July 14, 1997 -- You've never seen a bigger swing of a baseball bat than the ones Jeff Manto took in his final at bat on this date. Take it from someone who was there.
Manto had hit three home runs already on the day, and you don't get that many chances at four. Manto created nothing but a breeze as he struck out late in the game, but it was still a great day's work.
Manton became the first player in the history of the downtown ballpark to hit three homers in one contest. It was good for a 6-1 win over the Iowa Cubs, one that delighted a crowd of 19.255 -- the second-largest of the season.
The game even featured a brief bench-clearing incident after Buffalo's Randy Curtis was hit by Iowa starter Amaury Telemaco. No punches were thrown, but Telemaco and Iowa pitching coach Marty DeMerritt were ejected. The teams met around home plate and exchanged unpleasantries.
Manto was the second Bison to hit three in a game; Al Martin did it in Louisville in 1992. Manto had 18 home runs for the season when he was done for the day.
"I've never seen a person play as well as Jeff has in such a short period of time," Buffalo manager Brian Graham said. "He's hotter than any hitter I've even seen at this level."
Manto eventually was inducted into the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame.
--- Budd Bailey