The baseball mural was created to record Portsmouth’s rich baseball history.
Pictured on the mural are some of the greatest people who ever played, scouted, and umpired Major League Baseball – all from this area.
Born in Portsmouth and graduating from Valley High School in 1899, Rickey played for both the St. Louis Browns and New York Highlanders from 1905-1907 with limited success, eventually settling in as an executive and manager of the St. Louis Browns, their cross-town rivals the St. Louis Cardinals, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the Pittsburg Pirates.
He is best known, however, for his work in breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball,eventually signing Jackie Robinson to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945.
During his career he created the framework for the modern minor league farm system, encouraged major League Baseball to add new teams through his involvement in the proposed Continental League, encouraged the use of tools such as batting helmets, the batting cage, and pitching machines, and was responsible for the first full time spring training facility.
Born in Friendship, Ohio, in 1884, Al Bridwell spent 11 years in Major League Baseball, having his best years with the New York Giants, leading the National League shortstops in fielding percentage in 1907. In 1909 Bridwell batted a career-high .294, fifth best in the league, and stole a career-high 32 bases.
While playing for the Portsmouth Navies in a game against the Columbus Senators in 1902, Bridwell was offered a contract to move over to the Senators, eventually playing nearly 30 games at shortstop during the 1903 season. Gary Herrmann, then president of the Cincinnati Reds, called him the “fastest man on the infield I ever saw”, and the Bridwell was acquired by the Reds in August of 1904, debuting for them in the spring of 1905.
Following his career as a player, Bridwell managed the Houston Buffaloes on the Texas League after being recommended for job by another Portsmouth native, Branch Rickey.
Al Bridwell retired from baseball in 1924, eventually becoming sheriff of Scioto County.
Called a “Minor League Legend” by Pat Doyle in Minor League Baseball History, A Look Back, Rocky Nelson was one of the most feared hitters in the minor leagues, and is considered one of the best sluggers to ever play in the International League, and in 1958 was voted the league’s most valuable player for a third time after winning his second Triple Crown, leading the league in batting average (.326), home runs (43) and RBIs (120).
During nine major league seasons (some full seasons, some partial seasons), Nelson played in 620 games, including eight World Series games (with the Dodges in 1952, and the Pirates in 1960) where he batted .250 with three hits, one home run, two bases on balls, and two RBI’s.
A seven time All-Star, 1982 NL batting and RBI champion, three-time Silver Slugger Award winner, Al Oliver’s MLB career spanned 18 seasons (1968-1985), 2,743 hits, and a lifetime .303 batting average with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Texas Rangers, and Montreal Expos, San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, LA Dodgers, and Toronto Blue Jays.
Oliver batted .300 or more eleven times (with nine consecutive .300 seasons beginning in 1976). His 2,743 career hits rank 45th on the all-time list. He also ranks among all-time top 50 in games played (2368), total bases (4083), RBI (1326) and extra-base hits (825). He was among the league’s top ten in doubles nine times and among the league’s top ten in hits nine times, and finished in the top ten in batting average nine times. Five times he was among the league’s top ten in total bases and four times he was in the top ten in RBIs.
Harry “Dude” Blake
The son of a butcher shop owner, Harry Blake was the first Major League baseball player from Portsmouth, playing with the Cleveland Spiders from 1894-1898, and the St. Louis Perfectos in 1899.
He was a member of the Cleveland team that defeated the Baltimore Orioles four games to one to win the 1895 Temple Cup. In 1898, he finished fourth in the league in sacrifice hits with 23.
After the 1899 season, Blake returned to the minor leagues as a player for about a decade, including time in 1908 as a player-manager of the Houston Buffaloes in the Texas League.
Playing from 1969-1983 and known as one of the greatest hitting catchers of all time, with his career 140 WRC+ being tied with Mike Piazza for the highest all-time among catchers, Gene Tenace is was a member of the Oakland Athletics team that won three consecutive World Series championships between 1972 and 1974, earning the 1972 MVP award, and becoming the first major league player to hit a home run in his first two at bats in a World Series game.
Throughout his playing career, Tenace spent time with the Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, St. Louis Cardinals, and Pittsburgh Pirates, and following his retirement as a player in 1984, he took on coaching and interim-manager for several Major League teams, including the World Series winning Toronto Blue Jay teams on 1992-1993.
In a 15-year major league career, Tenace played in 1,555 games, accumulating 1,060 hits for a .241 career batting average, including 201 home runs, and 674 runs batted in. He set the American League record for having the lowest batting average while leading the league in walks in 1974, with a league leading 110.
A two time All-Star and 1977 American League RBI champion, Larry Hisle spent 14 years as a Major League Baseball player, playing with Philadelphia Phillies, Minnesota Twins, and Milwaukee Brewers, and was a member of two Toronto Blue Jays World Series teams (1992 and 1993).
Larry was a high school All-American in both baseball and basketball, eventually signing a letter of intent with Ohio State for basketball, but Phillies scout, Tony Lucadello, convinced him baseball was the way to go after seeing him play in an American Legion tournament in Athens. According to Lucadello, “Larry’s awesome display of power was like nothing I had ever witnessed,” and Larry was selected in the second round of the first ever MLB amateur draft.
Hisle played his first full season in 1969, when he batted .266 with 20 home runs and finished fourth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. In a 1973 spring training game, as a member of the Minnesota Twins, he hit two home runs – including a grand slam – and had seven RBI’s in what would be the MLB’s first designated hitter appearance.
To quote the Society for American Baseball “Stan Spence had the misfortune of being a young outfielder for the Red Sox at a time when the team was developing Ted Williams and Dom DiMaggio. A trade to the Washington Senators gave him his opportunity to shine, and his five years in the nation’s capital landed him on four All-Star teams as one of the best players in the American League.”
In a nine-season career (1940-1949), Spence was a .282 hitter with 95 home runs and 575 RBI in 1,112 games. He had a .984 fielding percentage, playing at all three outfield positions and first base. He spent time with the Boston Red Sox, Washington Senators, and St. Louis Browns.
Playing his first full season for the 1942 Washington Senators, Spence landed in third place in the American League batting championship behind Ted Williams and Johnny Pesky, with a .323 average. In 1946, after serving in WWII, he had a career high 50 doubles, 10 triples, and 16 home runs. He was a four time All Star, and was in the running for the MVP award in 1942, 1945-1947.
In a 9 year MLB career beginning in 1964, Stephenson spent time with the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, New York Mets, and California Angels, and has the distinction of catching Nolan Ryan’s first major league strike out in 1966.
Following his playing career, John coached with the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets, and managed in the Mets farm system. He also coached, and was elected to the Athletic Hall of Fame, at William Carey University.
As an MLB catcher for 17 years (1945-1961), Del was known for his defensive skills and ability to work with pitchers, something many analysts attribute to his longevity in the Major Leagues. His most notable seasons were with the St. Louis Cardinals, having his best season in 1952 with a .259 batting average, 11 home runs, and a career high 65 RBI’s. He was a 1953 All-Star and a member of two World Series teams, the St. Louis Cardinals in 1946, and the Milwaukee Braves in 1957.
Over his career, Del played in 1,309 games, had 908 hits, 3,826 at bats, and a .237 batting average. He lead National League catchers in fielding percentage in both 1948 and 1949, and tied for the lead in double plays in 1949, 1950, and 1951.
After retiring as a player, Del coached for both the Angels and Cleveland Indians at the Major and Minor League levels, being named Minor League Manager of the Year in 1971 by The Sporting News. He was manager of the 1972 Angels, and remained with the club as scout after managing.
“Before he was 25 years old he was being compared to Sandy Koufax” – writer Charles F. Faber.
In a Major League Baseball career spanning just 9 years, 1970 -1978, Don Gullet won four National League pennants and two World Series with the Cincinnati Reds, and two consecutive World Series championships with the New York Yankees. He had a career win-loss record of 109-50, an era of 3.11, and 921 strikeouts.
Drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the first round of the 1969 amateur draft, the 14th pick overall, and was sent to Sioux Falls (South Dakota) of the Single-A Northern League. During the two-month season he won seven of nine decisions, compiled a 1.96 earned-run average, and struck out 87 batters in 78 innings. He made his big-league debut on April 10, 1970, and six days later got his first big-league win by pitching five scoreless innings of three-hit relief as the Reds defeated the LA Dodgers 12-2.
In 1971 Gullett became a full-time starter, winning 16 games while losing six, leading the league in winning percentage with .727 and posting a 2.64 earned-run average.
According to the Society for American Baseball “Gullett’s early success was based on a blazing fastball, a change-up, and excellent control. By 1974 he had added a forkball to his pitching repertoire. When the ball neared the plate, it dropped, quickly and sharply. The new pitch enabled him to fool batters. “The forkball has made the difference,” Gullett said, “even though 75 to 80 percent of my pitches are still hard stuff. It used to be, though, that when I got behind I was throwing what they were looking for—the fastball.”
Following his retirement from playing due to injury, Don was the pitching coach for the Cincinnati Reds from 1993 until 2005, and then moved to their player development program.
In 1993 he was inducted into the Dawahares-Kentucky High School Athletic Association Sports Hall of Fame – he was a three-sport star in high school, once pitching a perfect game with 20 of the 21 hitters he faced striking out, as well as scoring 72 points in a game as a football player, running for 11 touchdowns and kicking 6 extra points. He was named all-state in three sports his senior year – baseball, basketball, and football.
Working as an umpire in Major League Baseball from 1987-2006, Terry Craft umpired in 1,734 games, including the 1997 All-Star game, the 2003 American League Championship Series, and two Division Series (1998 and 2000).
He was the umpire during two no-hitters – Dave Stewart in 1990, and Jim Abbott in 1993 – and was the home plate umpire when Ricky Henderson broke Ty Cobb’s AL stolen base record.
With a 25 year career (1997-2022) as an MLB umpire, Greg Gibson worked two Wild Card games, ten Division Series, five National League Championship Series, the 2011 World Series, the 2008 All-Star Game, and two World Baseball Classic series.
He was the home plate umpire when Randy Johnson threw a perfect game in 2004, Tim Wakefield’s 200th win, and two no hitters – Clayton Kershaw in 2014, and Jake Arrieta in 2016. He was the home plate umpire for MLB’s first use of instant replay (2008), and was the first MLB umpire to have a call overturned from a managers challenge during a regular season game.
World Series MVP with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992, Pat Borders began his MPB career in 1988 after being drafted in the sixth round of the 1982 Major League Draft.
Often called “the corner piece” of the 1992 and 1993 World Series champion Blue Jays teams, he hit .450 in the 1992 series, and has the distinction of catching the franchises only (as of 2023) no hitter – pitched by Dave Stieb in 1990.
Throughout his 17-year career, Borders played for the Blue Jays, Kansas City Royals, Huston Astros, St. Louis Cardinals, California Angels, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners, and Minnesota Twins. He finished his stint in the Major Leagues with a .253 batting average, 69 home runs, 346 RBI’s, and appeared in 1,099 games.
Pat was also a member of the 2000 United States Summer Olympic baseball team, earing a gold medal at the games in Sydney, Australia.
Major League Baseball Joint Strength and Conditioning Coordinator, and who also worked for the Kansas City Royals and the Cleveland Indians.
Josh Newman was drafted in the 19th round of the 2004 MLB Draft and signed a professional contract with the Colorado Rockies. He had previously been drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 2003, but he elected to stay at Ohio State for his senior season.
The Wheelersburg High School graduate spent three seasons in the minors before making his Major League debut against Philadelphia on Sept. 12, 2007, and making the Colorado Rockies World Series roster that season.
Newman pitched in 14 games over his two seasons in the MKLB, making his last appearance in September 2008 for the Kansas City Royals.
He is currently the baseball coach for Penn State.
Born in 1881 in Portsmouth, Bill Doyle was working in the local shoe factory in 1900 when he joined the Portsmouth Victors baseball team, and by 1902 was gaining the attention of several professional teams. Ultimately picked up by the Texas League, Doyle gained the reputation of either making for a difficult out when he hit, or ending up standing on first base, and by his second season in the league appeared in 102 games after hitting for .255.
As a pitcher for Greenville and, later, Waco, Doyle posted a 19-13 record in 1906, but saw a significant drop in 1907, ending with a 8-37 win/loss record for the season – a record which still stands today.
Doyle returned to Ohio following the 1907 season and finished his career as manager of the Portsmouth Cobblers in 1909.
From 1910-1938 Doyle took on the role of scout for four major league teams, spending 20 years with the Detroit Tigers, and is credited with discovering more than 50 important major league players, including Dickie Kerr, George Sisler, Hank Greenberg, Tommy Bridges, and Boots Poffenberger.
Brother of Branch Rickey, Frank Rickey was a scout for several Major League teams throughout the 1940’s and early 1950’s until his death in 1953.,
Scouting for teams including the St. Louis Cardinals, Brooklyn Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, and New York Giants, he is credited with discovering Rocky Nelson, Del Rice, Roger Craig, Dick Hoover, Clyde King, Art Delaney, and Walter Alston, who would go on to win 4 World Series titles as a manager.
According to Deadspin.com, Frank Rickey was his brother’s right hand: when Branch was asked to write a letter of recommendation for him in 1942, he simply drew up a list of “Frank’s players”—77 names in all – and noted that the Cardinals had sold off twenty-five of them for $428,500 in cash and fourteen new players.
With a 19 year minor league career (1936-1956) as an infielder, Wayne Blackburn played in 2016 games (even with losing a year to military service during WWII). He lead the 1936 KITTY League with 124 runs, the 1943 American Association with 114 runs, and the 1951 KITTY League with 116 runs, as well as the 1948 Southern Association with 36 stolen bases.
Upon moving to the Detroit Tigers farms minor league system in 1952, Blackburn was a player manager from 1952-1954, and again in 1956, a minor league manager in 1958, 1965-1966, and 1968, and a major league coach in 1963 and 1964, even coaching the Panamanian baseball team in 1968 and 1969.
As a minor league manager in the 1952 his Kingston Eagles team held the best record in the Coastal Plain League, as did his 1958 Augusta Tigers in the South Atlantic League.
Wayne retired from baseball as a scout for the Detroit Tigers in the 1980’s.
Signing his first Major League baseball contract in 1952 with the Cincinnati Reds, 1946 Wheelersburg graduate Gene Bennett played through the 1957 season. Following an injury during the ’57 season, Gene was offered a role as scout or minor league manager for the Reds. After talking with Branch Rickey about the decision, Gene took on the role of scout for the Reds in 1958, eventually becoming scouting supervisor in 1975. Becoming known as “the scout of all scouts”, he was integral in helping build the Reds scouting system into what it is today.
Spending his entire career of nearly 60 years with Reds, Gene was responsible for getting some of the biggest names in the organizations history on the field – players like Barry Larkin, Don Gullett, Chris Sabo, Paul O’Neill, Jeff Russell, and Charlie Leibrandt.
He was member of the Reds during six of their nine World Series appearance’s, and three of their five World Series titles, and was a senior special assistant to the Reds General Managers from 1992 until his retirement in 2011.
Bennett received many scouting honors, including election to the Middle Atlantic Major League Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame and The Legends In Scouting Award from the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation. Each year the Gene Bennett Classic baseball tournament is held in Portsmouth, attracting teams from around the state and country.
In 2016 Gene released a book, “Gene Bennett: My 58 Years with the Cincinnati Reds”, documenting his life in baseball, with all the proceeds going to the Wheelersburg Little League.
Outside of baseball, Gene was also a top NCAA Collegiate Basketball Official for twenty-one years and was selected to referee in eleven NCAA post-season tournaments. He was made a lifetime member of the Naismith Memorial NCAA Basketball Official Hall of Fame.
A native of Greenup, Kentucky, Paul T. Archey spent 15 years (1999-2014) as Senior Vice President of International Business for Major League Baseball, expanding MLB’s global business presence to more than 220 countries, and opening offices in Beijing, London, Sydney and Tokyo. He has also served as the president of World Baseball Classic, Inc., chairman of the Australian Baseball League and head of MLB’s owners International Committee, and was responsible for developing the MLB’s International Play Plan – leading to games being played in China, Japan, Mexico, Venezuela and elsewhere.
Perhaps Paul’s biggest achievement with MLB was the creation and development of what has become the premier international baseball tournament, The World Baseball Classic – a joint venture with MLBPA, and what many consider to be MLB’s most significant international initiative, attracting more than 800,000 spectators and drew 200 million TV viewers worldwide in 2013.
Paul also served as President of the UK Sports & Campus Marketing team, overseeing the University of Kentucky Athletics multimedia rights, generating sponsorships resulting in the first ever corporate naming rights for an SEC football stadium with Kroger Field.
Paul was inducted into the Georgetown College Athletic Hall of Fame, was awarded the Harold J. VanderZwaag Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Massachusetts, was named to the Sports Business Journal’s “Forty Under 40”, as well as Baseball America’s “10 to Watch” list.
As the sixth overall pick in the 1973 MLB Draft, Portsmouth native Johnnie LeMaster played for four teams over 12 seasons, spending 10 years (1975-1985) with the San Francisco Giants, one year (1985) with the Cleveland Indians and Pittsburgh Pirates, and one year (1987) with the Oakland Athletics.
On September 2, 1975, LeMaster set a major league record, hitting an inside-the-park home run in his first at bat during a 7–3 win over the Dodgers.
LeMaster is also known for one game in 1979 when he took the field wearing the phrase on his back that Giants fans often welcomed him with. In place of his last name was the word “Boo.”
According to LeMaster, “I started getting booed a lot around 1980. So, I was laying in bed one night and my wife sat up and said, ‘You should just change your name to Boo!’ I didn’t think nothing about it, but a couple days later, I asked our equipment manager to make me up a jersey with “Boo” on the back of it. He did, and it took me a couple weeks to build up the nerve to wear it. I snuck into the clubhouse right before the game and put it on and the only one who knew I was going to wear it was a teammate named Rob Andrews. Joe Amalfitano was our manager and he couldn’t see real good without his glasses, so he didn’t notice it. So during the first inning, someone said to Joe, what’s that on LeMaster’s jersey, Bob? I only wore it for three outs. Our General Manager Spec Richardson saw it right away and immediately called down to the clubhouse to fire our equipment manager. Later that night he re-hired him, but Spec had the kid scared to death. After the half-inning was over, Richardson was there waiting for me with my normal jersey and he looked mad. ‘Put this on right now!’ he said. After the game was over, there was a note in my locker that said I had been fined $500 for not being in uniform.”
Retiring in 1988, LeMaster was a career .222 hitter with 22 home runs and 229 runs batted.
From 1994 until 2006 Johnnie served as the head baseball coach for Pikeville College, earning Coach of the Year in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletics Conference in 1997. In the early 2000’s, the university honored LeMaster by officaily naming their facility the Johnnie LeMaster Baseball Field.
In 2008, an historical marker was installed in South Beach in San Francisco as part of their San Francisco Giants Wall of Fame series.