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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Opening the doors

   October 15, 1970-- Buffalo's wait to host a game in the National Hockey League finally comes to an end. The Sabres had opened the season with a win in Pittsburgh and a loss to the Rangers in New York, but this was the game people remember.

   Hockey's answer to royalty, the Montreal Canadiens provided the opposition. NHL President Clarence Campbell came to town for Opening Night. He dropped the puck for a ceremonial faceoff between the two captains, Montreal's Jean Beliveau and Buffalo's Floyd Smith.

   Once the game started, the Canadiens showed that the Sabres had a long way to go. They dominated Buffalo in a 3-0 decision that wasn't that close.

   Buffalo was outshot, 11-3, in the first period, but left the ice scoreless. Yvon Cournoyer scored the first goal on Memorial Auditorium ice at 6:01 of the second period. Roger Crozier stopped the other 21 shots by the Canadiens in the period.  The shot numbers were even more one-sided in the third period, 20-2, and Guy Lapointe and Cournoyer finished the scoring.

   "I don't think the puck was out of our end that much during the game," he said. "It seemed like I had to keep making save after save. That puck was fired at me a lot that game."

   Buffalo would have to wait until Oct. 23 to get its first home win.

--- Budd Bailey

Running notebook: Turn for the worse

I don't think there was a runner in Western New York who didn't at least try to get out on the streets last weekend. Fall conditions just don't get any better. The forecast isn't quite as good for this weekend, but it still should be good enough to get in some fast times on the weekend's races. The slate is courtesy of buffalorunners.com:

   * ECMC Lifeline Foundation WNY Runs for Heroes 5K, Delaware Park in Buffalo, 10 a.m. Saturday, 898-5881.

   * Pumpkin Run 5K, 6350 Main St. in Williamsville, 10:30 a.m. Saturday, 783-3168. I got a look at a course map today; you have to love a course where the elevation changes less than 10 feet up or down from the start.

   * Dr. Richard T. Sarkin Memorial 5K, Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, 10:30 a.m. Saturday, 713-0769.

   * Timon Fall Challenge 5K Run, 601 McKinley Parkway, 10:30 a.m. Saturday, 826-3610. I have friends who do this race just for the cheesecake afterwards.

   * Chowder Challenge 5K, Pine Wood Park in North Tonawanda, 11 a.m. Saturday, 523-3958.

   * BobKat Honorary 5K, 218 Aqua Lane park in Town of Tonawanda, 10 a.m. Sunday, 725-7414.

   On Sunday, I'll have a story on a Western New York native who was the first to complete an amazing goal.

--- Budd Bailey 

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: First night, first win

   October 14, 1970 -- It's Opening Night for the Buffalo Braves, as they play the first regular-season game in their history. As an added treat, they win it -- a victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The win came 30 years to the day after Memorial Auditorium.

   Coach Dolph Schayes sent out a mixture of experience and youth for the opening tip-off. Dick Garrett might have been the best-known player on the roster. He had been a starter for the Los Angeles Lakers when they lost to the New York Knicks in the NBA finals the previous spring.

   Speaking of the Knicks, they contributed two starters. Don May was the star of a Dayton team that lost to UCLA in the NCAA finals. Nate Bowman was the center, and essentially been Willis Reed's caddy during the championship season. The other starters were Herm Gilliam, a promising guard, and John Hummer, the team's top draft choice.

   The combination worked well enough on this night. Bowman hit a jumper to put Buffalo ahead for good at 12-10. May had 24 points in 35 minutes, setting a career high in scoring. Garrett added 20, including the first basket in franchise history.

   As a footnote, the Braves used 14 players in the game, as the new teams -- Buffalo, Cleveland and Portland -- were allowed to use expanded rosters. Therefore, the Braves set an NBA record in their first game that has never broken.

   For more on the Braves' first season, click here.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: The Babe visits

   October 13, 1920 -- Baseball players in the 1920's didn't stop playing once the season was over. There was money to be made ... on the barnstorming circuit.

   No one knew that better than Babe Ruth, who in 1920 had emerged as the biggest name in baseball. Ruth had just finished his first season with the Yankees, and it was an historic one. The Bambino hit a record 54 homers -- the old mark was 29, set the previous year by the Babe in Boston. He led the league in runs, walks and RBIs as well.

   The Yankees only finished third that season, so Ruth didn't have to wait until the World Series was over to start touring the country. On this date, the Babe came to Buffalo for an exhibition game.

   Ruth suited up for a team that was called "The Polish Nationals." The opposition was supplied by "The Pittsburgh Colored Stars of Buffalo." Ruth brought along a couple of Yankee teammates for the game. Carl Mays was New York's best pitcher with a 26-11 record. James "Truck" Hannah was a backup catcher with the Yankees.

   The Babe didn't disappoint anyone on that day. His two home runs thrilled a crowd of about 5,000 fans. One of the round-trippers hit a house on Woodlawn Ave. Ruth's team recorded a 10-0 win.

   The Babe had such a good time, or at least cashed such a good check, that he returned to play another game later that month. He could only manage a single in three trips in that visit.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Galloping in Buffalo

   October 12, 1927 - There might not have been a more important figure in the early history of football than Red Grange.

   As you might have guessed, he played in Buffalo ... as a pro.

   Grange was the biggest start to play the game in the 1920's. He was an All-American at Illinois, and created great interest in the sport throughout the country. Grange jumped to the National Football League's Chicago Bears immediately following his last college game, and took part in a barnstorming tour that netted him a reported $100,000. That was pretty good money in those days.

    Grange got into a contract dispute with the Bears, and essentially formed his own league for the 1926 season. He returned to the NFL with the New York Yankees in 1927. The Yankees played the Buffalo Bisons on Wednesday, October 12. About 3,500 came to Bisons Stadium in the rain and saw Grange and the Yankees beat the Bisons, 19-8. It was Grange's only touchdown of the season.

   It was something of a last hurrah for the Bisons. They played two more games that weekend, lost them both without scoring a point, and withdrew from the league. Buffalo's final record for that season was 0-5. The Bisons took 1928 off, returned for a dreary (1-7-1) 1929 season, and died.

   Grange, meanwhile, hurt his knee later in 1927, sat out the 1928 campaign, and returned in 1929 for the first of six seasons with Chicago. He wasn't the same after that injury, but he'll never be forgotten in the history books of pro football.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Big moment number two

   October 11, 1969 -- Preston Ridlehuber isn't exactly a common name in football circles. Yet he was involved in a couple of good-sized moments in his brief career.

   The first came in 1968. You might have heard of the "Heidi" game, in which NBC left a broadcast of the Jets-Raiders game in the final minutes to switch to a showing of "Heidi." The Raiders scored two touchdowns in the final, blacked-out moments to win the game as angry fans bombarded the NBC affiliate with complaining phone calls. NBC never tried that again. You guessed it -- Ridlehuber scored one of those touchdowns on a fumble recovery.

   Ridlehuber found himself on the Buffalo Bills roster the following season. He was one of the backups to O.J. Simpson, which usually is a great way to be anonymous.

   On this day in 1969, Ridlehuber threw a 45-yard halfback-option pass to Haven Moses with 5:02 left to give the Bills a 23-16 win over the Boston Patriots. The victory came before a record War Memorial Stadium crowd of 46,201. Simpson missed that game because of injury, but Wayne Patrick ran for 131 yards. Ridlehuber gained 25 yards on four carries, the only times he carried the ball all year.

   As for Preston, 1969 was his last year in pro football. Can you guess how many passes he threw in his entire NFL career? That's right, one.

--- Budd Bailey

Bandits notebook: A big acquisition

As the number of teams in the National Lacrosse League shrinks, it stands to reason that the talent level for each team has to go up. Therefore, you'd better be getting better or you'll be losing ground to the opposition.

That brings us to the Buffalo Bandits' latest move.

Earlier in the week the Bandits picked up Tracey Kelusky and a third-round draft choice from Calgary for a first-round pick in 2011. Kelusky is living in Ontario, and reportedly wanted to be traded closer to home.

Whatever the reason, Kelusky can play. He's the 11th-leading scorer in league history, and helped Calgary win a couple of championship. One of the Bandits told me that Kelusky is an outstanding leader. He's apparently a quality person too, based on the remarks by Roughnecks' management at the time of the trade.

"It should never be overlooked the things Tracey has done in this community and the charities he has been involved with. Including everything he has accomplished at Central Memorial High School in bringing the lacrosse program to them and the kids that he has coached, taught, and mentored. He has done more for this city and team than anyone can imagine," said Calgary president Brad Banister.

The Bandits already had picked up Jay Thorimbert and Scott Self from Minnesota. Those are three very solid acquisitions in the offseason.  They should help Buffalo stay competitive in what should be a rugged 2011 season.

One other note -- it's interesting how many players who have come to Buffalo in this offseason have some sort of previous connection to the Bandits. Apparently once coach Darris Kilgour likes a player, he likes him for keeps. In Kelusky's case, he was a draft choice of Buffalo's in 1995 who decided to go to college instead of turning pro. By the way, John Grant was also picked by the Bandits that year; we'll see if he turns up.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: End of a streak

     October 10, 1987 -- It's not usually news when a team loses, but it was on this day. The longest winning streak in high school team sports history came to an end.

     Sweet Home's girls volleyball team lost to Horseheads, 15-8, 14-16, and 15-11, in the Eden tournament. It snapped Eden's winning streak at an amazing 292.

     "I'm glad, and I know our girls are glad, that we lost to a program similar to ours, one that starts girls in the seventh grade and is a very technical program" Sweet Home coach Sally Kus said to the News' Mike Harrington.

     Sweet Home faced four match points in the second game, but fought them off to force a third game. But Horseheads was too good from there, giving Kus only her 13th career loss since 1974. She had 379 career wins at the time.

     "We love the competition of playing them," Horseheads coach Tom Skidmore said. "You always go aganist them with the thought -- and the hope-- that you can beat them. It's really amazing to think about this. That streak is unbelievable. When the match ended, it was strange because we felt bad for them. They've accomplished something to be proud of forever. Sure, we were happy to win but we felt bad they had to lose."

     Two days later, the Sweet Home boys volleyball team came to the girls' practice and gave each player a rose in honor of the streak.    

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Bufflao Sports History: No more whammy in Miami

   October 9, 1983 -- Seventeen years is a long time to go between drinks, or at least Gatorade showers. That's how long the Bills went between wins in the Orange Bowl, then the home of the Miami Dolphins.

   When Buffalo beat the Fish in 1966, who would have thought that the team would have to wait until 1983 to get another win there? That win finally came on this date.

   It was a classic, back-and-forth contest. Buffalo had a 14-0 lead in the first period, only to see the Dolphins rally and eventually go ahead in the fourth quarter. With 23 seconds left in regulation, Joe Ferguson hit Joe Cribbs with a one-year pass for a touchdown to tie the game at 35-35. Then Joe Danelo kicked a 36-yard field goal with 1:02 left in overtime to win it.

   The Dolphins started a rookie at quarterback that day, and Dan Marino did pretty well. He was 19 of 29 for 322 yards and three touchdowns.  The Bills probably figured out pretty quickly that they'd be seeing a lot of him in the years ahead. Mark Duper caught seven passes for 202 yards.

    The win improved Buffalo's record to 4-2 under new coach Kay Stephenson. The Bills lost four of their last five games to miss out on the playoffs that season.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: A final win

   October 8, 1972 -- Call it the Last Hurrah, Rockpile edition.

   The Bills recorded their final victory at War Memorial Stadium history on this date, a 38-14 victory over the New England Patriots. Buffalo scored 28 unanswered points in the second quarter, including a touchdown run by O.J. Simpson and two short TD bursts by Jim Braxton, to take a 31-7 lead at halftime. break the game open.

    Simpson was on his way to his first rushing title that season, but this particular week didn't help his numbers much. He finished with only 31 yards on 13 carries. (He was 2 for 3 for 53 yards passing, oddly enough.) Braxton actually got the ball more often, carrying 15 times for 58 yards.

   Trivia buffs might be interesting in the name of the person who scored a touchdown for New England … Brian Dowling. He was the quarterback of the famous undefeated Yale team of 1968. Garry Trudeau, the author of the famous comic strip "Doonesbury," loosely based his B.D. character on Dowling. Jim Plunkett was the Patriots' starter that season.

   You might be thinking that it's pretty early in the calendar to get a final home victory. You'd be right. The Bills had an odd schedule that year. They opened with four straight games at home (they went 2-2), and later played four straight games on the road. That team finished 4-9-1.

--- Budd Bailey

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About Sports, Ink

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has served in a variety of roles in Buffalo sports in the past 35 years, including reporter, talk-show host, baseball announcer, public relations staffer and author. He covers the Bandits and running for The News when not working as an editor.

@WDX2BB | bbailey@buffnews.com

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