I spoke here yesterday about the unveiling of the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot -- be sure to double back to our post to cast your votes -- and here's an update on another Hall.
I sent in my ballot today for the 2013 class of the International League Hall of Fame (I am one of 61 voters), and it had a decidedly Buffalo feel to it. There were 10 nominees to choose from and they included Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Famer Jeff Manto (right), former Bisons executive Don Labbruzzo and ex-Buffalo manager Marc Bombard.
I voted for those three, along with former Columbus standout Marshall Brant, ex-Rochester Red Wings/Baltimore Orioles star Dennis Martinez and former Durham/Toledo closer Lee Gardner.
Manto, of course, is the most celebrated player in the Bisons' modern era. He still holds the franchise mark for home runs with 79 from 1997-2000 and is the only post-1985 Bison to have his number retired. Manto just completed his first year as hitting coach of the Chicago White Sox and was excited to learn this week the Sox have added veteran Harold Baines, Manto's former teammate in Baltimore, as an assistant hitting coach for next year.
In addition to his time in Buffalo, Manto had an 88-RBI season for Scranton in 1993 and an MVP season in 1994 with Norfolk and Rochester, combining for 31 homers and 100 RBIs. You have to think he's a lock for induction.
Bombard led the Bisons to an 87-57 record and American Association East Division championship in 1992, but he's on the IL Hall ballot for his franchise-record 607 wins and four playoff berths with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre from 1997-2004.
Labbruzzo, who died in 1999, was inducted into the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987. He was the Bisons' GM from 1958-60 and again in 1970, when he took heavy personal losses trying to save the team before it was moved to Winnipeg. He also worked in the IL for Columbus (1955-57), Syracuse (1961-69) and Rochester (1977-78).
I liked Brant because he's the only player in Columbus history to have his number retired and still ranks first in Clippers history in RBIs (302) and second in home runs (86) among a bevy of Yankees greats. Martinez won the IL pitching triple crown for Rochester in 1978 (leading the league with 14 wins, a 2.50 ERA and 140 strikeouts for a first-place team) while Gardner led the IL with 107 saves in the decade of the 2000s and won three titles with Durham and Toledo
The new class will be announced in late January and inductees are honored at games around the league all summer. You can read more about the IL Hall at its main Web page and there are plenty of links there to take you through the years.
(Buffalo News file photo/Harry Scull: Manto accepts an award from the Bisons Booster Club in 1999)