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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: No-no, Bartolo

     June 20, 1997 -- Bartolo Colon has some plenty of high points in his baseball career, despite battling injuries at times. He's also had some low points. One of the biggest highs came in Buffalo.

     Colon pitched the first no-hitter in the history of the downtown ballpark on this date, blanking New Orleans, 4-0. A crowd of 15,496 turned out in what was then called North AmeriCare Park for the game, as the team celebrated its 10-millionth fan in the building.

     The 22-year-old Colon couldn't have been much sharper. He only faced the minimum of 27 Zephyr batters in the victory.

     The last Buffalo pitcher to throw a no-hitter was Dick Marlowe against the Baltimore Orioles in the International League in 1952.

     Russ Johnson reached base when he walked in the first inning, but was thrown out while trying to steal. Brian Grebeck made the last out, a pop-up to second baseman Enrique Wilson.

     "I thought it was going to land," Colon said of the final out.

     Colon made a dramatic return to major league baseball this year, finding his old form early in the season in joining the Yankees' starting rotation.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Finding a niche, eventually

   June 19, 1884 -- Today marks the start of an extremely odd baseball career. Let's introduce William "Bones" Ely.

   The Bisons were in the National League at that point in their history, and Ely made his pro baseball debut on this day. He was a pitcher, and he started one game. It didn't go so well. Ely allowed 15 runs (eight of them earned) and took the loss. At the plate, he was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.

   You might think he was done with baseball, at least at the game's highest level. Hardly.

   Ely popped up as a position player in the American Association for Louisville in 1886, and for Syracuse in 1890. Then it was back to the National League in 1891, seven years after his debut, as he played for Brooklyn. Then, Bones was on to St. Louis in 1893, as a 30-year-old ... and found a home as a shortstop.

   Ely played three years in St. Louis and five-plus seasons for Pittsburgh. He became a spare part when the Pirates decided to use Honus Wagner as their full-time shortstop. Wagner went on to become one of baseball's all-time greats.

   As for Ely, he finally retired in 1902 at the age of 39 with more than 1,000 games in the National League.

 --- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Taking a break

   June 18, 1877 -- It's a good trivia question for those who don't live around Western New York. What professional baseball team has kept its name the longest?

   That's right. It's the Buffalo Bisons. They were born in 1877. However, they died, briefly, in 1877 as well.

   The Bisons were the name of the Buffalo team that played in the New York State Championship Association in 1877. Sadly, they weren't very good. The Bisons went 3-14 in league play, and then folded on this date.

   Syracuse went on to win the league title with a 20-9 record, with Binghamton second at 20-13. Auburn and Rochester also had teams in that league.

   But the Bisons aren't dead for long. They came back in 1878 to join the International Association, which started play in May. And Buffalo did so well that it was invited to join the National League, starting in the 1879 season.

   By the way, the Birmingham Barons and Chattanooga Lookouts have been around since 1885.

--- Budd Bailey 

Post Time: Putting a Wrap on the Triple Crown Season

By Gene Kershner

The 2011 Triple Crown season wrapped up just as it started, with a big bomb winning the Belmont Stakes on Saturday afternoon when Ruler On Ice scored in the mud at 25-1. Never has a Triple Crown season seen more double digit winners than the current campaign. From the various prep races to the classics themselves, rarely did a favorite win a race.

Some random thoughts as we put a fork in Triple Crown season 2011 and head into summer racing:

     * The 3-year old Eclipse Award will most likely be decided in the summer Grade 1 events such as Monmouth's Haskell Invitation and Saratoga's Travers, where a horse that didn't win one of the Classics could still step up and steal the trophy. Shackleford, the Preakness winner, appears to be headed to Jersey and the Haskell in early August.

     * Thursday, the Daily Racing Form reported that Animal Kingdom "sustained an injury to his left hind leg that will keep him out of training for a couple of weeks, but should not prevent him from running again this year." Let's hope he makes it back in time for the Travers.

     * Speaking of Animal Kingdom, the move he made around the far turn during the Belmont Stakes was heart-pounding stuff. While he didn't have enough gas left in the tank to finish the job, due to the issues caused at the start of the race by Isn't He Perfect, it was visually impressive and had the press box buzzing.

     * Rajiv Maragh, the jockey on Isn't He Perfect, was suspended for 10 days for his careless ride in the Belmont that almost unseated John Velazquez on Animal Kingdom. The jockey's suspension was reduced by three days when he waived his right to appeal. I find it hard to believe that he purposely rode his horse into Mucho Macho Man, the horse he lost the mount on for the Belmont.

     * This is the time of year when critics come out of the woodwork asking for changes in the Triple Crown races. Typically the complaints revolve around the distances, the time between the races and even the venues. Several years ago, I was in the camp that the time periods should be adjusted, but after further review I think the difficulty of achieving the Triple Crown is the real allure.

     * This weekend's big race is the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs. The handicap division, like the 3-year old division, is also still wide open and this race could serve to set the table for a potential division leader.  Saratoga's Whitney and Woodward Handicaps will be the summer steps to this divisional title. Giant Oak, the Donn Handicap winner, was listed at the 7-2 morning line and the high weight in the race.

     * Could we have a third straight female Horse of the Year? It's not inconceivable as Havre de Grace has been simply spectacular to date in the older female division. She sailed to victory in the Grade 3 Obeah Stakes last weekend at Delaware Park, where she's pointed next to the Delaware Handicap. She'll have to take on the boys to gather some serious consideration later in the year.

     * The Breeders' Cup announced this week that it is adding a 15th race to its world championships, to be held at Churchill Downs in November. A Juvenile Sprint will be added to the Friday card. The $500,000 race will be restricted to 2-year old colts, fillies and geldings and will be run over 6-furlongs.

     * The mammoth Pick-6 carry-over caused by the long shot winners on Belmont Day attracted more than $4 million of new money for Wednesday's wager. Eleven winning tickets had the correct combination of winners over the last six races on the card, paying over $380,000 each.

     * Terry Wallace, race caller for Oaklawn Park for the past 37 years, announced his retirement Thursday.

     * As one Triple Crown season ends, another begins for our neighbors to the north. The Canadian Triple Crown kicks off June 26 with the Queen's Plate from Woodbine in Toronto. We'll be heading up Thursday for the post draw and to review the challengers.

     * Last Sunday, Fort Erie Race Track reduced its takeout on Pick-4s from 26.2 percent to 14 percent and saw significant increases in betting handle in that wager on a year over year basis. It also cut the ribbon on the newest addition, a Tiki Bar, just in front of the finish line.

     * Saratoga opens in exactly five weeks on Friday, July 22.

     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.
 

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Second-stringer

     June 17, 1880 -- Buffalo had a variety of "firsts" during its days in the National League in the 19th century. Here's a "second."

     The Bisons were the victim of the second perfect game in major league baseball history. The architect was John Montgomery Ward, as his Providence Grays took a 5-0 decision. Ward struck out two in retiring 27 men in a row.

     Ward was only 20 when he pitched the perfecto. He had something of an off-year in 1880, only going 39-24 for the Grays. The year before, Ward led the league with 47 wins.

     However, the Pennsylvania native also could play other positions when he wasn't pitching. Ward eventually moved into the infield full-time after a few years.

     Later on, he became known for off-field activities. Since Ward went to Penn State University, he probably was one of the few college-educated players of his time. He was a strong opponent of the reserve clause, and was one of the founders of the Players' League in 1890. Ward was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: They're at the post

    June 16, 1897: This was a happy day for lovers of thoroughbred horses, and people who liked to bet on them.

   It's the first day that Fort Erie Race Track was open for business.

   The Fort Erie Jockey Club had broken ground on a new race track the previous November, and it took about seven months to complete the track. On a lovely summer Wednesday, the facility became open for business.

   Ellesmere was the first winner in Fort Erie history, with a jockey by the name of Sullivan (the rest of his name apparently is lost to antiquity). Wordsworth was second and Miss Lillian finished third. Ellesmere's owner picked up $300 for the afternoon's work.

   The track ran races for 34 days that summer. Then in the fall, it came back for a 16-day fall meet.

   Northern Dancer might have been the best horse ever to run at the border oval. His first win came at the Fort as a two-year-old in 1963. Then a year later, it was on to Louisville to take the Kentucky Derby.

--- Budd Bailey 

Former NFL players on Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame induction

All-Pro Buffalo Bills lineman Ruben Brown (Bills, 1995-2003) and two-time Super Bowl champion Jim Burt (New York Giants 1981-88, San Francisco 49ers 1989-91) shared their thoughts today on being inducted into the 2011 Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.

Here are two videos from the announcement, which took place at HSBC Arena:

Ruben Brown:


Jim Burt:

Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame names 12 new members

What do you get when an Olympian, a Super Bowl champion, a world-class golf teacher, a legendary running back, a multipurpose hockey star and seven other sporting luminaries come together?

The newest class of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.

The Hall announced a dozen inductees for the 2011 class this morning, with an introductory news conference set for 3 this afternoon in HSBC Arena. Former Bills All-Pro guard Ruben Brown and two-time Super Bowl champ Jim Burt of Orchard Park will give remarks on behalf of the class.

The other honorees are: Curtis Aiken, basketball standout for Bennett and the University of Pittsburgh; Don Colpoys, baseball player, coach and administrator; Jim Lorentz, longtime player and broadcaster for the Sabres; Phil Mankowski, major league baseball player; Steve Mesler, bobsled gold medalist at the 2010 Olympics; and Cindy Miller, golf professional and teacher.

Four others will join the Pride of Western New York, which honors deceased athletes: Cookie Gilchrist, Bills fullback; Lewis “Deerfoot” Bennett, a long-distance runner in the 1800s; Michael Broderick, a founder of the West Side Rowing Club; and William Morgan, credited with inventing volleyball.

The dozen members represent the 21st class inducted to the hall since its inception in 1991. The hall now has 240 members.

---John Vogl

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Offseason swap

     June 15, 2001 -- Expansion was in the air for the National Lacrosse league in the summer of 2001. The NLL was adding four teams that summer -- Calgary, Vancouver, New Jersey, Columbus.

     When there is expansion, there are expansion drafts. Care to guess which team had the first pick in that draft?

     Yes, the Buffalo Bandits, who had played nine years at that point.

     On this day, the Bandits took Chris Langdale from Toronto with the first pick in the draft. Buffalo acquired the first pick in the draft from Calgary in exchange for goalie Derek Collins and forward Chris Pat.

     Buffalo started losing players soon after that choice. Rick Catton went to Vancouver with the thir pick, and Columbus grabbed Phil Wetherup with the fourth choice and Andy Duden with the 10th pick. Paul Talmo went to New Jersey as the 21st pick. By the way, future Bandit Darryl Gbison went to New Jersey in that draft, and future Bandits announcer Randy Mearns was taken by Calgary.

     Langdale had helped the Toronto Rock win two NLL championships. He stayed in Buffalo through 2006, his last year in the league.

     For more information on the Bandits' 2002 season, click here.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Hurray for Hollywood?

     June 14, 1976 -- The Buffalo Braves were coming off a relatively successful season in 1975-76. No, they didn't advance past the first round of the playoffs. But they did at least qualify for the postseason.

     Besides, losing to the Boston Celtics in six games was no disgraces. The Celtics went on to win the NBA championship that season, beating the Phoenix Suns in the finals.

     Braves' owner Paul Snyder had put on a ticket-selling drive earlier in the summer, and he wasn't happy with the results. Therefore, he announced on this date that Irving Cowan was given an option to buy the team for $6.1 million and move it to Hollywood, Fla. And the hearts on every Buffalo basketball fan stopped for a moment.

     Cowan was a former Broadway producer who thought a team in suburban Miami might work, even if the facility needed some severe upgrading to meet the NBA's standards. It wasn't even air conditioned.

     The City of Buffalo wasn't happy about the situation, and slapped the Braves with a couple of lawsuits. The deal eventually fell through. Cowan eventually turned his sporting interest toward horse racing.

     As for the Braves, they only had two more years left on the clock to stay in Buffalo.

     For more on the 1976-77 season, click here.

--- 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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