Binger plans museum for baseball legend

Sunday, May 18th 2008, 6:05 pm
By: News 9

Staff and Wire Reports

BINGER, Okla. -- A baseball hall of famer is returning to Oklahoma to help his struggling hometown.

City leaders in Binger have been looking for a way to help boost the town's economy. On Sunday, city leaders announced plans to build a $1 million museum in honor of Johnny Bench.

Renderings show the 5,500-square-foot museum will be shaped like the number 5, Bench's jersey number with the Cincinnati Reds.

"We've been talking about it for a long time," Bench said. "I'm really kind of downsizing everything. I've been planning on doing this for quite awhile, and the people of Binger said, 'Why don't we build a museum?' ... That's what I've wanted to do."

Bench played for the Reds from 1967 to 1983, hitting 389 home runs. He was the 1968 National League Rookie of the Year, won NL Most Valuable Player awards in 1970 and 1972, received 10 Gold Glove awards and was a 14-time All-Star selection.

He played on the famed Big Red Machine teams that won the World Series in 1975 and 1976, earning series MVP honors the latter year as the Reds swept the New York Yankees.

Bench already has been honored in Oklahoma City, where he was born, with a bronze statue that stands outside AT&T Bricktown Ballpark. Bench, 60, still lives in Cincinnati, but he said that when someone asks, he refers to himself as an Oklahoman.

"I got to be a part of the centennial and now I have the statue and now the museum in Binger," Bench said. "So one of these days you can take your kids to Binger, it's a beautiful little town, and go to the museum and say yeah, we knew him when he played."

The proposed museum also will honor other major-league players from southwestern Oklahoma but its focus will be on Bench who is a 1965 graduate of Binger High School. 

Sunday's event also was to announce plans for a fundraising campaign for the museum.