Binger hopes Johnny Bench museum will aid town's economy

Former major league baseball catcher and Hall of Fame member Johnny Bench's Binger hometown hopes to build a museum in his honor.

Simply put, Binger is a modest little town. Neither the city nor its citizens had the means needed to celebrate and remember their favorite son like he deserved.

"Over the past 30 to 40 years, we have had a lot of people come through Binger wanting to see where Johnny Bench grew up and played baseball," said Binger businessman Dean Crain. "Unfortunately, we haven't really had anything in place that traced his history or was representative of his life here when he was a kid."

But Crain has joined other Binger businesses and residents in an effort to remedy the situation. With the town's economy sagging terribly, the group's goal is to raise money for a Johnny Bench Baseball Museum that will create jobs, attract tourists and generate revenue.

Over the weekend, the former Cincinnati Red returned to his native state and childhood home to help with the fund-raising effort. He met with potential donors, greeted old friends and fans, and discussed the project that bears his name with the media.

 "I think it's great," said Bench, who still lives in Cincinnati more than two decades after ending his 17-year big-league career. "We're hoping it is something that will help revive Binger and Caddo County a little bit. It's going to be a place where you can come have a good time, take a tour, check out some of the history through audiovisual features and tons of great memorabilia. I think people are going to love it."

The museum will feature material from Bench's storied baseball career, ranging from his playing days at Binger and nearby Anadarko's summer American Legion squad to his glory years with the Big Red Machine. On top of that, a section will honor other well-known Caddo County ballplayers, such as Joe Edelen, Mike Moore, Mack Kuykendall, Butch Huskey, Cal McLish and Derrell Griffith.

For more information or to make a donation, call (800) 368-9570 or visit visit the site. "Jay C. Upchurch

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