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Chuck Landon: Portsmouth promotes key sports figures with murals

Dec. 29, 2012 @ 12:23 AM

The issue of beautifying Huntington's floodwall has ebbed and flowed much like the Ohio River it was designed to curb.

My take?

I think Portsmouth, Ohio, has the right idea.

The river town has decorated a portion of its floodwall with an extensive mural depicting area baseball products that went onto fame and fortune in Major League Baseball.

How very appropriate.

Are you listening, Huntington?

The newest additions to Portsmouth's floodwall mural are Major League umpire Greg Gibson, a native of Ashland, Ky., and Pat Borders, former Toronto Blue Jays star, who spent the majority of his childhood growing up in Scioto County.

Both men will be honored during the ninth Portsmouth Murals Baseball Banquet on the evening of Jan. 16 in Portsmouth's SOMC Friends Center.

The keynote speaker for the banquet will be well-known former Major League umpire Randy Marsh, who recently was named Director of Umpiring for Major League Baseball. Marsh worked in the National League in 1981-1999 and in both leagues from 2000 through 2009.

Marsh, a native of Covington, Ky., umpired in five World Series (1990, 1997, 1999, 2003 and 2006) and served as crew chief for the 1999, 2003 and 2006 championships.

He won't be the only speaker, however.

Anyone in attendance who is featured among the legends in the Portsmouth floodwall mural also will make some brief remarks from the podium. Those expected to speak at the 2013 banquet include Gene Bennett, retired Senior Special Assistant to the Cincinnati Reds general manager; Al Oliver, former Pittsburgh Pirates star first baseman; and Don Gullett, former Reds' star pitcher and pitching coach.

Joining them, of course, will be Gibson and Borders.

Gibson, who has been a Major League Baseball umpire for 15 years, was born and raised in Ashland, but spent summers with his grandparents in Franklin Furnace, Ohio.

It was Gibson's grandfather, a fervent Cincinnati Reds fan, who piqued his original interest in baseball.

Now, Gibson has six Division Series, two League Championship Series, one World Series and one All-Star Game to show for his efforts.

As for Borders, the outfielder parlayed his Scioto County beginnings into becoming the Most Valuable Player of the 1992 World Series by hitting .450 with one homer. He also is one of only four players to win an Olympic gold medal and a World Series.

And if that isn't enough Major League Baseball dignitaries, also expected to attend the banquet despite living a considerable distance away are Gene Tenace, former Oakland A's standout and World Series MVP who will be traveling from Oregon; Terry Craft, former umpire coming from Colorado; Larry Hisle, former Philadelphia Phillies outfielder from Wisconsin; and John Stephenson, former catcher for four MLB teams who is coming from Alabama.

Craft, Hisle and Stephenson are natives of the Portsmouth area while Tenace attended high school in Scioto County.

Also expected to attend are Chris Welsh, Cincinnati Reds television commentator, and Hal McCoy, retired Hall of Fame Reds' beat writer for the Dayton Daily News.

Tickets are $50 and can be purchased at the Scioto County Welcome Center. For more information call the Portsmouth Area Chamber of Commerce at 740-353-7647.

And just so everybody knows, all the proceeds go toward maintenance and upkeep of the Portsmouth floodwall mural located along Front Street.

Now, imagine the likes of Hal Greer, Leo Byrd, Donnie Robinson, Rick Reed, Larry Coyer and Jackie Hunt, as well as former Marshall stars, depicted on downtown Huntington's flood wall.

That's the mural of this story.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2827 or clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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