New Heritage Museum exhibit celebrates valley’s athletic legends

The Belmont County Heritage Museum is celebrating decades of outstanding athletes that hail from the Ohio Valley with a special exhibit called, “Ohio Valley Athletic Legends.” The display will highlight recognizable baseball, basketball, football, and wrestling legends like

Phil Neikro, John Havlicek, Bobby Douglas, and many other natives who made names for themselves as athletes and coaches at the college or professional level. The exhibit includes photos, sporting event programs, information, and other artifacts, as well as local high school sports memorabilia from the museum’s collection.

“All of this is possible because of the photographs and memorabilia we have been able to display on loan to us from families, organizations, and individuals who helped bring this exhibit to life,” said Cathryn Stanley, Curator of the Belmont County Heritage Museum.

As part of this special exhibit, there will be two events held at the museum. First, on Thursday, June 29, at 6 pm, local historian, Dan Frizzi, will present the early baseball history of Bellaire and the legacy and impact of King Solomon White. The first in his family born free in Ohio, King Solomon White was a professional baseball infielder, manager, executive, and one of the pioneers of the Negro baseball league. An active sportswriter for many years, he is perhaps best known for writing History of Colored Baseball, also known as Sol White’s Official Baseball Guide in 1907. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

Next, on Thursday, July 6, at 5:30 pm, Bridgeport resident, Gordie Longshaw will talk about the “Valley Boys” and his recollections of Phil and Joe Neikro, Bobby Douglas, Bill Mazeroski, and others.

Phil Neikro, nicknamed “Knucksie”, pitched 20 seasons for Milwaukee and the Atlanta Braves. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997, and Niekro's 318 career victories are the most by a knuckleball pitcher. The Blaine native also won the National League Golden Glove Award five times. 

National Basketball Association Hall of Famer, John Havlicek, won eight NBA championships with the Boston Celtics and was named Finals MVP in 1974. When he retired after the 1977–78 NBA season, Havlicek was the Celtic’s all-time leading scorer.

Bobby Douglas is a retired freestyle wrestler and coach. He competed as a featherweight at the 1964 and 1968 Olympics and placed fourth in 1964. He won a silver and a bronze medal at the 1966 and 1970 world championships, respectively, and retired later in 1970. After that, Douglas coached several U.S Olympic teams, is one of only four collegiate coaches to win more than 400 dual meets, and won an NCAA team national title at Arizona State. His coaching accomplishments include 13 NCAA champions, 110 All-America performances, and 68 conference titles.

You can learn more about Belmont County athletes in these two blogs.

The Belmont County Heritage Museum is located in the historic former sheriff’s residence at 101 E. Main St. in St. Clairsville. In addition to the “Ohio Valley Athletic Legends” exhibit, you will find displays about the county’s sheriffs, artifacts from Belmont County communities representing their industries, landmarks, and important historical figures. The displays bring the spirit and history of each area together under one roof. From the designer of the USS Constitution to a major role in the glass industry, people can discover hidden gems that Belmont County is proud to hold in its history.

The Belmont County Heritage Museum is open Thursday through Saturday 10 am to 4 pm, and admission is free. The “Ohio Valley Athletic Legends” exhibit will be on display through July 22. For more information about this exhibit and the Belmont County Heritage Museum, visit www.belmontcountyheritagemuseum.org or contact Cathryn Stanley, Museum Curator at 740-298-7020.

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