September 10, 1997 -- For all the success the Buffalo Bisons had when Bob Rich bought the franchise in 1983, a league championship eluded the franchise for years. Then 1997 came along, and the Bisons finally got their title with a win over Iowa.
Not only that, but Rich got himself a baseball.
It was the baseball that Richie Sexson caught for the final out of the game that wrapped up the American Association title in Iowa's Sec Taylor Stadium. Torey Lovullo gave Rich the ball during the clubhouse celebration after the game, which was a 5-4 Buffalo win in 10 innings.
"It's never easy, never," a champagne-drenched Rich said to The News' Mike Harrington after the game. "We've come so close so many times and you think of the teams in the past at a time like this. This team has great heart and [manager] Brian Graham has been a great leader. .‚.‚. It's a storybook year for us. I don't think anybody could have expected this at the start of the year."
Buffalo looked like a sure winner an inning early, but gave up a 4-2 lead in the ninth to send the game to extra innings. Then Sean Casey turned the game around again with a solo homer.
"I'm numb by that time," Rich said. "We've played so much good baseball in 13 years in the Association and a title had eluded us. It's almost human nature to wait for how the sky is going to fall down tonight."
--- Budd Bailey