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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: One good game, at least

     May 31, 1880 -- The Buffalo Bisons of 1880 didn't have a very good year. At least their bats woke up on the last day of May.

     Buffalo traveled to Troy for a three-game set with the Trojans, and pounded out 19 runs in a 19-10 victory. That was a season high for runs by the Herd.

     It was the team's only win in the visit to the Capital District, and closed Buffalo's month with a 5-12 record. The Bisons went 1-11 against Troy that season.

     This was part of Buffalo's second year in the National League, joining that circuit in 1879. It turned out to be the worst of a seven-year stay in the NL. The Bisons finished with a record of 24-58-3, a lowly .293 percentage that was good for seventh place in the eight-team league. It won three of its last 26 games.

     Future Hall of Famer Pud Galvin (inducted in 1965) did most of the pitching, going 20-35. The rest of the pitching staff had a combined 4-23 record.

     By the way, only one member of the Bisons bench that was a position player had a batting average above .200 that season.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Too close for comfort

     May 30, 2006 -- The Buffalo Sabres were one shot from elimination on this night. They were down, three games to two, against Carolina in the Eastern Conference finals, and they were in overtime.

     But they weren't done yet.

     The cheers must have been mixed with exhales when the Sabres defeated Carolina, 2-1, in Game Six in HSBC Arena. Daniel Briere was the hero of the night. He socred a power-play goal at 4:22 of overtime to keep the Sabres alive. Briere's shot sort of flipped over the goal line after goalie Cam Ward couldn't grasp it.

     "That's the first step," Sabres defenseman Brian Campbell said. "Now we gotta finish it off. We got another game Thursday."

     Next stop, Game Seven, in Carolina. Considering that the Edmonton Oilers were waiting, it seemed at least likely that the winner of that game would win the Stanley Cup that year.

     "Nobody is blind here," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. "Everybody knows what is at stake. It's a trip to the finals. Now our back is up against the wall, but it's in our building, which is where we want it to be."

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: The nation's best

   May 29, 1929 -- Stadium openings were in their infancy way back in 1929, especially in Buffalo. Pro football was just getting started, and the college teams didn't need huge palaces either.

   Buffalo, however, dared to be great during the Twenties. On this day, it opened a new facility called All High Stadium. It was located behind Bennett High School on Main Street, and it was considered the single best high school stadium in the country.

   More than 20,000 people, including the usual politicians and dignitaries from the state and city, turned out for the dedication.

   The most popular use of the building was for football, and it took exactly four months -- until September 29 -- for the stadium to be used for that purpose. Bennett beat Technical, 28-0, in the first game.

   The facility might be best known for its role in a movie. It took some photographic tricks, but All High was used as a stand-in for Wrigley Field in the movie, "The Natural." The facility went through some major renovations in 2007.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Taro lives!

   May 28, 1974 -- This might have been the day of the greatest prank in a sports draft, in part because it was so unexpected.

   Sabres' general manager Punch Imlach had become bored with the long process of selecting players. They had already taken Lee Fogolin and Danny Gare, and were running out of prospects by the 11th round.

   Imlach then decided to have some fun. He sent public relations director Paul Wieland off to find a relatively common Japanese name. Taro Tsujimoto was then picked in the 11th round by the Sabres. The center was said to play for the Tokyo Katanas, which translated to Tokyo Sabres.

   The NHL wrote the pick down as choice No. 183. The Sabres and the league put the name in media guides. It even had a locker ready for him at training camp. It was pretty impressive for someone who didn't exist.

   The league eventually decided to rule the choice as "an invalid claim." But Taro's name still pops up in the Sabres media guide. Better yet, some old-school fans wear Sabre jerseys with Tsujimoto's name on the back.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Belmont Bound

By Gene Kershner

     We've had a week to digest last weekend's results in the second jewel of the Triple Crown and reflect on what transpired at Pimlico in Baltimore. In a topsy-turvy Classic season that has been wide open, the Belmont Stakes could serve as the determining race for the 3-year-old champion and could be the impetus for both the Derby and Preakness winners to show up in New York. Both Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom and Preakness champ Shackleford are still pointing at facing off in Elmont on June 11.

It would mark the 20th time that the Derby and Preakness winners would face off, the Derby champ winning four times -- the last being Swale in 1984 -- and the Preakness champ winning nine times, last done by Afleet Alex in 2005. [UPDATE: NYRA announced early this afternoon that Animal Kingdom is a GO for the Belmont]

The Derby-Belmont double has been pulled off 11 times, the last being Thunder Gulch in 1995, and the Preakness-Belmont double has been achieved 18 times. The last Preakness-Belmont double was won by the aforementioned Afleet Alex when he defeated Derby champ Giacomo.

We may have one of the biggest fields for the Belmont Stakes in recent years.  The conditions for the race allow for upwards of 16 entrants. The largest field ever to run in the Belmont Stakes (15) was in 1983 when Caveat defeated Slew o' Gold.  The largest field in the past 20 years was in 1996, when a field of 14 lined up and Editor's Note was victorious.

Probables from horses that have run in the first two legs include the two winners and Mucho Macho Man, who threw a shoe in the Preakness. Derby horses that skipped the Preakness pointing toward the Belmont include Nehro (second at the Derby), Master of Hounds (fifth), late closing Santiva (sixth) and Stay Thirsty (12th). Potential newcomers include Peter Pan Stakes winner Alternation and the third place finisher from that race, Prime Cut.

Trainer Bob Baffert will most likely have a horse and possibly several entrants in the race. He could enter Santa Anita Derby runner-up Jaycito in addition to Awesome Patriot or Uncle Sam, the 1-2 finishers in the Alydar at Hollywood Park three weeks ago.

Once again, cable network Versus will pick up several hours of the undercard (3-5 p.m.) before a national television audience will tune in on NBC from 5 to 7 p.m.

Weekend Notes

     * The weekend's biggest race will be on Memorial Day at Belmont Park, the annual running of the Grade 1 Metropolitan Mile Handicap (aka The Met Mile). The likely favorite, Morning Line, was pulled out of the race by trainer Nick Zito on Thursday due to a foot issue.  Those expected in the gate for the Monday's feature race include Aikenite, Caixa Eletronica, Haynesfield, New York Derby champ Ibboyee, Kensei, Rodman, Soaring Empire, Stormy's Majesty, Tackleberry, and Tizway.

     * If you enjoy contests, Monmouth Park's annual Survival at the Shore contest starts this weekend. The object is to hit the board in at least one of three pre-selected daily races and to survive to the end of the meeting.

     * On the West Coast another mile race takes center stage, but this one will be run on turf. The Grade 2 American Handicap at Hollywood Park will feature the return of Sidney's Candy, who was last seen finishing sixth behind the powerful Goldikova in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Churchill last November. Strong challengers Liberian Freighter and The Usual Q.T. will contest Sidney's Candy on Saturday afternoon.

     * The New York Racing Association (NYRA) has been posting steward decisions since last September in the Stewards Corner section of their website, providing horseplayers with information regarding race information, violations and race decisions of inquiries and objections. This is a major step forward in a sport that had typically not made the public aware of decisions made in the steward's room in the past.

     Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer, handicapper and member of the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com and tweets @EquiSpace.

Taking a look at the Buffalo Marathon course

The News' Amy Moritz narrates a look at the course for this Sunday's Buffalo Marathon:

A slower guide to the course:

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Up on the roof

   May 27, 1971 -- When the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association awarded franchises to Buffalo starting with the 1970-71 season, the city had a building waiting for it: Memorial Auditorium.|

   But there was a catch. It was too small. The Aud only held about 11,000 people for events, depending on the configuration. To be truly a "big league" facility, the capacity had to go up. If that happened today, there would have been demand for a brand new arena to replace a building that was 30 years old at the time. But this was 1970, and everyone had a different idea.

   The city merely raised the roof. The Aud's top, which weighed 2,200 tons, went up 24 feet on this day. To the non-engineering population of Western New York, this was rather remarkable. But everything went perfectly. The scoreboard didn't end up on, as opposed to above, center ice.

   While 24 feet wasn't much, the figure was enough to fit a balcony -- complete with orange seats -- near the top of the building. Construction crews spent the rest of the summer and early fall building seats, stairs and escalators around the building.

   When the hockey and basketball seasons arrived, the Aud was ready. The seating capacity went up to 15,858 for hockey, and about 1,000 more than that for basketball. That number would slowly increase over the years, as the Sabres squeezed in seats wherever they could in the years to come.

   The crews must have done something right. The Aud's roof stayed up through the building's occupancy in 1996, and didn't come down until it was knocked down in 2009.

--- Budd Bailey

Running notebook: Hitting the peak

It's the biggest weekend of the year for runners locally. The Buffalo Marathon will take place on the streets of the city on Sunday morning. About 6,000 people will take part in the proceedings, including the half-marathon and the relay.

But this year, it's a little bigger. The Western New York Running Hall of Fame is ready to announce its first class of inductees. Ten people were picked for 2011, and the story will be in Sunday's News.

Here's the weekend running schedule, provided by buffalorunners.com:

* Buffalo marathon & half-marathon, Hyatt Hotel in Buffalo, 7 a.m. Sunday, 694-5154.

* Down on the Farm, 5K, 1379 Elton Road in Farmersville Station, 12 noon on Sunday, 664-5115. If you are on Route 16 near Machias, head east to get to Farmersville Station.

A couple of other notes to mention:

Don't forget the marathon expo at the Convention Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can get discounted entry forms for the Niagara Falls International Marathon and the Subaru Four-Mile Chase at that function.

National Running Day is June 1. Several running clubs around the country are getting together to celebrate this third annual event. It's one of the pet projects of WNY native Mary Wittenberg of N.Y. Road Runners. Go to runningday.org for more information.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: New champion

   May 26, 1932 -- World boxing champions from our area aren't exactly commonplace. We should celebrate the ones we've had.

   So say hello to Buffalo's Tommy Paul.

   Paul was born in 1909 and lived on Seventh St. in the Waterfront district. He turned professional at 18, and began a string of triumphs that made him quite an attraction in bouts held at the Broadway Auditorium and Bison Stadium.

   In 1932, Paul got his big chance. The featureweight title was vacant, and the National Boxing Association set up an eight-man tournament to fill it. Paul reached the final and met Johnny Pena for the championship.

   It was no contest. Paul dominated the fight, held on this day, to claim the world title.

   Paul lost the belt to Freddy Miller in Chicago the following January. He finished his career 80-28-10. Paul died in 1991, and was named to the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 2003.

 --- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Riding the cycle

   May 25, 1882 -- If you asked baseball fans across the country which city's team had a player hit for the cycle for the first time in major-league history, you'd probably go through a long list of cities -- New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, etc.

   You guessed it. It's Buffalo.

   Charles Foley is the man in question. He started his day against Cleveland with a grand-slam home run. Then he added a triple, a double and a single. That's a "cycle."

   Foley also became the first player to hit two grand slams in a season later in 1882. He finished the season with a .305 batting average with three homers.

   The Bisons got some revenge for a loss to Cleveland two days before on that day. In the defeat, three Buffalo fielders collided on a single to allow the winning run to score in the bottom of the 10th inning.

   Foley's outburst contributed to an impressive 20-1 victory by the Bisons. The team went on to a 45-39 season, finishing third in the National League.

 --- 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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