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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: A big, big deal

     October 31, 1987 -- Bills fans remember this day as the one in which the team seemed to indicate that it was getting very serious about its rebuilding plan.

     The Bills, who had already added some top players in the previous couple of years, pulled one of their biggest trades in their history. They acquired linebacker Cornelius Bennett from the Colts in a three-cornered deal that sent Eric Dickerson from the Rams to the Colts, and Greg Bell from the Bills to the Rams. Buffalo also gave up a first-round pick and two second-rounders.

     Bennett, a heralded college linebacker, had been unable to reach a contract agreement with the Colts since Indy picked him in the draft. Buffalo already had rookie linebacker Shane Conlon in its lineup.

     Bennett needed less than 30 minutes of playing time to make an impact, and he went on to become one of the key figures in the Bills' Super Bowl run in the 1990's.

     People forget that Bell had the two best years of his career with the Rams, running for more than 1,100 yards each year and scoring a total of 31 touchdowns. But he played little with Oakland in 1990 and then was out of football.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Strange interlude

     October 30, 1980 -- The Buffalo Stallions had some interesting moments in their brief history, but none was as bizarre as the Paolo Rossi situation.

     Rossi was one of the top players in Italy during the late 1970's. However, he was accused in 1980 of being involved in a betting scandal, and was suspended for three years (later reduced to two). Rossi always maintained his innocence, and one of his accusers later admitted that he had invented the story.

     What's a soccer player to do when suspended? Look for some place to play, which in this case -- almost unbelievably in hindsight -- was in Buffalo. The Stallions signed him, and he suited up for an exhibition game on this date.

     Rossi never did play in a regular-season game with the Stallions, as the Major Indoor Soccer League had no desire to get caught up in world soccer affairs that early in its life. But that's not the end of the story.

     Rossi came back just in time for the 1982 World Cup, and he led Italy to a victory. Rossi was named world footballer of the year for his efforts, and is now considered one of the greatest players in the history of the sport. Too bad he didn't get to spend more time in Buffalo.

--- Budd Bailey

Post time: New racing writer enters the paddock

By Gene Kershner
Special to The News

When minor league baseball players are elevated to the big leagues, a common phrase uttered in locker rooms from veteran ballplayers to the up and coming rookie is “Welcome to the show, rook.”

I have that feeling as I enter into the Sports, Ink blog to start reporting on horse racing as a special correspondent for The News.  I was a long-time reader and admirer of the late Happy Handicapper, Bob Summers, who set the bar very high for many years until his untimely death in September.  No one can replace a legendary writer who was beloved not only in his hometown Buffalo but in racetrack press boxes across the country.  I will try my best to keep the sport of horse racing, which affects so many in Western New York in one way or another, active and relevant on the pages of The News.

I will try and bring a fresh perspective and consistency to the assignment by featuring a weekly blog post every Friday here on topics including the race of the week, Derby watch lists during the prep season, local harness happenings, and mid-year and year-end report cards on the horse racing industry as a whole.

In a future post, I also have plans to introduce several elements of social media highlighting interesting handicapping tips or track information that are available to you as a horseplayer or fan.  My Web site, EquiSpace, unveiled in April 2008, is 100 percent devoted to horse racing.  It was a springboard to opportunities such as writing for the industry trade Web site Bloodhorse.com and covering the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

This is an exciting time to start this new endeavor with the 27th running of the Breeders’ Cup slated for Churchill Downs next week and I look forward to sharing my insights with you on the key races over the two-day championships.  Here are some news and notes of current interest.

Breeders’ Cup notes 
• 184 horses were pre-entered for the Breeders’ Cup on Monday and the past performances were released on Wednesday.
• The Breeders’ Cup wagering menu is full of options, including the introduction of 50-cent Pick 3 and Pick 4 wagering, as well as 10-cent superfectas.  In addition, a special wager will be offered on the jockey who has the most wins in the 14 Breeders' Cup Championships races over the two-day event.
• First post on Friday for a Breeders’ Cup race is 4:10 p.m. EST and on Saturday at 1:50 p.m.  The $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic is scheduled to go off at 6:45 p.m. on Saturday evening under the lights.
• Attendance figures during the last four Breeders’ Cups held during one day events in the past include: 2006 - 75,132; 2000 - 76,043; 1998 - 80,452 and 1994 - 62,597.  Event organizers are hoping for attendance exceeding 150,000 for the two days.
• This year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Super Saver, was retired Thursday to WinStar Farm in Versailles, Ky.  A stud fee has yet to be determined for the Classic winning colt who gave trainer Todd Pletcher his first ever Derby victory.
• Be sure to tune in to “60 Minutes” on CBS Sunday evening as the feature piece is on the undefeated mare Zenyatta who is seeking to duplicate the Breeders’ Cup Classic victory she earned last year at Santa Anita Park.

This Day in Buffalo Sports History; Squished fish

   October 29, 1989 -- Football games don't get much more satisfying from a Bills' standpoint than the one on this day against the Miami Dolphins. The Bills ran their rival into the ground by a convincing 31-17 margin before a record crowd (80,208) in Rich Stadium.

   Frank Reich filled in for the injured Jim Kelly, and he almost could have played the game in a rocking chair. Reich threw the ball only nine times as the Bills ran the ball 51 times for 280 yards rushing. Thurman Thomas had 148 of those yards, a career high, and Larry Kinnebrew added 121 yards. Each scored a touchdown.

   One of Reich's six completions was a 63-yard strike to Don Beebe, which went for the third of three second-quarter touchdowns.

   Meanwhile, Kirby Jackson finished off the Dolphins by intercepting a Dan Marino pass and going 40 yards for a touchdown.

   "It was just a disappointment to come up here and get handled that way," said Miami coach Don Shula, whose team had just lost its sixth straight game to Buffalo.

--- Budd Bailey

Running notebook: Line up to sign up

   A few notes from the week's running:

   * The deadline for mail registration is coming up on Sunday. After Oct. 31, you won't be able to register by mail ... and the price will go from $25 to $30. In other words, there's a pretty good incentive to get your checkbook out NOW. Call 875-1283 for details.

   * The Niagara Falls International Marathon might have had its best race ever last week, with more than 1,000 finishers. This sometimes gets overlooked because many American runners are a little intimidated by border regulations, but the event is catching on. Steve Bohan of Boston (N.Y., not Massachusetts) and Jill Gamble of Owen Sound, Ont., were the winners.

   * Speaking of big turnouts, the race sponsored by the St. Mary's School for the Deaf had its biggest field ever. There were 220 finishers. Organizers really took advantage of an opening in the race calendar, as the race had the Saturday to itself. While the big field eliminated my chance at repeating as an age-group medalist, I did win the door prize of a very nice St. Mary's blanket. I'll be warm for the winter now.

   * Sunday's running column has an interview with the organizers of the BobKat 5K, who say they've learned a lot after two years on the job. It's a fun story, I hold.

   Now, the usual weekend roundup, courtesy of our friends at buffalorunners.com:

   * Chestnut Ridge Challenge 10K, Chestnut Ridge Park Casino in Orchard Park, 9 a.m. Saturday. The runners who love a challenge will be here for this.

   * Strides for Stewart 2 Benefit ECMC 5K, Veterans Park in Grand Island, 9 a.m. Saturday, 830-9515. It's a new one on the calendar.

   * Jack O'Lantern Fall Classic 5K, Goat Island in Niagara Falls, 10 a.m. Saturday, 282-1228. There's a good chunk of prize money up for grabs here, and plenty of door prizes available as well. Plus, the mayor of Niagara Falls has promised to be there.

   * Heritage 5K, Ellery Town Park in Greenhurst, 10 a.m. Saturday, 985-6712.

   * Race to Benefit Laura Friend, 5K, 5375 Old Goodrich Road in Clarence, 10 a.m. Saturday, 741-9001. Another new one.

   * Making Tracks for Families 5K, 2909 South Park Ave. in Lackawanna, 10 a.m. Sunday, 858-2671. This race started its life at the downtown baseball park, but moved to Lackawanna a couple of years ago. The cemetery is a little curvy as courses go, but it's still pretty.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Joining the club

   October 28, 1959 -- It's official.

   As expected, Ralph Wilson's application for a franchise in the American Football League was accepted by the rest of the owners. That meant professional football would come to Buffalo the following summer, and that Wilson was a full-fledged member of the so-called "Foolish Club."

   The Bills became the seventh team for the AFL, joining Minneapolis, Denver, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston and New York. Boston eventually became team number eight.

  It was just a wild gamble because bucking the NFL was a major task," Wilson said in the book, "Rockin' the Rockpile." "It was like starting an automobile company and bucking General Motors."

   The franchise represented something of a consolation prize for the city. Buffalo had been an applicant for an NFL franchise when that league decided to expand, but came up short. Eventually, the Minneapolis franchise jumped to the NFL, and was replaced by Oakland.

   As it turned out, challenging the established National Football League didn't turn out to be so foolish, did it?

 --- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: A temporary home

   October 27, 1979 -- Syracuse University's football team had a problem in 1979 -- it didn't have a place to play its home games. Archbold Stadium hosted its last game in 1978, and the new Carrier Dome wouldn't be ready until 1980.

   To fill the schedule, Syracuse toured upstate New York in search of playing facilities. Two of the Orangemen's games wound up in Rich Stadium. One of them came on this date, as Syracuse defeated the University of Miami, 25-15, before about 8,000 fans. (The other was a Sept. 29 game against Washington State.)

   SU quarterback Bill Hurley, who played high school football at St. Joe's, came home to rush for 109 yards and pass for 99 more. Art Monk and Gary Anderson were on the Syracuse roster that day. However, the crowd should have paid more attention to the Miami offense.

   In the third quarter, Jim Kelly checked in to the game to lead the Hurricanes' offense. He went 7 for 17 for 130 yards and a touchdown in his first good-sized amount of playing time as a college quarterback. Kelly would get to know the facility a lot better down the road.

   Syracuse also played home games in Ithaca and at the Meadowlands complex in New Jersey. It finished 7-5.

 --- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: A ten-spot

    October 26, 2006 -- The Sabres have gotten off to some good starts over the years, but the one for the 2006-07 season was their best one yet.

   On this date, the Sabres beat the Islanders, 3-0, for their 10th straight win.

   The win was only one away from setting the record the best start in NHL history, held by the 1993-94 Toronto Maple Leafs. Still, Lindy Ruff wasn't satisfied.

   "We're in search of the perfect game," said the Sabres' coach. "The coaching staff is, anyway. We've got to continue to create good habits, not get careless and not get sloppy. We need to ... make smarter plays."

   Goalie Ryan Miller made 29 saves for Buffalo in the shutout, while Ales Kotalik, Maxim Afinogenov, and Jason Pominville had the goals. By the way, the win came against a team coached by Ted Nolan in his first game back in Buffalo with an opposing team.

   The Sabres streak came to an end two nights later in a shootout loss in Atlanta. Buffalo did have two shootout wins in the streak.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Near-perfection

   October 25, 1939 -- The name Allie Brandt is magical in local bowling circles. His performance on this day is a reason why.

   Brandt was a man who was small in stature, checking in at 5-foot-1 and 122 pounds after lunch. He headed to Allen's Alleys on Pine Street in Lockport, not knowing that he was about to make history.

   Brandt threw a 297 in his first game of the night, followed by a 289. He capped the series with a perfect 300. That added up to 886 pins, which set the record for an American Bowling Congress-sanctioned series.

   What's more, the record stood for close to 50 years. There have been perfect 900 series bowled since then, but it could be argued that conditions have tilted in favor of the bowler so much since then that Brandt's effort was the greatest in history.

   He became a charter member of the Professional Bowlers Association in 1958. Brandt was named to the ABC Hall of Fame in 1960, and was president of that organization in the 1970's. Brandt is a member of the Buffalo and Lockport Bowling Association's Halls of Fame, and of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. He died in 1982.

--- Budd Bailey

Tennis: McAdoo still can do

We now know what Bob McAdoo did in the 1975 offseason after his Buffalo Braves lost to Washington in the first round of the playoffs.

He became a tennis fan.

McAdoo is the subject of an article in Tennis magazine this month. It seems he became caught up in the game when Arthur Ashe beat Jimmy Connors at Wimbledon that summer. He's a pretty good player now at the age of 59 (rating of 4.0).

McAdoo's daughter is actually the focus of the article. Rasheeda is 15 and a rising young junior player in Florida. She was a student at the Evert Tennis Academy for three years, as the family had a town house across the street from the facility in Boca Raton. Now, Rasheeda is coached by Rodney Harrison.

By the way, Kiki Vandeweghe has a nice on the WTA tour, and Mark Price has a dughter who is a rising young 17-year-old in tennis circles.

--- Budd Bailey

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