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Bisons begin final homestand

And thus begins the final homestand of the season for the Buffalo Bisons. Although technically the Herd is the "visiting" team both tonight and tomorrow against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. Scranton is playing the entire 2012 season on the road as a new stadium is built this summer. So the Yankees get to bat last.

Righty Chris Schwinden is scheduled to make his 17th start. He has posted a 2.15 earned run average since the All-Star break.

Scranton counters with former Bison Ramon Ortiz. He is 2-0  with a 2.89 ERA against the Herd this season. He started eight games with Buffalo in 2010 going 2-3 with a 3.94 ERA.

Tonight's lineups:

Buffalo:
Fred Lewis -- RF
Josh Rodriguez -- SS
Lucas Duda -- LF
Zach Lutz -- DH
Adam Loewen -- 1B
Josh Satin -- 2B
Matt Tuiasosopo -- 3B
Matt den Dekker -- CF
Mike Nickeas -- C

Scranton:
Chris Dickerson -- LF
Corban Joseph -- 2B
Eduardo Nunez -- SS
Brandon Laird -- 1B
AUstin Romine -- C
Francisco Cervelli -- DH
Melky Mesa -- CF
Kosuke Fukudome -- RF
Ramior Pena -- 3B

--- Amy Moritz 

After Fenway outing, Herd's McHugh named IL Pitcher of the Week

McHugh pitch 2Collin McHugh was lights-out Saturday for the second straight year in Fenway Park (left), something that still sounds kind of odd given he's never pitched a game in the major leagues. But the Bisons right-hander has a 13-inning scoreless streak in the Futures at Fenway minor-league showcase and was rewarded today by being named International League Pitcher of the Week.

McHugh actually had two strong starts for the week, both against Pawtucket, and allowed just one run in 12 2/3 innings. He went 5 2/3 innings and got a no-decision in Monday's 5-1 loss at Coca-Cola Field, leaving with the score tied, and then tossed seven shutout frames Saturday in Fenway to lead the Bisons to their 2-0 win.

It was the first win for McHugh in seven starts since the All-Star break, despite the fact he owns a 2.70 ERA during that stretch. He's 2-4 in 12 starts with the Bisons but has a solid 3.39 ERA. McHugh went 5-5, 2.41 in 12 starts at Double-A Binghamton before his promotion to Buffalo.

McHugh has a combined 132 strikeouts against just 44 walks this year in 143 2/3 innings. His numbers in Buffalo are 67/27 in 69 innings. He's scheduled to pitch next Thursday in Coca-Cola Field against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

McHugh is the second Bison honored by the league this year. OF Fred Lewis was named Batter of the Week for the period of July 9-15.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Photo: McHugh works Saturday in Fenway/courtesy Buffalo Bisons

Backman on Mets-Buffalo: 'I don't envision us coming back'

PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Bisons manager Wally Backman pretty much confirmed late Sunday afternoon what has been plainly obvious for several weeks: These are the New York Mets' final days as the parent club of the Buffalo Bisons.

Speaking to The News following his team's 4-1 loss to the Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium, Backman pulled no punches when asked if he was disappointed he couldn't produce a playoff club in Buffalo. That was probably the only way the Mets could get an extension of their player development contract. 

"I would guess that's true," Backman said when asked if he expected the homestand that begins Monday night to be the Mets' final one in Coca-Cola Field.  "It's a shame for us, really. Buffalo is a great city but I don't envision us coming back, from the things I've heard from the grapevine."

The Bisons are 62-67 and headed to their third losing season in four years with the Mets. Backman is convinced things would have been different if not for injuries, both in New York and Buffalo. The Bisons have gone through 61 players and 154 roster moves this season.

"If the big club could have stayed injury-free, personally I felt we could have been 30 games over .500," Backman said. "There's no question. We lost a lot of quality players like [Omar] Quintinalla and [Vinny] Rottino. You try to fill in spots but it made it tough."

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Back in time: Pawtucket's McCoy Stadium

DSCN2030PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- The Bisons are here today to meet the Red Sox in the back end of their two-city, two-game roadie that will feature a combined 17 hours on a bus in a span of about 48. McCoy Stadium is the oldest park in the International League (opened in 1946 and fully renovated for the 1999 season) but it's still a complete time warp.

Parking is free -- yes, I said free --  and even though the place seats about 10,000, it feels like about half of that. There are wonderful murals and photos wrapped around the concourse of former PawSox greats.  The concession stands are folksy, DSCN2032league standings are around in small magnetic numbers like they were at the Aud back in Buffalo (left) and there are terrific history displays all over the place. The Bisons need to take note of that; Coca-Cola Field is woeful in that area.

Quaint accommodations for the fans here too. Nice comfy seats with most under a roof and/or in shade. A grass berm in left field, a tent down the RF line and tables with umbrellas in front of the tent and in right field. You want to stay dry or stay cool, you can. You want a tan, you can get that, too.

The biggest public display is about the longest game in pro baseball history -- the 33-inning Pawtucket win over Rochester that began on April 18, 1981, continued through 32 innings until 4 a.m. on the 19th and then was completed in 18 minutes on June 23 in the midst of the MLB players strike and under the international spotlight.

DSCN2050I particularly like the giant linescore showing all 33 innings (right), as well as the actual home plate, photos of players who appeared in the game like Wade Boggs and Marty Barrett (Cal Ripken was in the game too). Pretty funny to see folks walk by it in the main concourse and stop and look. A lot of older folks explaining to kids what the heck happened here that night.

DSCN2031The concourse has displays for great moments in Pawsox history -- and one of them (left) is a plaque for the perfect game authored by Bronson Arroyo here against the Bisons in 2003, just a year before Arroyo became a key member of Boston's World Series champions. It was just the fourth perfecto in IL history at the time and remains the only one against the Bisons in their modern era.

In the basement between the clubhouses, the team has an incredible collection of memorabilia for both the PawSox and all the visitors who have played here over the years. I DSCN2039found pictures of Bisons old (think Terry Collins and Orlando Merced) and new (like Brandon Phillips). All the superstars of the game who have been in the IL are there too. The Arroyo game gets huge play with lineup cards and the actual pitching rubber signed by all the Pawsox (right).

One of the great traditions of McCoy involves the kids and it's called "fishing." And it's kind of exactly what you think. The box seats are about eight feet DSCN2057off the field because there are field-level suites. So kids who want autographs concoct their best homemade apparatus out of things like beach buckets and hollowed milk cartons and hang them over the dugout on lines (left).

The players simply reach in, sign whatever is inside and put it back in the jug. The kid hoists it up and (voila!) he's reeled in his autograph (hence the term fishing). There was not a whole lot of fishing going on today because the players were on the field warming up but the picture to the left gives you an idea of how the whole thing went.

What a place. As for the game (the press box is that little booth behind the "McCoy Stadium" in the picture at the top of this post), the Bisons are sending Jeurys Familia to the mound against Billy Buckner (incredibly, no relation to him)

The Herd lineup is Lewis, rf; Rodriguez, ss; Duda, lf; Pascucci, dh; Lutz, 3b; Loewen, 1b; Satin, 2b; den dekker, cf and May, c.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

(Be sure to click on any of the pictures for a closer view!)

Fenway to McCoy

PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Day 2 of our New England trip has shifted the scene from the oldest park in the majors (Fenway) to the oldest one in the International League, quaint and back-to-the-past McCoy Stadium in the nation's tiniest state.

More on McCoy and today's game with the Pawtucket Red Sox coming up in a separate post. Be sure to catch up on today's coverage from the Fenway game here:

The Bisons won it, 2-0, as Collin McHugh threw seven shutout innings and -- giving him 13 in two years at Fenway -- and Josh Rodriguez homered over the Green Monster.

In the Bisons' notebook, Fernando Cabrera tied the franchise's modern-era save record and Matt den Dekker found center field even though he was left behind for a few minutes at a Thruway rest stop!

Be sure to double back on yesterday's live blog, which includes plenty of pictures.

And be sure to check out our audio interviews from the game.

And in today's Spotlight section (print only), catch up on my essay on why baseball still matters to America.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

 

Last words -- and audio -- from Fenway

BOSTON -- Saturday's "Futures at Fenway" game against Pawtucket was easily one of the neatest days in the Bisons' four-year run with the New York Mets. It would have been pretty easy for a last-place team that rode busses overnight (Really, International League? Really, Bisons?) to just mail this one in but Wally Backman's club didn't.

(An aside: Pawtucket bussed late-night from Scranton. Shouldn't the IL make sure the teams in the annual Fenway event are at McCoy Stadium on Friday night so this absurd travel doesn't produce bad baseball? But I digress).

The Bisons, believe it or not, are 62-66 and still have an outside shot at a .500 season. At least it's something. You watched Saturday's 2-0 win and wondered what could have been if this team played better defense much of the season. They looked Gold-Gloveish, rare for a club with 119 errors that rank them second-last in the IL.

Great pitching from Collin McHugh, who deserves a few September innings in the big leagues. Relievers Robert Carson and Elvin Ramirez will certainly get some too. I'd like to see some for 30-year-old Fernando Cabrera, who has 21 saves but that seems less unlikely.

Josh Rodriguez was positively giddy about homering over the Green Monster and Matt Tuiasosopo was a fiend with the glove at third. 

Good night all around. Let's see how things go tomorrow in Pawtucket -- and then Monday at home against Scranton after this team turns around and makes the long trip back to Buffalo.

Here's the audio of postgame interviews with Backman and several players.


Wally Backman


Collin McHugh


Matt Tuiasosopo


Fernando Cabrera


Josh Rodriguez

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Live from Fenway: Bisons vs. PawSox

On the scene at Fenway

YawkeyBOSTON -- The Futures at Fenway double-header is underway, with Class A Lowell meeting Hudson Valley and the Bisons-Pawtucket game to follow. As of 2:45, we're only in the middle of the fifth of the opener so the Bisons are likely not going to start much before 4:30.

The game started on an ominous note as Lowell pitcher Brian Johnson -- a first-round pick of the Red Sox this year out of the University of Florida -- was felled by a line drive to the face on just his second pitch of the day. He was down for several minutes and was taken off the field on a stretcher as he held a towel to his face. Johnson did, however, wave to the crowd and was fully conscious as he left (there has been no report on him).

The Bisons dressed at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, about an hour from here, and are currently en route. We'll have a live blog up around 4:15 or 4:30 with updates from the Herd game. One quickie: Pawtucket slugger Mauro Gomez, with 24 homers this season, has been called up by Boston and won't play today.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Wheeler looks for first win

Top prospect Zack Wheeler looks for his first win at the Triple-A level this afternoon against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs after two no decisions. 

The Bisons need to take the last two games of the series to go .500 on their eight-game homestand. 

Tom Cochran (6-5, 4.57 ERA) starts for the IronPigs. Temperature is 80 degrees with sunny skies and a slight breeze from right to left. 

Bisons' lineup:

Fred Lewis 9
Josh Rodriguez 6
Lucas Duda 7
Zach Lutz 5
Josh Satin 3
Brad Emaus 4
Matt den Dekker 8
Lucas May 2
Zack Wheeler 1

--- Nick Veronica 

Twitter: @NickVeronica

Schwinden, winner of three straight, starts vs. Lehigh

After their 6-0 win over the Lehigh Valley IronPigs Tuesday, the Bisons trot out a red-hot righty tonight: pitcher Chris Schwinden, who has won his last three games. Schwinden is 6-4 on the year, but he has a 2.14 earned-run average. He's only given up two runs in his last three outings.

Buffalo (60-64) is tied for fifth in the IL North. Lehigh Valley is 66-59, good for third in the division (3.5 games back). Buffalo holds a 6-4 lead in head-to-head matchups this year.

Yesterday, outfielder Matt den Dekker drilled a grand-slam, his second in nine days. 

Schwinden threw the first pitch, a strike, at 7:05 p.m.

Bisons lineup:

RF Fred Lewis

SS Josh Rodriguez

LF Lucas Duda

3B Zach Lutz

1B Adam Loewen

2B Josh Satin

CF Matt den Dekker

C Mike Nickeas

P Chris Schwinden

---Aaron Mansfield

 

Bisons open series with Lehigh Valley

Jeurys Familia makes his International League-leading 25th start tonight for the Buffalo Bisons as they open a four-game series with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

Josh Satin bats sixth for the Herd after having his 11-game hitting streak broken last night.

Tyson Brummett starts for Lehigh Valley. Pitchers will bat tonight as both teams are National League affiliates (IronPigs belong to Philadelphia).

Temperature is 70 degrees with overcast skies.

Lineups:

Lehigh Valley (66-58)

Cesar Hernandez 4
Derrick Mitchell 8
Pete Orr 5
Jake Fox 7
Jason Pridie 9
Cody Overbeck 3
John Suomi 2
Andres Blanco 6
Tyson Brummett 1

Buffalo (59-64)

Fred Lewis 9
Josh Rodriguez 6
Lucas Duda 7
Zach Lutz 5
Adam Loewen 3
Josh Satin 4
Matt den Dekker 8
Lucas May 2
Jeurys Familia 1

--- Nick Veronica

Twitter: @NickVeronica 

Fenway preview with Bisons' McHugh facing PawSox

The Bisons wrap up their two-game series tonight against the Pawtucket Red Sox in Coca-Cola Field and it figures to be a preview of what we'll see Saturday when the teams meet in the Futures at Fenway game in Fenway Park.

Collin McHugh (1-4, 3.99) goes for the Bisons tonight and he lines up to get the start Saturday afternoon in the shadow of the Green Monster. Oddly enough, McHugh pitched in Fenway last year as Double-A Binghamton played against Boston's Portland club. Pawtucket will throw lefty Chris Hernandez (1-2) tonight but its rotation is not as set because of a makeup double-header Wednesday against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Tonight's game will be telecast up and down the Northeast and around the country on both SNY (the Mets network) and NESN (the Red Sox network). Those telecasts will be blacked out in Buffalo, where the game will only be shown on Time Warner Cable Sportsnet. So if you have FIOS, Dish or DirecTV locally, you're out of luck (bad deal Bisons entered into with Time Warner but I digress).

Bisons infielder Josh Satin enters tonight's game on an 11-game hitting streak and continues to lead the IL in on-base percentage at .405. He's batting .302, fifth in the league and nine points back of Syracuse's Carlos Rivero.

In case you missed it earlier today, the Bisons announced big plans for their 25th anniversary celebration on Aug. 25 against Rochester. Great stuff.

Here's tonight's Buffalo lineup:

Fred Lewis, rf
Josh Rodriguez, ss
Lucas Duda, lf
Zach Lutz, dh
Josh Satin, 1b
Matt Tuiasosopo, 3b
Brad Emaus, 2b
Matt den Dekker, cf
Mike Nickeas, c
---
Collin McHugh, p

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Bisons set huge 25th anniversary celebration for Aug. 25 against Rochester

The Bisons have had the Aug. 25 game against Rochester on their promotional calendar all season as the official celebration of Coca-Cola Field's 25th anniversary but have been mum on the details -- until today.

This one figures to be a huge night for fans to celebrate all these summers of coming downtown.

You can get all the details at Bisons.com but here's a rundown of the night's main points:

---All tickets for the 6 p.m. game will be $5 and gates will open at 4:30. All fans will receive a complimentary aerial photo and a coupon for one $1 hot dog at any ballpark concession stand. There will be $2.50 craft beer specials until 6 p.m. and two buffets for $25 will be available at Pettibones from 4-6 (reservations required).

---There will be a $25,000 giveaway to a fan if the Bisons' 25th hitter of the game hits a home run (over the outfield fence, no inside-the-parkers). Two autographed retro 1997 jerseys will be awarded every half inning (one to a season ticket-holder, one to all other fans) and 25 lucky seat winners will win $25 Fastball cash cards.

---The Bisons' "All-25 Seasons Team" will be announced and special appearances will be made by former players Dorn Taylor, Scott Medvin, Tom Romano and Jason Cooper. Voting for the All-25 Seasons Team ends today.  Earl of Bud and Loudmouth the mime will also appear.

---Home run targets will be erected on the left-field screen and prizes awarded if they are struck, as was done during the Triple-A All-Star Home Run Derby. 

---Fans can receive 25 percent gift shop discounts and the game will be followed by a giant fireworks display.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Duda back vs. Pawtucket

Bisons left fielder Lucas Duda returns to the lineup tonight as the Herd begin a two-game series with the Pawtucket Red Sox.

Duda had missed the last three days after having a root canal. He bats third. 

The Boston Red Sox would like closer Andrew Bailey to pitch in a save opportunity today for Pawtucket.

Temperature at first pitch (6:07 p.m.) is 71 degrees with rain clouds overhead and winds blowing across the diamond from right to left.

Following the game will be the Bisons annual home run derby.

Lineups:

Pawtucket (66-55)

Che-Hsuan Lin 8
Jose Iglesias 6
Ryan Kalish 10
Mauro Gomez 5
J.C. Linares 9
Alex Hassan 7
Reynaldo Rodriguez 3
Mike Rivera 2
Nate Spears 4
Zach Stewart 1

Buffalo (58-63)

Fred Lewis 9
Josh Rodriguez 6
Lucas Duda 7
Zach Lutz 5
Adam Loewen 3
Josh Satin 10
Matt den Dekker 8
Matt Tuiasosopo 4
Lucas May 2
Jenrry Mejia 1 

--- Nick Veronica

Twitter: @NickVeronica

Wheeler set to start for Buffalo

It's Mystery Ball Night at Coca-Cola Field were a $20 donation to Women's & Children's Hospital gets you an autographed baseball. Autographed by whom? That's the beauty of the mystery ball. It could be one of the Buffalo Bisons or a New York Met. It could be one of the Buffalo Sabres or Buffalo Bills. Or it could be Katy Perry.

What's also a bit of a mystery at Coca-Cola Field is the weather. Pop-up showers came while the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees were taking batting practice. The swings continued, however the radar shows some rain coming downtown Buffalo's way. That's no surprise. After all Zack Wheeler is scheduled to start. If you recall, it was last Sunday when the No. 1 prospect in the New York Mets organization was supposed to make his Triple A debut in Buffalo but his start was rained out.

So, let's try this again.

Wheeler did make his Triple A debut on Monday in Syracuse. He gave up two runs on three hits in 4 2/3 innings of work with seven strikeouts and four walks taking a no-decision.

He began the season in Double-A Binghamton where he led the Eastern League with 117 strikeouts.

The Yankees will start Justin Thomas who makes his third start of the season.

Tonight's lineups:

Scranton
Chris Dickerson -- RF
Corban Joseph -- 2B
Eduardo Nunez -- SS
Ronnier Mustelier -- LF
Brandon Laird -- 3B
Francisco Cervelli -- C
Melky Mesa -- CF
Kosuke Fukudome -- 1B
Darnell McDonald -- DH

Bisons
Josh Rodriguez -- SS
Brad Emaus -- 2B
Josh Satin -- 1B
Lucas Duda -- LF
Zach Lutz -- DH
Valentino Pascucci -- RF
Matt Tuiasosopo -- 3B
Matt den Dekker -- CF
MIke Nickeas -- C

--- Amy Moritz 

Offermann Stadium remembered with plaque

DSCN1940As baseball history in Buffalo goes, Saturday morning will stand as a neat moment of paying homage to the past. About 100 of us were there behind the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts as a plaque was unveiled (left-click for full view) to mark the site of old Offermann Stadium, the Bisons' home from 1889-1960.

The idea was the brainchild of Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame site exhibit and board member John Boutet, curator of the Buffalo Sports Museum. He went to the site on Sept. 17, 2010, the 50th anniversary of the final game at the park, and realized nothing marked the area at Michigan and East Ferry where Bisons and baseball legends once played.

LukeNames such as Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Satchel Paige, Lou Boudreau and Tommy Lasorda played at Offermann. So did many Bisons legends led by Luke Easter, whose home run over the center-field scoreboard in 1957 was the first of its kind and was immortalized in a News file photo (right-click alert).

Working through the Hall, councilman Joe Golombek and the city's Arts Commission, Boutet shepherded a two-year process to raise money for the marker, get it produced and erected. Frank and Paul Offermann, sons of the legendary late Bisons owner Frank Offermann Sr., were among those on hand for the dedication.

Said master of ceremonies Pete Weber, the team's former radio voice and a Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer: "[The plaque will be] standing as a remembrance to all who came before -- players, coaches, owners, broadcasters, workers and fans. Everyone who made baseball special for those 72 years."

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Disco Night at the Ballpark

Just in case a game against the Yankees Triple-A club, fridaynightbash! and the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame inductions weren't enough for a night at the ballpark, it is Disco Night at Coca-Cola Field. The Bisons players will be wearing disco-themed jerseys. The jerseys will be autographed and part of an auction and raffle to raise money for Hillside Family of Agencies.

Check out the game jerseys along with mascot Chip who is donning his own version for the groovy night.

Bisons_disco

 

Bisons_chip_disco

Herd welcomes Hall of Famers

About 90 minutes from first pitch in downtown Buffalo and the sun is bright with blue skies and puffy white clouds. The Bisons have their fingers crossed that the rain and storms delay their arrival to Western New York as the Herd hosts Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in Coca-Cola Field.

Tonight is Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame night with outfielder Brian Giles and first baseman Russ Morman formally inducted in a pre-game ceremony. Giles spent three season with the Bisons, batting .308 with 37 doubles, 37 home runs and 138 RBI in 219 games. Morman also played three seasons, hitting .295 with 54 doubles, 42 home runs and 148 RBI in 246 games.

Righty Pedro Beato gets a spot start for the Herd as Garrett Olson was called up to the New York Mets. In 22 relief appearances he is 4-3 with a 2.38 earned run average. He has 26 strikeouts in 34 innings of work. It's his first start since 2009 when he was with Double-A Bowie.

Ramon Ortiz (9-5, 3.20) will get the start for Scranton.

Tonight's lineups:

Scranton
Chris Dickerson -- LF
Corban Joseph -- 2B
Eduardo Nunez -- SS
Ronnier Mustelier -- DH
Brandon Laird -- 3B
Francisco Cervelli -- C
Melky Mesa -- CF
Kosuke Fukudome -- RF
Darnell McDonald -- RF

Buffalo
Fred Lewis -- LF
Josh Rodriguez -- SS
Josh Satin -- 2B
Zach Lutz -- 1B
Adam Loewen -- RF
Valentino Pascucci -- DH
Matt Tuiasosopo -- 3B
Matt den Dekker -- CF
MIke Nickeas -- C

--- Amy Moritz 

Big weekend planned at Bisons' current home, neat ceremony coming Saturday at their old one

At 58-61, the Bisons are playing out the string of their final 25 games but there are still some interesting stories to watch as the team tries to finish .500 and avoid last place. Pitcher Zack Wheeler, the Mets' top prospect, makes his home debut Saturday night at 7 and outfielder Lucas Duda is back in Buffalo after the Mets sent him down to recapture his swing. And these figure to be the final Buffalo games for veteran slugger Valentino Pascucci, who has served the club well for the last three years and put on that memorable show last month in the Triple-A Home Run Derby.

Plenty going on off the field too.

Prior to tonight's 7:05 game, Brian Giles and Russ Morman will be inducted into the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame. I had a great chat on the phone the other day with Giles, a star here in 1995 and 1996, and you can read his comments in today's story. Morman is currently the hitting coach at Fresno and I chatted with him when he was here for the All-Star Game. That story ran July 27 and, if you missed it, the link is here. 

OffThe focus shifts away from downtown Saturday morning at 10, when a ceremony will be held to place a marker at the site of old Offermann Stadium (left) on the corner of East Ferry and Michigan. This has been a labor of love for Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame board member John Boutet, the curator of the online Buffalo Sports Museum.  Great to see it come to fruition. The public is invited to the site, currently held by Buffalo's Performing Arts Academy, and relatives of Luke Easter and Frank Offermann are scheduled to attend.

Wheeler's home debut Saturday night will come as part of the team's ever-growing Mystery Ball Night. The annual event is a huge hit: You spend $20 for a certificate for a ball that's wrapped and signed by a local or national sports star or an entertainment figure. Go to the redemption area and get a ball and unwrap who you have. Great idea (limit four certificates per person).

The Bisons have 500 signed balls and the list on their Web site is voluminous so I encourage you to go to that link and check out the names.

On top of all that, Monday is the last day you can vote for the Bisons' 25 Seasons Downtown team. Plenty of tough choices on the ballot, which has had the deadline extended from its originally listed date of Aug. 5. The link to the ballot is here and I'll offer my thoughts next week after the deadline has passed.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

2010 file photo: Artifacts from Offermann Stadium at the site of Saturday's ceremony (courtesy John Boutet).

Son of ex-Herd ace wins first MLB start for Orioles

The Bisons are celebrating their 25th anniversary season in Coca-Cola Field and one of my favorite games from the very first season in 1988 came on Fan Appreciation Night as the Herd scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth -- the last as Orestes Destrade trotted home on a wild pitch -- to post a 2-1 win over Nashville. 

The team and sellout crowd celebrated wildly and a lot of the focus was on pitcher Dave Johnson, who threw brilliantly that night but looked like a 1-0 loser until the big rally. It turned out to be Johnson's 15th win of the season -- which was a record at the time and still stands as the second-most wins in the modern era behind the 17 Joe Roa compiled in 1995. The win was Johnson's ninth complete game, which remains the modern-era mark all these years later.

Johnson, a Maryland native, didn't get much of a chance with Pittsburgh but went on to be a key guy for the upstart 1989 Baltimore Orioles before ending his career in 1993 with the Tigers. Now he's a broadcaster for MASN, which does Orioles games and is chronicling another unexpected season for the Birds.

The O's beat Seattle last night, 9-2, and who was the winning pitcher? Dave Johnson's 24-year-old son, Steve. And the significance of the date? It was the 23rd anniversary of Dave Johnson's first MLB win -- a complete-game, 6-1 victory over Minnesota on Aug. 8, 1989.

Here's some video from Johnson's MLB debut as a reliever last month, including shots of his dad in the crowd.

MLB.com isn't allowing an embed from last night's game but the video link to Johnson's outing is here.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

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About Inside Pitch

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has covered the Buffalo Bisons since 1992 and Major League Baseball since 1995. A member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Harrington has reported on more than 30 MLB postseason series — including every game of the World Series in this century — and all three of the Bisons' championship runs in their modern era. He is a connoisseur of the famous Stadium Mustard at Cleveland's Progressive Field.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered the Bisons for The Buffalo News since 2002. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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