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Bible belonging to baseball legend Rickey returns to Scioto County

Nov. 30, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

PORTSMOUTH, Ohio -- The Bible which once belonged to Portsmouth native Branch Rickey, a Major League Baseball player, manager and executive, has been returned to Scioto County.

The Bible, which was presented to Rickey in May 1953 and was signed by 31 members of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team, was discovered in a salvage area by the Friends of the Sacramento Public Library earlier this year. The Bible was reconditioned and displayed at that library in Februrary.

In October, Bob Gorham, president of the Friends of the Sacramento Public Library, made a gift of the Bible to Portsmouth Murals, Inc., headed by Robert L. Morton. The only requirement is that PMI may not sell the Bible and if the group disbands, the Bible must be passed to another nonprofit fund, foundation or corporation.

Rickey played briefly as a catcher for the St. Louis Browns and the New York Highlanders in the early 1900s, but is best remembered for breaking baseball's color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson, drafting Roberto Clemente, and for creating the framework of the modern farm system. Rickey also served as a manager and, later a business manager and general manager, of the St. Louis Browns, the St. Louis Cardinals, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

It was during his tenure with the Pirates that he received what has come to be known as the Branch Rickey Bible. Although the team itself finished with a 54-100 record that season, the signatures in the Bible are star-studded. Such names as Baseball Ham of Fame member Ralph Kiner and Baseball Game of the Week announcer Joe Garagiola appear alongside those of longtime players like Bob Friend, Murray Dickson and El Roy Face. Manager Fred Haney's signature appears first.

The Bible was received by PMI in early November, and the group plans to display it at the Scioto County Welcome Center, 342 Second St. The center is also home to the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce and the Portsmouth-Scioto County Visitor's Bureau.

A formal dedication of the Bible is planned.

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