserving some significant Portsmouth history.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 or on Twitter @nikkib45653.