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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: The umpire strikes back

   July 25, 1961 -- The Buffalo Bills have had a variety of individuals put on their uniform over the years. None took the career route that one of their 1961 rookies did.

   Ron Luciano was signed by the Bills on this day on the eve of their training camp. He had been a good lineman at Syracuse University, earning letters in 1956, 1957 and 1958, and had a tryout with the Detroit Lions. That didn't work, so he gave the AFL a chance.

   However, Luciano couldn't make the 1961 Bills either. So he became, of all things, a baseball umpire.

   Luciano worked his way up to the major leagues. He became known for his demonstrative manner and his running arguments with Baltimore manager Earl Weaver. Then Luciano retired, and achieved his greatest fame. He did some baseball announcing for NBC and wrote five very funny books about umpiring that sold very well.

   When he appeared on a Buffalo radio talk show to promote a book, he had this story: Whenever he came to Buffalo and umpired at War Memorial Stadium, a woman who sat right behind home plate would always give him "the business." After several games of this, Luciano and his crew found out she worked as a waitress at a diner in mornings.

   So the crew went to the restaurant for breakfast, and started demanding better service. "Where's my coffee?" "My eggs are cold." "Check, please!" Finally, the waitress said, "I'll never yell at you again, if you just leave this place now." From then on, whenever Luciano's crew came to Buffalo, it had baked goods waiting from the waitress.

   Luciano died in 1995. His sense of humor is still missed.

--- Budd Bailey

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