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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Champs at last

   August 31, 1991 -- After three years of waiting, the Buffalo Bisons finally claimed a division title on this night.

   They defeated the Louisville Redbirds, 6-4, to wrap up the American Association East championship. It was Buffalo's first regular-season title in 32 years.

    "I thought we had it last year," manager Terry Collins said. "I felt we had a good enough club, but at the end things broke down and it didn't work out.

    "So we tried to go out and get the guys we felt could do the job. At times we were concerned about it, but the last month is when the veterans and the pitchers stepped to the forefront." 

   Home runs by Armando Moreno and Eddie Zambrano sparked a four-run fifth-inning that turned the game around. The final out came when Joe Fernandez flied out to center fielder Greg Tubbs. That sparked a celebration on the pitcher'smound before a sellout crowd of 21,050.

   By the way, the losing pitcher for Louisville was Jamie Moyer, who went on to a long, long major-league career.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: ... And new champion

   August 30, 1927 -- When the list of great Buffalo boxers is drawn up, Jimmy Slattery usually comes to mind. He's on the small list of fighters who captured a world championship. In fact, he did it twice.

   Slattery piled up the wins in the early part of his career. Most of those bouts were held in Buffalo's Broadway Auditorium. He had won seven in a row there in earning a title shot in the light-heavyweight ranks against Maxie Rosenbloom in Hartford, Conn.

   The National Boxing Association's title was vacant when the two men entering the ring, but Slattery walked out with it after taking a 10-round decision.

   Slattery defended the championship three times, including two fights in Buffalo, before losing to Tommy Loughran in Madison Square Garden in 1928. Slattery simply went back to work after that, winning 15 of 17 fights before taking the title back in 1930.

   Slattery and Rosenbloom actually fought seven times, including one as late as 1931, and Rosenbloom won three of them. Slattery won one of them when it counted the most. He finished his career 111-13.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Stopped at the start

     August 29, 2002 -- Many college football teams try to schedule smaller, non-conference schools in the opening weeks of the season in order to get some wins and develop confidence.

     Lehigh sure knew how to spoil a party on this night.

     The Division I-AA team knocked off the University at Buffalo, 37-26, before 21,103 in UB Stadium. The game might not have been that close, as the Engineers clearly dominated in overcoming an early 13-0 Bulls' lead. It still ranks as one of the most crushing losses in UB's recent history.

     "It's certainly a disappointment to lose any football game at any time -- the first game, last game, any place in between," said UB coach Jim Hofher. "This is no less or no greater a disappointment."

     Randall Secky made his first start at quarterback for the Bulls, and at times it showed. He completed just 12 of 31 passes for 154 yards. Overall, Lehigh outgained UB, 508-265.

      "The passing game was the thing, theirs and ours," Hofher said. "They did a good job with theirs and they had a number of third-and-very-long conversions. Good for them, shame on us."

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Going, going, gone

   August 28, 1967 -- Minor league baseball is something of a good news/bad news proposition for fans. When a good player passes through on the way to the majors, it's a pleasure to see him perform. But when that player leaves, he is not coming back.

   On this date, Johnny Bench played his first major-league game as a member of the Cincinnati Reds. And he wasn't coming back to Buffalo.

   Bench was considered one of the great catching prospects in modern times. Ted Williams called him a sure Hall of Famer after Bench had played just one major-league seaosn.

   After signing with the Reds in 1965, Bench went from Class A ball in the Carolina League to the Bisons in 1966. But he broke his thumb in his first game here and was sidelined for the rest of the season.

   Then in 1967, Bench played full-time for the Bisons. He hit .259 with 21 homers and 68 RBIs. Bench was particularly dominant behind the plate, displaying a throwing arm that quickly became legendary.

   The catcher didn't need to finish the 1967 to rank as a great prospect. He was named the minor league player of the year for that season. Bench eventually won two Most Valuable Player trophies for the Reds and did indeed make it to Cooperstown after a spectacular 17-year career.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Rifle in the outfield

     August 27, 1880 -- It was a big day in the life of Buffalo Bisons' outfielder Bill Crowley, even though he wouldn't have believed it if you had told him he'd still be in the baseball record books more than 130 years later for his accomplishment.

     Crowley was credited with four outfield assists on this particular day. He had done it once before in that season, on May 24. Perhaps he was hoping that the assists would make up for a glove that produced 33 errors in the outfield that season, giving him a fielding percentage of .824.

     It turned out that that tied the record for most outfield assists in a game. What's more, no one else in the history of major league baseball has ever done it twice in a career.

     Fielding obviously has changed greatly over the years in baseball. A year after Crowley's record, Bisons' outfielder Hardy Richardson piledup 45 assists in 1881 -- only five away from the league record.

     These days, outfielders don't come close to running up those numbers. Shin-Soo Choo of Cleveland had 14 in 2010 to lead the majors.

     As for Crowley, he played pro baseball for eight years. He died at the age of 33 in 1891 due to kidney problems (Bright's disease).

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Uncle Mo faces strong field in King's Bishop

By Gene Kershner

The big story facing the other seven horses in the field of the Grade 1 Foxwoods King’s Bishop at historic Saratoga Race Course on Saturday afternoon before a national television audience (Ch. 2, 5 p.m.) will be which Uncle Mo shows up. It will be televised as part of the Travers Day coverage by NBC and is one of the best races of the day.

Last year’s 2-year-old champion returns after a four-month layoff that caused him to miss the Triple Crown season after being diagnosed with cholangiohepatitis, a rare liver disorder. After being treated for the ailment and a trip to Win Star Farm for some light training, this is the race his connections have been pointing to.

He hasn’t picked the easiest spot to reenter the racing scene as a number of formidable 3-year-old colts will line up in attempts to thwart his comeback. Trainer Todd Pletcher discussed with the media on Wednesday why this is the right spot for Mo.

 “We envisioned it’d be a tough spot,” said Pletcher, Saratoga’s leading trainer.  “We’re somewhat limited in options. When you have a horse like that who has accomplished a lot and doesn’t have any allowance conditions left, you have to start somewhere. We think he’s the kind that’s talented enough to do something off the bench like that.”

Here’s a look at the field and some notable nuggets listed in the past performances:

1 – Flashpoint:  There’s a lot to like about the Pomeroy colt, especially his most recent works. He came back from his difficult performance in the Preakness to win the Grade 3 Jersey Shore going away by seven lengths. He’ll be facing much tougher in here, however, but he looks to be the early speed and this distance could be right in his wheelhouse (see Gulfstream performance on Feb. 26).

2 – Caleb’s Posse: Impressive Grade 2 winner of the Amsterdam shows he can handle the Spa track after cutting back in distance from the Iowa Derby. I don’t like betting a horse off his top speed figure, so I’ll take my chances on others as his last was at the top of his form cycle (third off the layoff), so he may be a bounce candidate.

3 – Runflatout: California shipper cuts back in distance for trainer John Sadler, who wins 20 percent of the time shipping horses. Has run on dirt before breaking his maiden at Santa Anita in a sprint race where he sported a nice speed figure. I like his chances in here to pull the upset with a juicy morning line of 8-1 on the cut-back angle. Notice in the route race two back, who happened to beat him by a length. Yes, that’s the Haskell winner Coil, who will be running in the main event on Saturday. My pick.

4 – Dominus: Another horse cutting back in distance after finishing third in the Jim Dandy. If you look at his running lines he has been right there at the 6-furlong mark in each of his route races, including his Grade 2 Dwyer win. Asmussen has had a very good Spa meet, winning 29 percent of his starters. He rates a chance, and will be included on my multi-race tickets as a win contender.

5 – Poseidon’s Warrior: Interesting shipper from Pennsylvania who has run two monster races against lesser foes. The Speightstown colt certainly is stepping up in class on Saturday with a jockey who rarely rides at the Spa. I look for him to be out on the lead early, setting fast early fractions, but don’t believe these will let him get away.

6 – Justin Phillip: The second Asmussen horse in the race, his sire First Samurai , won the 2005 Hopeful on this same track. He won the Grade 2 Woody Stephens in the slop on Belmont day at the distance. His works don’t indicate anything special and he may have fired his best bullet on the off track in June. He could possibly crack the superfecta, but not counting on it.

7 – Uncle Mo: What to do with the reigning Juvenile champ? He certainly has the talent to win, but off the long layoff this seems like an awful difficult spot for him to rebound. Pletcher is 2/30 off long layoffs in Grade 1 races over the past five years. I think he’ll need one before showing off what he’s capable of. He’ll be bet hard based on the Pletcher/Velazquez combo, in addition to the big name recognition, so there will be little betting value, but we really have to think through whether to leave him off multirace exotic tickets.

8 – Cool Blue Red Hot: The Harlan’s Holiday colt has been off since early July, but trainer Penna shows decent numbers off the layoff. His work tab shows some sharp times, so he appears fit and wouldn’t surprise me if he pulled the upset at a big price. The long-shot play.

Post Time Outlook:

1 – Runflatout                                                                              

2 – Dominus

3 – Uncle Mo

 Good luck and let’s go cash some tickets!

The field for the Grade 1, $250,000 Foxwoods King’s Bishop:

PP

Horse

Jockey

Wgt

Trainer

Odds

1

Flashpoint (FL)

C H Velasquez

121

W A Ward

5-2

2

Caleb's Posse (KY)

R Maragh

121

D K Von Hemel

9-2

3

Runflatout (KY)

R Albarado

117

J W Sadler

8-1

4

Dominus (VA)

J R Leparoux

121

S M Asmussen

6-1

5

Poseidon's Warrior (MD)

F Pennington

119

R E Reid, Jr.

20-1

6

Justin Phillip (KY)

R A Dominguez

121

S M Asmussen

15-1

7

Uncle Mo (KY)

J R Velazquez

121

T A Pletcher

9-5

8

Cool Blue Red Hot (KY)

M R Cruz

117

A J Penna, Jr.

12-1

 

Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer and handicapper who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com and tweets @EquiSpace.

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: A bad idea

     August 26, 1968 --  When a snowball of bad news starts rolling down a hill, it's tough to keep it from gaining size and momentum. The 1968 Buffalo Bills knew about that.

     The Houston Oilers had clobbered the Bills, 37-7, in a preseason game on Aug. 23. Buffalo was awful on offense, defense and special teams (0 for 3 on field goals). Coach Joel Collier wasn't at all happy, so he decided to have a full-scale scrimmage three days later.

     Collier had better ideas during his long career. Sure enough, defensive end Ron McDole was blocked into quarterback Jack Kemp's knee during that workout. Kemp was injured and was lost for the season.

     The practice and resulting injury didn't make owner Ralph Wilson very happy. Wilson fired Collier before the start of the season, replacing him with Harvey Johnson.

     With Kemp out and Tom Flores recovering from his own injury, the Bills had no quarterback to speak of. They started four in all that season. You can guess what sort of year it was for football -- 1-12-1.

--- Budd Bailey

Running notebook: Honored again

   While the Western New York Running Hall of Fame race is still more than a week away, a regional Hall has made its picks for 2011. James D. Ulrich Sr. has been picked for the Niagara Track and Field Hall of Fame.

   Ulrich is the retired men's track and field coach at Fredonia State. He led the school to 27 state championships, and coaches five NCAA Division III national champions. Ulrich went into Fredonia State's Hall in 2004, and was picked for Kenmore West's Athletic Hall of Fame as an athlete in 1997.

   Meanwhile, you knew some apps for smartphones had to be coming for the running set. MapMyRun is headed in that direction. Spectators at the New York City marathon will be able to follow runners as they travel the 26.2 miles later this year.

   I just finished reading "An Accidental Athlete" by John "The Penguin" Bingham. It's billed as an autobiography, and there are certainly elements of that, but there was a little too much philosophy in it in the second half of the book. You can read my complete review here.

   Tonight's Mueller Mile, sponsored by the Checkers Athletic Club, is the warm-up to the weekend. It's a quiet time on the calendar, compiled by buffalorunners.com. By the way, the "Runnin' with Jesus" race in Hamburg has been cancelled.

   * Tops 5K and 10K Run, 6363 Main St. in Williamsville, 9:30 a.m. Saturday, 635-5221. This has turned into a big race in relatively little time. Plus, no one goes home hungry.

   * Tomato Trot 5K, Evangola State Park in Irving, 9 a.m. Sunday, 549-1802.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: National champion

     August 25, 1917 --  When great tennis players from Western New York are discussed, most fans don't remember any better than Jimmy Arias. That's with good reason, since Arias turned out to be one of the best players in the world.

     But Robert Lindley Murray did something even Arias couldn't do ... and he did it twice. Murray won the United States Open men's singles title.

     Murray graduated from Stanford and landed a job with Hooker Electrochemical in Niagara Falls. He squeezed in a trip to Forest Hills and on this day defeated Nathaniel Niles in four sets to take the championship.

     In 1918, Murray had the chance to again play for the American title but initially refused because the company was busy with important World War I defense contracts. But the president of Hooker told Murray to go compete. He did, and successfully defended his title by defeating the legendary Bill Tilden in straight sets His run finally ended in 1919 with a quarterfinal loss to Bill Johnston.

     Murray eventually rose to the rank of chairman of the board at Hooker. He also was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Murray died in 1970 in Lewiston.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Joining the club

     August 24, 1998 -- Buffalo officially became part of the Arena Football League's world on this date.

     The city was granted an expansion franchise by the league during its meetings, which were part of the AFL's championship league. It was the only team to gain entry to the Arena league.

     This was no surprise. The Destroyers were expected to gain admission. But they made a little news on the same day.

      Six players who had connections to the NFL's Buffalo Bills were among the first 14 players who signed letters of intent to join new Destroyers. Two of the ex-Bills were relatively well-known. Linebacker David White played for the Bills in 1995 and 1996. In addition, linebacker Sean Doctor was a sixth-round draft choice of the Bills in 1989.

     The Destroyers signed two quarterbacks on this day. Tom Beck was with Scotland in NFL Europe this fall, while Paul Kaiser was a rookie out of Central Missouri State. But it was Tony Kimbrough who started the team's first game in April, 1999.

--- Budd Bailey

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