From SABR member Lee Lowenfish at The National Pastime Museum on January 3, 2018:
On January 10, 2018, the 14th Annual Portsmouth Murals Baseball Banquet will take place in the picturesque Scioto County seat on the Ohio River. The murals stretch for 2,200 feet and have become one of the greatest tourist attractions in the Buckeye state. They have turned the desolate decaying walls erected in 1937 to stem a major flood into over one-third of a mile of inspiring art, the largest such installation in the United States.
I became a huge fan of the murals about six years ago when I learned that its creator Robert Dafford was returning to Portsmouth to touch up his mural of Branch Rickey signing Jackie Robinson. Water erosion had caused some damage, but Dafford and the local Portsmouth artist Herb Roe deftly restored it to its original luster. As a Branch Rickey biographer, I asked the personable Dafford about his prior interest in the baseball executive.
“I didn’t know anything about him until I got this assignment,” Dafford, a native of Lafayette, Louisiana, admitted. “I then realized what an impact he had not just on baseball but American society as a whole.” He added that he became entranced by “Rickey’s ability to help heroes become heroes.” When I recognized Dafford’s hometown as the same as the Yankees great southpaw Ron Guidry, I had to ask him if he knew the man New Yorkers dubbed “Louisiana Lightning.” Dafford’s reply stunned me: “I ran track with him in high school, usually far behind him.”
Originally published: January 3, 2018. Last Updated: January 3, 2018.