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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Shown the door

     November 17, 2009 -- No one in Western New York was happy when the Bills were 3-6 after nine games of the 2009 season. That list included Bills' owner Ralph Wilson. What's more, Wilson was in a position to take action.

     Therefore, he fired Dick Jauron as coach of the team. Perry Fewell was named as the interim head coach, moving up from defensive coordinator.

     Jauron had guided the Bills through three straight 7-9 seasons. They were coming off an ugly loss to Tennessee, and that was enough to prompt Wilson to pull the trigger.

     "It's the toughest thing I ever had to do personally because he's such a great guy," Wilson said to The News' Mark Gaughan. "But nothing ever seemed to go right."

     Jauron had guided the Bills to a 5-1 start in 2008, earning a contract extension. But it was downhill from there. Jauron also revealed so little of himself in public that he had no reservoir of good will built in reserve.

     Fewell said his philosophy for the rest of the season was simple: "Play like hell and win," he said.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Rebuilding the Sabres

    November 16, 1995 -- When the Buffalo Sabres were eliminated in ugly fashion from the playoffs in 1995 from Philadelphia, they figured to launch a rebuilding program. That meant many of the veterans who had been with the team for the previous few seasons were headed elsewhere.

   The most obvious sign of that was when Alexander Mogilny had gone to Vancouver for three players that summer. In November, another shoe dropped.

   Buffalo sent defenseman Doug Bodger to San Jose in a three-way deal that also involved Philadelphia. The Sabres picked up Vaclav Varada, prospect Martin Spanhel, a fourth-round pick in 1996 (Mike Martone) and a first-round pick in 1996 (Erik Rasmussen).

   Bodger was an interesting case. He came up to the NHL in 1984 as an 18-year-old defenseman and displayed a maturity well beyond his years. Bodger had some offensive skills but still wasn't too bad at all in his own end. He came to the Sabres in the Tom Barrasso deal, and seemed to plateau a bit. By 1995, Bodger's play had started to decline a little, and the Sabres did well to get such a large package for him.

   Varada proved to be a good pest for a few years on the checking line, but Rasmussen never did live up to his supposed potential.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Unbeaten no longer

     November 15, 1964 -- Any hopes the 9-0 Buffalo Bills might have had about an undefeated season came to an end in War Memorial Stadium on this date. The Bills were outscored, 15-0, by the Patriots in the final quarter as Boston recorded a 36-28 victory.

     It was a see-saw game, which saw the Bills hold leads of 10-0 and 28-14. Jack Kemp threw for two touchdown passes, and Joe Auer ran a fumble recovery 14 yards for a score.

     You'd think a team that was on such a roll wouldn't be guilty of relaxing, but that's what happened. Gino Cappelletti caught three touchdown passes and kicked four extra points for the Patriots, who scored the final 22 points of the game.

     Ed Rutkowski caught seven passes for the Bills. Kemp finished 16 for 41 for an impressive 295 yards. The Bills held the Patriots to only 44 yards rushing.

     It was a big win for the Patriots, who had defeated the Bills in a playoff game for the AFL East title the previous season and stayed within hailing distance of Buffalo (Boston was 7-2-1, Buffalo 9-1) in the division race with the win in '64. It didn't help; the Bills went on to win the AFL championship.

---Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Welcome, champ

   November 14, 1944 … Joe Louis fought in public only once between 1942 and 1946. You guessed it -- it was in Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo.

   Louis had a fight at the Aud against Johnny Davis. If he was looking for a little work, he didn't get it. Davis only lasted 53 seconds before losing on a TKO.

   It's a curious fight, because of the timing. World War II was still going on, and Louis was serving in the Armed Forces at that point. Plus, while there are references to it as a non-title bout, one Web site says the New York State athletic commissioner called it a title defense.

   Davis wasn't exactly a quality opponent. He was 3-3 going into the fight, and that .500 record looked pretty good when he was done. Davis finished his career with a 5-21 record, and was knocked out 19 times. He was from Brooklyn and mostly fought in the New York City area.

   Louis held the heavyweight boxing championship from 1937 to 1949. He is considered one of the greatest champions in history, and it was nice to have him perform here ... even if it was for only 53 seconds.

 ---Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Shea goodbye

   November 13, 1983 -- The Buffalo Bills played in Shea Stadium at least once a year for 20 years. Their last visit to play the New York Jets was a successful one. The Bills cut it close but defeated the Jets, 24-17, in their farewell to Shea.

   Joe Ferguson and Joe Cribbs were the heroes for Buffalo. Ferguson threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Cribbs with 22 seconds left to play. That was the difference.

   Ferguson was 24 of 41 for 262 yards through the air that day. He threw touchdown passes to Mike Mosley and Byron Franklin. Cribbs, by the way, finished with 33 yards rushing to lead the Bills, while Booker Moore had five yards on five carries.

   Richard Todd was sharp for the Jets. He went 25 for 36 for 245 yards. Ten of the passes went to Bruce Harper. By the way, the teams combined for 233 penalty yards.

   The Jets played their last game in Shea in December, which turned out to be Terry Bradshaw's last NFL game as well. The Steelers won that one, 34-7. The Jets moved to the Meadowlands the following season.

 --- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Contest Saturday

Instead of handicapping the Race of the Week for Post Time this weekend, we're going to try our hand in the free NTRA/TVG Online Challenge, which runs Saturday. This week's contest will reward the top three finishers with a trip to Las Vegas for the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship Jan. 28-29 at the Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa.

This weekend's contest races will be held at three tracks: Monmouth (races 4-6), Woodbine (races 6-8) and Hollywood Park (races 5-8), a total of 10 races. Players place one (1) $2 "win" wager and one (1) $2 "place" wager on the same horse. Multiple wagers on different horses in any one race are prohibited. There is a cap placed on all mutuel payoffs. The win cap is 20:1 ($42.00). The place cap is 10:1 ($22.00).

Handicapping contest strategy is much different than your normal Saturday afternoon handicapping. You will probably need to hit a long shot or two to finish in the top tier of handicappers. You will have to predict which races offer the biggest chance for an upset or longer-priced horse to win or finish second. Playing the chalk (favorite) usually isn't the best strategy unless it's a sure thing. Looking for potential value in horses with middle level odds (3-1 to 10-1) gives one the best chance to start stockpiling points and putting oneself in a position to win. Lastly, the races with larger fields render a better chance to score with a horse with higher odds.

Sitting in a contest in Henderson, Nev. several years ago, which had five mandatory races and five races that one could play from any of the selected tracks, we just missed qualifying. A 15th place finish was just outside of the money, and resulted mainly because we didn't stick with the plan. Saturday's NTRA contest is made up of 10 pre-selected races, so there will be no unnecessary straying to tracks outside of our normal wheelhouse.

So let's take a quick look at all 10 races and where we're leaning for our contest selections. Of course, selections can be changed up to a minute to post, so depending on the odds, we may alter our selections by post time.

Monmouth Race 4: The contest starts off with a 6-furlong maiden special weight for 3-year-olds and up, which means we're getting down and dirty right off the bat. I'm looking at True Heaven (3-1 morning line) to get me off on the right foot in the contest. With Monmouth's better riders, Joey Bravo, in the irons, and a couple of third-place finishes at the distance, he seems to make sense. My backup will be Steady Gentleman (9-2), who has hit the board four of seven times in races at six furlongs. We'll be watching the tote board before making a decision between these two.

Monmouth Race 5: The second contest race is a $47,000 allowance N1X over a mile and 70 yards that has attracted 12 starters. Again, I'm going to jump on the Bravo train and go with Victor's Boy (10-1) who is only one of two horses in the race to win at a mile and shows a solid recent workout. The other horse who has won at the distance is No Fret (15-1) who has won three lifetime races in 13 starts. We have an interesting choice to make here; again we'll wait to see what the tote board offers before selecting between these two.

Monmouth Race 6: An 11-horse field of 2-year-old maidens going a mile and 70 yards on the dirt, including two first-time starters. On paper, the Bellamy Road colt Bellamy's Boss (5-2) owned by the late George Steinbrenner's Kinsman Stables looks to take a lot of money, so I'll stay away from him. I'm leaning towards Magnifi Cat (6-1) who was well bet in his debut and finished a strong second after going four wide. Big field with unpredictable two years olds lends a great chance to catch a price in this race.

Woodbine Race 6: The contest shifts from the Jersey Shore to the Great White North and the first synthetic race to be contested. Race 6 at Woodbine is an $8,000 claiming race for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up, going a mile and 1/16 on the polytrack. Sunflower Drive, should she stay at his morning line of 6-1, will be my choice based on her record on the Woodbine polytrack. She boasts solid speed figures and had some decent success at Fort Erie this fall, winning three of her last four. Initforreal seems to be making a class drop, or she's just been racing over her head, so I'll stay away.

Woodbine Race 7: Another big field of 14 horses going a mile and 1/16 on the polytrack for a $71,600 purse. I like Prized Humour (4-1) going back to the all-weather surface after four tries on the turf. He has the pedigree for a route horse and has won at the distance and at Woodbine. Scratching my head trying to figure out the odds on Cold Harbour (one win in 17 tries at Woodbine) and Thunder Ball. We're also considering Free to Fly at 15-1 who finished strong in September at the distance against similar foes.

Woodbine Race 8: The Autumn Stakes (G2) will be run for $150,000 on the poly track at a mile and 1/16. This race has some classy competitors including the Queen's Plate winner Big Red Mike and Southdale, both who should take money. I'm going to gamble with a horse that hasn't run on the synthetic before, but based on a bullet workout on Halloween, I'll give Lord Justice a shot at 8-1 and hopefully he'll climb higher. He's three for five at the distance and will have faith in trainer Reade Baker's move from the dirt to all-weather surface. He's won two non-graded stakes at Monmouth this summer, so I'll go for the price and hope the name horses take the money at the windows.

Hollywood Race 5: The contest shifts to the left coast and a different type of synthetic track, the Cushion Track of Hollywood Park. We're looking at a maiden claiming 5-furlong sprint for 2-year-olds with a purse of $32,000. I'm veering from my normal strategy to try and engineer a nice payout in this race. I'm looking hard at first time starter Dulce Con Leche, a Candy Ride colt who sports some solid workouts and a nice Tomlinson figure for the distance. When a veteran rider like Rafael Bejarano jumps on a first timer; handicappers should take notice. We're looking for a bomb to come in here.

Hollywood Race 6: A $40,000 optional claiming 5-furlong turf sprint for 3-year-olds attracted eight horses to enter. There appears to be a ton of speed in this race, so I'm going to hope for a pace meltdown and go with Maui Mark to pick up the pieces late. Winter Camp and El Scorpio will be locking horns early at a very hot pace. Blue Jay Attack intrigues me with Bejarano up.

Hollywood Race 7: Another 2-year-old maiden race, but this time at 6 furlongs on the Cushion Track of Hollywood Park. Five of the 12 entrants are first-time starters, which for me is typically an automatic throw out. I'm between Switzer's Da Man and Robie the Cat on this one. I like how Switzer's has finished second twice, gaining ground on the winner both times going 5 1/2 furlongs, the extra 1/2 furlong may be the difference. Robie the Cat, with Bejarano in the irons, and jumping off Schuykill Punch is usually a sign of who the better horse is.

Hollywood Race 8: The last race of the contest is the $250K Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup for 3-year olds going a mile and 1/2 on the Hollywood turf course. At this point in most contests I have played, one either goes big or goes home. I like Where's The Remote to pull an upset here at a decent price. Look no further than two races back where Champ Pegasus beat him by a quarter of a length, before placing last weekend in the Breeders' Cup Turf. Throw out his last race on an off track and let's hope he is closing late to pick up the victory and a seat for me in Vegas!

Good luck and remember to check the scratches and changes on Saturday before the contest begins.

Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer, handicapper and member of the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com. He handicaps the race of the week on Friday at the Sports, Ink blog at www.buffalonews.com.

 

 

 

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: One too many

   November 12, 1988 -- The Buffalo Sabres had a problem in the fall of 1988. They had too many goalies: two.

   Tom Barrasso and Daren Puppa were both capable of starting in the National Hockey League. Not only that, but the two goalies didn't like each other that much. What's more, if there had been an election in the locker room about which goalie to keep, Puppa would have been the winner.

   General manager Gerry Meehan decided to deal one of them, and Barrasso, as a veteran, was likely to bring more talent in return. So Buffalo sent Barrasso and a draft choice to the Pittsburgh Penguins for defenseman Doug Bodger and prospect Darrin Shannon.

   Bodger was someone who came into the league at age 18 and had little trouble fitting in to the NHL from the start. That's rare for a defenseman. Bodger was never great, but he was pretty good for quite a while and a good man in the locker room. Shannon, the brother of future Sabre Darryl, was considered one of the best prospects in hockey after he was taken fourth overall in the 1988 Entry Draft. Darrin was considered a strong two-player who was tough to knock off his skates.

   Pittsburgh had no complaints about the deal, as Barrasso helped the Penguins win two Stanley Cups. Buffalo did OK in the deal but not great. Shannon never really panned out as a Sabre and was traded to Winnipeg in 1991. He had a couple of good seasons there and stayed with that franchise through 1998. Bodger played almost five more seasons after he was traded to the San Jose Sharks in 1995.

 --- Budd Bailey

Running notebook: Still speedy at 92

   Some news and notes around the local running trails:

    * When I ran the Bob Ivory 5K last week, I didn't expect it to make news. But ... Henry Sypniewski turned up, and he broke his own record for fastest 5-kilometer run by an American 92-year-old. I think he's gaining on me.

   * Speaking of the Bob Ivory run, the reflective vests were a fine idea and really popular among the runners. I told Bob that it would go well with my Bob Ivory hat, Bob Ivory gloves, Bob Ivory coffee mug and Bob Ivory gym bag. Bob is turning into my favorite designer.

   * The winners of the Subaru 4-Mile Chase performed well at the New York City marathon. Badu
Worku was 19th overall, while Buzunesh Deba was the 10th female.

   * Mike Curry has started a blog with reviews of recent races. It's worth a visit - drop in on Doc's race reviews.

   * Sunday's running column is on what goes into the post-race party for the Turkey Trot. As you'd expect, it's a lot of work.

   Now a look at one of the last busy Saturdays of the racing year, courtesy of buffalorunners.com:

   * Maritime March 5K, Connecticut St. Armory, 11 a.m. Saturday, 574-4101.

   * Lindsay's Legacy Run, 5K, Clinton Park in Tonawanda, 11 a.m. Saturday, 695-7406. I'm one of a handful of people to have run in every single running of this race. If you look at my times, you watch me get old.

   * SBAC Cross-Country Club Challenge, 2.44 miles, Cazenovia Park in Buffalo, 2 p.m. Saturday, 652-9921.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Hawks grounded

   November 11, 1970 -- Progress comes slowly for most expansion teams. The Buffalo Braves found that out the hard way.

   Yes, they had a successful debut, beating the Cleveland Cavaliers (another expansion team) in the opener at Memorial Auditorium. Then they lost their next nine games, including two to the Portland Trailblazers … a third expansion team.

   Buffalo ended that bad stretch with a win against Cleveland, another bump for the Cavs on their way to a dreadful 15-67 season. But the Braves still hadn't beaten a team that had been around for more than a month yet.

   That changed on this night. The Atlanta Hawks came to town, and left with a 134-118 defeat. A month into their first regular season, the Buffalo Braves took a baby step forward. They defeated the Atlanta Hawks, 134-118. That was the first time that the Braves had ever beaten an established NBA team.

   The Hawks didn't have a bad team that season in terms of talent. They had such players as Lou Hudson, Bill Bridges, Walt Hazzard and Walt Bellamy, and added talented rookie Pete Maravich. However, the pieces never came together for the Hawks, who stumbled to a 36-46 records that season.

   The Braves' winning streak ended two nights later in Philadelphia. Buffalo won three in a row in January, and finished with a 22-60 record.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Suddenly sick

   November 10, 1977 -- Ever hear of the Philly flu? There was an epidemic of it in the National Hockey League once upon a time.

   The Philadelphia Flyers were the toughest team in hockey during the 1970's. They'd beat you up on the ice, and then beat you in the scoreboard -- particularly at home. No wonder they won two Stanley Cups, one at the expense of the Buffalo Sabres. Sometimes, according to legend, players would develop flu-like symptoms at the thought of playing in the Spectrum, and mysteriously ask to be scratched from the lineup that night.

   The Sabres may not have had many cases of the Philly flu, but they had other problems there. During the first seven years of NHL play, they never won in Philadelphia.

   Finally, and almost mercifully, they took a 3-2 decision over the Flyers. Terry Martin scored the game-winning goal with 14 minutes left in the game. Craig Ramsay and Fred Stanfield had the other Buffalo goals. Don Edwards had 26 saves for the Sabres.

   That moved Buffalo's record in the Spectrum to 1-18-2 all time, if you include three playoff defeats. None of the Sabres from that era will shed many tears when that building gets blown up later this month.

--- Budd Bailey

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