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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: McAdoo departs

   December 9, 1976 -- This was one of the saddest days in the history of Buffalo pro basketball, the day fans thought to themselves that the NBA just might not work here after all.

   After unsuccessfully trying to sign superstar center Bob McAdoo to a new contract -- and they may have offered to make him the highest-paid player on the league, depending on who is doing the remembering -- the Braves traded him to the Knicks.

   What's more, no stars were coming to town to replace McAdoo. He and Tom McMillen were sent to the New York Knicks for journeyman center John Gianelli and reportedly a few million dollars in cash. It's tough to put cash in the starting lineup, and some fans never forgave Braves' management for making the move.

   McAdoo was never as good as he was here, and neither were the Braves. McAdoo bounced to a few other teams, winning titles with the Lakers, and ended his career in Europe. McMillen didn't pan out particularly well, although he did win a seat in Congress for a while.

   Gianelli did virtually nothing here, and the team's furious rebuilding moves to compensate for McAdoo's departure didn't pay off. Within two years of the deal, the Braves were gone.

--- Budd Bailey 

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Cookie runs wild

   December 8, 1963 -- If you are coming up with a list of the greatest days in history by a Bills' running back, this one belongs in the argument. Cookie Gilchrist had a game for the ages against the New York Jets in War Memorial Stadium on this date.

   He set an AFL record by rushing for 243 yards on 36 carries. The total was higher than anyone had ever compiled in the rival National Football League. Buffalo had a team total of 285 yards rushing on the day.

   Gilchrist made his runs count, too. He ran for five touchdowns on the day as the Bills took a 45-14 decision from the Jets. Gilchrist set an AFL record for yards in a season in that
game, finishing the day with 1,096 yards.

   The win ended a two-game losing streak and moved Buffalo's record up to 6-6-1. Farewell,
old friend, as Seymour Knox once said about another old building.

 --- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Lighting it up

     December 7, 1968 -- Calvin Murphy was virtually unstoppable during his career at Niagara. The 5-foot-9 guard was never as good as he was on this night in his junior year.

     Murphy set a Niagara record with 68 points against Syracuse that night. The Orangemen scored 110 points that particular night, and lost -- 118-110.

     "You know what we were? We were amazed. Me, especially," Bob Kouwe of Syracuse's team said later to the Syracuse Post-Standard. "There were three or four times when I was all over him. I mean, he'd go up for a 25- or 30-foot jumper and I'd be blanketing him, with a hand in his face. And he just jumped straight up into the air, as high as he needed to go, and let fly with the most beautiful floaters you can imagine. And he hit nothing but net. I thought I did a pretty good job on Calvin that night. I really did. And he went for 68."

     By the way, had the three-point line been in effect back then, observers say Murphy might have been credited with 80 points that night.

     The guard was a spectacular player throughout his career, even attracting fans in middle school. He had 235 scholarship offers, but ended up at Niagara. After a brilliant career in college, Murphy played more than 1,000 games in the NBA and finished with an average of 17.9 points per game.

     He's also the only NBA star who won a national title in baton-twirling. Murphy used to display those skills at War Memorial Stadium for Bills' game.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Playing the big boys

     December 6, 1974 -- Here was a good-sized case of overscheduling.

     Buffalo State had a chance to play with the big boys, perhaps not knowing just how big a situation they had scheduled. The Bengals faced North Carolina State, merely the defending national champions. The Wolfpack was led by David Thompson, certainly one of the greatest players in college basketball history.

     Thompson set the ACC scoring record with 57 points to go with 17 rebounds that night as N.C. State took a 144-88 decision from Buffalo State. The home team also set school records for most points and biggest victory margin.

     Thompson had achieved basketball immortality the previous spring. He was part of a North Carolina State team that had ended UCLA's long reign. The Wolfpack beat the Bruins in the national semifinals, and then stopped Marquette to take the title.

     Thompson isn't remembered as one of the all-time greats these days. He had a shortened pro career. It started in the publicity-starved American Basketball Association. Then, after averaging at least 20 points per game for six seasons, Thompson had personal and injury problems and was never the same.

     But he might have been one of the greatest leapers for his size ever, and the man was a college basketball legend. Ask the Bengals.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Going bowling

     December 5, 2008 -- Let's go way back in history, all the way to 2008 -- lthough it still may seem like yesterday for the University at Buffalo and its football team's supporters.

     The Bulls won their first MAC championship on this date, and they did it in a style that was equal parts impressive and stunning. They beat Ball State -- make that undefeated and 12th-ranked Ball State -- 42-24 in the league championship game at Ford Field in Detroit.

     The Bulls had been a league doormat for many seasons since arriving in the MAC in 1999, but everything had gone topsy-turvy after this game.

     "This is crazy," said former St. Joe's star Naaman Roosevelt. "I don't know if this will ever sink in. My first year here we won two games and now we're the MAC champions. That's what Coach Gill made us believe in."

     It was a great moment for coach Turner Gill, who had led the Bulls up from nothing to the best moment in the school's football history.

     "I'm so proud of these guys," Gill said. "They understand love, they understand faith, they understand family. That's what the program is today and is going to be tomorrow."

     Gill stayed one more season at UB, and then left for Kansas.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Cleaning house

     December 4, 1978 -- For a franchise that had been known for its stability during its eight-plus years of play, this was an absolutely stunning day.

     The Sabres were uncharacteristically stumbling along with an 8-10-6 record. They had lost both ends of a home-and-home series to the Montreal Canadiens over the previous weekend. The opener, on a Saturday night, was particulary ugly, an 8-1 decision. The team had lost five of its last six.

     Team owner Seymour Knox called in general manager Punch Imlach to his office and told him he had decided to make a change. That couldn't have been easy for Knox, as Imlach had been the guiding force in the establishment of the Sabres as a franchise. But Knox thought it was necessary.

     Imlach went down the stairs of the Sabres' offices. He started briefing coach Marcel Pronovost on what was needed to be done now that he was leaving. Meanwhile, public relations director Paul Wieland was listening while carrying a news release announcing the dismissal of both Imlach and Pronovost.

     Pronovost got the word moments later. It was easily the biggest housecleaning in team history, and the Sabres really didn't know what would happen next. Billy Inglis was told to run Tuesday's practice, and he eventually stayed to coach the team for the rest of the season.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: A pure scorer

     December 3, 1974 -- The Buffalo Sabres already knew all too well that Rick Martin was a special player at this point in his career. He had come in as a rookie during the 1971-72 season and scored an NHL-record 44 goals. Then in the 1973-74 season, he scored 52 goals, the first Sabre to reach that number.

     This particular night simply added to the pile of evidence that Martin was one of the most dangerous scorers in the league. The talented left winger who teamed so well with Gil Perreault and Rene Robert on Buffalo's top line (ever hear of the "French Connection"?) for much of the 1970's set a team record with four goals. The outburst came against the Washington Capitals and was a big part of a 5-3 win.

     The win gave the Sabres a 19-4-4 record for the season. They would go on to tie for the league's best record that season, and they reached the Stanley Cup finals.

     As for Martin, he scored another 52 goals that season to lead the team. That figure represented his career high for goals in a season. He ended up with 384 goals in an outstanding career, with all but one coming as a Sabre. If he hadn't hurt his knee, he probably could have been a Hall of Famer.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Major-league hockey is coming

     December 2, 1969 -- It's the most historic day in Buffalo Sabres' history, leaving us the problem of which history-making event to choose for this space this year. Was it the day Scotty Bowman was fired as general manager and coach? How about the shocking trade that sent Jim Schoenfeld, Danny Gare, Derek Smith and Bob Sauve to Detroit? You guessed it -- they all came on December 2.

     But none of it would have happened without getting in the NHL, and that also happened on this date. The Sabres and Vancouver Canucks joined the big leagues on that date as the 13th and 14th franchises.

     The Knox brothers had tried to join the world's best hockey league for about six years. They had finished eighth in a seven-team race for six spots for the 1967 expansion (St. Louis got a team without applying), but the local group didn't give up. The Knoxes bought into the Seals' franchise a couple of years later. They didn't get the chance to relocate the team here, but Seymour Knox served on the team's board of directors and found out how NHL politics worked.

     When the NHL opted to expand again for the 1970-71 season, Buffalo was ready. Their efforts paid off on this day. We're still reaping the benefits of the Knox brothers' love of this community.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports history: Back on top

     December 1, 1991 -- The Buffalo Bills liked the sound of the title, "AFC East Champions." So they kept earning and earning it ... to the point where they won their fourth division crown in a row on this date.

     The trigger for it was a 24-13 win over the New York Jets on this date. They were hoping that this version would lead to another AFC Championship and a Super Bowl victory.

     "This (division crown) was probably the hardest one to come by, in terms of all the injuries and adversity we had to overcome to get here," General Manager Bill Polian said to The News' Vic Carucci. "But there are other goals ahead, other challenges, other mountains to climb. All we've done is assure ourselves of a place in the playoffs, nothing more."

     The Bills figured that home-field advantage would help their chances of reaching those goals, wince they had won 17 straight games and 32 of 34 in Rich Stadium.

     Linebacker Darryl Talley made the day's big defensive play, forcing a fumble by Rob Moore of the Jets on the 10-yard line.

     "He (Moore) was running a crossing route," Talley said. "I saw him catch the ball and start running, and I just turned and ran after him. Then I just tried to put my head on the ball. When I did, it came out. I couldn't find the ball for a second, and the next thing I knew, Mark was standing there holding it."

--- 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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