The history of baseball in Scioto County is as prominent as almost anything the area’s enriched past has to offer.
At this year’s Fifteenth Annual Portsmouth Murals Banquet, that history will be showcased in some pretty cool ways to help attendees understand just how influential residents of the county have been in helping grow the game so often referred to as America’s pastime.
“We’re doing a special dedication to the four professional scouts from the area,” said Portsmouth Murals president Bob Morton.
The first of four Morton and the Murals group plans to honor at the banquet next Wednesday is Billy Doyle who is credited with signing the most professional players who wound up in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York during his scouting days. Those four players included George Sisler of the St. Louis Browns, Hank Greenberg of the Detroit Tigers, Rick Ferrell of the Browns, and Billy Southworth of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Frank Rickey, brother of legendary Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey who famously signed Jackie Robinson, will also be honored among those four scouts from Scioto County. Rickey is given credit for signing hall of famers Johnny Mise and Enos Slaughter of the St. Louis Cardinals, as well as Walter Alston of the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Wayne Blackburn, who resided in Scioto County at the time of his death in 2000, will join Doyle and Rickey among those being honored at the banquet. Blackburn, who also played in the minor leagues for several teams during his playing days, was a member of the Detroit Tigers staff and helped sign a number of young players to the American League organization.
And perhaps the most memorable honoree of scouts at the banquet will be former Cincinnati Reds legendary scout Gene Bennett. Bennett’s legacy on Scioto County’s baseball legacy is immeasurable. During his day’s in Cincinnati, Bennett helped sign Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, Don Gullett, Paul O’Neil, Chris Sabo, and a number of other memorable names from Reds history. Bennett’s name is forever held sacred at the Gene Bennett Baseball Park in Wheelersburg, home of the 2018 Little League World Series Champion Wheelersburg softball team, the first ever from the state of Ohio.
Morton said that attendees of this year’s banquet will be giving placemats that help visualize for guests the impact the four Scioto County scouts left on the game, as well as memorializing the first major league player from the Portsmouth area: Harry “Dude” Blake who played from 1894-1899.
Morton also made mention that the players and coaches of the 2018 Wheelersburg Little League Softball World Series Champion team will be present at the banquet as special guests of the Portsmouth Murals.
If you would like to attend this year’s banquet, visit the Scioto County Welcome Center at 342 Second Street in Portsmouth where you can purchase tickets for $50. For more information on tickets and the event, please call (740) 353-7647.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT