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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Brrrrrr

     November 30, 1969 -- This was the type of day that probably made O.J. Simpson wish he had been drafted by a team in a warm-weather climate.

     The rookie wrapped up his home season on this day, and War Memorial Stadium offered a chilly finale. It was snowing, the temperature was 28 degrees, and the wind chill was 16 thanks to a 17-mph wind.

     Simpson ran the ball 13 times for only 35 yards, and caught one pass for 24 yards. At least the final score might have cheered him up, as the Bills defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, 16-13.

     Buffalo didn't score an offensive touchdown in the game. The margin of victory was provided by Booker Edgerson, who returned a fumble 10 yards for a score. Bruce Alford had three field goals. Sam Wyche scored the only Bengals' touchdown on a 9-yard run, while Horst Muhlmann had two field goals. Meanwhile, Cincinnati fumbled seven times in the game, and lost every one of them, while completing two passes on the day.

     Buffalo quarterback Jack Kemp finished 10 of 26 for 84 yards. Maybe this game convinced him there were better things to do with his life. This was his last home game; Kemp ran for Congress (and won) the following year.

     It was Buffalo's fourth win of the season, and its last. The Bills dropped their last two road games to finish 4-10.

--- Budd Bailey

Road to London: Suhr ready for another shot at Olympic glory

Suhr

Fredonia native Jenn Suhr, above, won the silver medal for pole vaulting at the Beijing Olympics. As she prepares for the 2012 games in London, she'll provide monthly updates on Sports, Ink. Today, she discusses the challenges she faces in the coming months.

2008 feels, in a strange way, just like yesterday. My emotions from the 2008 Olympic Games are still mixed. I was blessed to win an Olympic Silver medal in the pole vault but felt, and still feel, as if I can do better.

In 2012, I will get another shot to chase Olympic glory. My pursuit is not what most people think of when they think of a chase or race ... mine is vertical and not horizontal. It is hard to communicate the ups and downs (no pun intended) that come with this pursuit, but I hope to be able to give folks in this region a monthly glimpse of the good and bad, the fun and less than fun, and the joy and the frustrations that come with an Olympic year’s preparations. Most of us don’t realize the sacrifice and almost obsessive focus involved in pursuing an Olympic dream -- but don’t worry, I will help change that.

The difficulty of my event is not only extreme because of the nature of pole vaulting. It is further complicated by the fact that in 2012 it will feature the only two-time Olympic champ returning for a chance at number three. Yelena Isinbayeva, from Russia, is the Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods of pole vaulting. In order for me to win the Olympics, I will have to outsmart gravity and a yet-indestructible Olympic force named Yelena. Remember "Rocky IV"?  This is the real-life version of that movie with a training routine that isn’t that far off! The next 9 months will largely become a life focused on running down a runway carrying a fiberglass pole that will launch me, upside down into the air with a landing mat (hopefully) underneath me as I fall back to the ground. Dec. 1 is the official start for me, or the end, depending how you look at it.

I will become familiar with seeing 5:30 a.m. on my alarm clock and the daily distance run of four miles. The weight room will see me at least five times a week. My body will go through 30-minute conditioning cycles not that different than a college wrestler trying to make weight. And my training sessions will take place in a cold steel building in Churchville with a climate ranging from 40 degrees to -5 degrees in the winter months of upstate New York. Frozen fingers and toes always make it a little more challenging! Chips and Bison dip will be replaced by carrot sticks and celery; snacks will be replaced by protein shakes; goodbye pizza, and hello fruit; Sunday football will now be broken up by Sunday core session workouts; and my dog will get all the walking exercise he needs and more! Sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, and planks will soon be a way of life.

My husband, Rick Suhr, having been an All-American wrestler from Spencerport, completely understands the mental and physical struggles I go through. He will guide me every step of the way so this is a family affair. Film review will now replace Robin Mead; coffee will be replaced with tea; and cream with non-fat milk. Chef, julienne, chicken, vegetable and garden all represent my choices of salads for dinner. Rick and I have been getting everything winterized, and house projects have been rushed to the top of the to-do list to help eliminate any distractions later on. I just hope my body can make it through the winter and the inconsistent spring season we have learned to love.

I invite you to follow my journey to the Olympic trials in Oregon at the end of June through this blog space. I may complain on occasion, but there’s nothing in the world like clearing a bar that is 16 feet in the air -- especially if it happens in London next August. 

As of Dec. 1, I am all in.

--Jenn Suhr

(Photo: Suhr makes an attempt during qualifications at August's World Athletics Championships in South Korea. Credit: Associated Press)

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Unhappy bunch

   November 29, 1998 -- An angry group of Buffalo Bills left the field after their game with the Patriots in New England on this day. They could have sworn they were headed home with a victory, only to leave with a defeat.

   A couple of controversial calls in the final minutes handed the Patriots a win that the Bills didn't think was deserved. That includes Buffalo owner Ralph Wilson.

  "This was the worst,‘ an incensed Wilson said in the stunned Bills dressing room. "It's embarrassing to the league. Not that the Pats don't have a good team; they have a heck of a team.

   "But we got robbed."

   Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe threw a long pass into the end zone as time expired. The ball fell incomplete, but pass interference was called on safety Henry Jones. Bledsoe later hit Ben Coates for the winning score.

   "I think it's ridiculous,‘ coach Wade Phillips said. "I've never seen an interference call on a Hail Mary play. It's a shame for our team because they played their hearts out and fought back from behind, and that's all I can say."

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Gone, for a whlie

   November 28, 1929 -- The Buffalo Bisons were the name of the city's original entry into the National Football League. This day marks the last time the team took the field.

   The Bisons had just finished up the regular season, going 1-7-1 in league play (although it did win two exhibition games, which were dropped into the schedule). That included a win on November 24 of that year against, of all teams, the Chicago Bears, in Wrigley Field. It wasn't the worst record in the league … Dayton went 0-6 … but it was close.

   But the Bisons tacked on an exhibition game on Thanksgiving, in what looks like an attempt from this vantage point as an attempt to make a little extra money. Buffalo played the Rochester Oxfords in Red Wing Stadium in Rochester.

   A crowd of 2,100 turned out for the game, which was won by the Oxfords, 13-2. The Bisons never scored more than seven points in any game that season under coach Al Jolley

   And then pro football was gone, and it wouldn't return to Buffalo for more than a decade.

--- Budd Bailey

Bandits notebook: Please introduce yourself

The Buffalo Bandits had their first preseason workout together Sunday at the First Niagara Center. The first thing the players did was to look around. Their locker room was remodeled in the offseason as part of the Sabres' reconstruction of the area. The new look does have some orange in it, and is circular without any crannies so that everyone can look at everyone. The equipment has a new home too.

Then the players took a glance at who else was around. They probably noticed the amount of talent that had turned out. At one point in the workout, assistant coach Rich Kilgour addressed his half of an intersquad game. He said the squad had the makings of a pretty good team, and that it was made up of only half the roster.

Kilgour was certainly right. The demise of the Boston Blazers has again scattered good players around the league. With the NLL down to nine teams, about 23 more players won't be able to find work in January. When Darris Kilgour addressed the team at the start of the workout, he made that point by telling each player to look at a teammate. Chances are that one of them would be cut in a month. Ouch.

After some drills, the players played a full scrimmage for about 40 minutes. The media was allowed to sit behind one of the benches for a session. That's a very interesting experience. The line changes come off extremely smoothly through good communication about when one player comes off. It's a bit of a fire drill, but it works. I had the odd feeling I should tap a player on the shoulder and say, "Next man out there," but resisted the temptation.

We're less than three weeks away from the open practice. Some questions might be answered by then.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: A familiar voice

   November 27, 1984 -- One of the most memorable personalities in Buffalo's sports broadcasting history left us on this date. Stan Barron, who was part of Western New York for more than 30 years, died after a long battle with cancer.

   Ask any sports fan who was around Buffalo in that era, and he or she will tell you about Barron's impact. He came to Buffalo from New York City in 1952, and worked for WKBW and WKBW-TV.

   But Barron made his great impact starting in the 1960s, when he hosted a program on WBEN from 7 p.m. to midnight on weeknights. There he gave scores and news, did interviews, provided commentary, and asked trivia questions. It was a unique format that really has never been duplicated.

  "The idea was instant results instead of tuning in for sports at specific times," Barron once told an interviewer.

   Barron also broadcast games. He served as the hockey Bisons' play-by-play man as well as its publicity director at one point. He also announced Bisons' baseball, Niagara and Canisius college basketball, and University of Buffalo football. Barron's final years came when he was the commentator for Bills' games with play-by-play man Van Miller.

   He was honored in several ways for his work with inductions into Halls of Fame and awards. Sports around haven't been the same without him.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: A thrilling finish

   November 26, 2006 -- If you were a little late to the Bills' game against Jacksonville on this day, it wasn't a problem … the ending made up for it.

   This game had a fabulous finish, with two scores coming in the final minute. The Bills had the last one, and it was good for a 27-24 win.

   The Jaguars marched 62 yards in the fourth quarter to score the tying touchdown. But a squib kick put the ball on the Buffalo 40. Then quarterback J.P. Losman threw a 30-yard strike
to Roscoe Parrish.

   "That's one of the things you like about J.P. is his ability to throw on the run," Bills assistant coach Alex Van Pelt said. "He was out on the move, probably one of the harder throws to make for a quarterback, going to your left. He put it on a dime and Roscoe made a great catch.

   From there it was just a matter of getting in field goal position. Rian Lindell kicked a 42-yard field goal on the last play of the game to win it. It was the first time in a year the Bills won back-to-back games and the first time in three years they won a game on the final play.

   "To win in this league, you just have to execute, play hard and play smart. They've got a great defense, but that's what we did -- we played a smart, tough game," tight end Robert Royal said.

--- Budd Bailey 

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Not good enough

   November 25, 1976 -- The Buffalo Bills probably weren't in the mood to give thanks for much on this Thanksgiving Day. Having the chance to watch O.J. Simpson have his last great day as a member of the Bills was about it.

   Simpson ran for 273 yards on 29 carries on that day. It set the NFL record for rushing yardage in a single game; O.J. held the old one. In his fifth career 200-yard game (breaking Jim Brown's NFL record), Simpson also scored two touchdowns, one coming on a 48-yard run.

   The rest of the Bills weren't nearly as good. Buffalo fell behind the host Lions, 20-0, in the Pontiac Silverdome. That was enough, as Detroit coasted to a 27-14 win.

   It's not easy to lose a game with more than 300 rushing yards as a team. It's easy to point a finger at the passing game as the reason why. Buffalo's Gary Marangi was 4 of 21 for 29 yards passing, with one interception. Bob Chandler caught three of them, leaving one for Jeff Kinney.

   Greg Landry threw two touchdown passes to David Hill for the Lions. Landry was only 8 for 20 for 143 yards.

   The Bills lost their eighth straight in this one, and the streak would reach 10 by the end of the season in a 2-12 campaign. Detroit ended up 6-8 that season.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Cigar Mile preview

The Grade 1 $250,000 Cigar Mile Handicap represents the final Grade 1 race of the year in New York racing, to be run on Saturday afternoon at Aqueduct Race Track. It’s one of my favorite races of the year and a race that a big score can be ripe for the taking. In 2005, I sat in the Wehrle OTB and watched a 25-1 longshot named Purge close with a flurry to upset a star-studded field. His babies are running this year and we’ve been keeping a close eye on them due the big score he gave us that day in late November six years ago.

This year seven horses, including one entry by the Todd Pletcher barn will contest for the Grade 1 honors. Pletcher is tied with Bob Baffert with three career wins in this race over its 21 year history. One horse, To Honor and Serve, comes out of the biggest race of the year, the Breeders’ Cup Classic and tries to rebound after a solid effort in the Pennsylvania Derby.

1 – Calibrachoa (Pletcher, C Velasquez, 5-2) – Represents the first half of the Repole/Pletcher entry who will stretch  out to a mile for the first time ever. He runs back after winning the rescheduled Grade 3 Bold Ruler at Aqueduct three weeks ago.

1a –Caixa Electronica (Pletcher, J Velazquez, 5-2) – Second half of entry has never won more than a Grade 3 in his career. Solid horse but will have to run his best effort to surpass his counterparts. The entry is solid, but will play no better than third.

2- Pretty Boy Freud (Ortiz, O’Brien, 20-1) – Draws the rail with the bug boy in the irons, thus receiving a weight break of six to seven pounds to the highweights in this race. Has never won at the distance and has a tendency to throw in a clunker every now and again. Pass.

3- Haynesfield (Dominguez, Asmussen, 4-1) – Last year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup champ and runner-up in the 2010 Cigar Mile, Haynesfield could be just the right price to take a shot at this one. Comes in second off the layoff for Steve Asmussen and has a solid workout under his belt. Dominguez owns the Big A, so he could spring the upset at a decent price.

4 – Hymn Book (McGaughey IIIl,Garcia, 8-1) – Shug cuts back in distance with Alan Garcia in the saddle. Has only missed the board twice in 12 efforts, represents a very possible upset victim. The cutback angle makes him dangerous and if it’s hot on the front end he could pick up the pieces late. We will make a flyer saver bet on him.

5 – To Honor and Serve (Mott, Lezcano, 7-5) – Deserving favorite who was within striking distance in the stretch at the Classic and had a lot of buzz going into the race. The mile distance may suit him perfectly. He won  the one mile Grade 2 Nashua here last November, so he can handle the track and the distance without issue. Bill Mott, who won the race in 1994 with the race’s namesake, has not won the race since it was renamed the Cigar Mile in 1997, but feels his horse is ready to contest. “Shortening back from 1 ¼ miles to a mile is not usually an easy task, but it’s possible,” said Mott. “I know it’s a bit of a squeeze to come back after a race like that, but he’s feeling good, it’s a Grade 1, and probably the last race of the season for him.”

6 – Sangaree (bin Suroor, Maragh, 5-1) – The Godophin entry has solid excuses in his last two races where he finished second, but he just doesn’t seem to get it done. His work tab looks fabulous so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to include him underneath in the trifecta and superfecta wagering, but can’t see him having the class to handle the best in here.

Post Time Outlook: 1 – Haynesfield; 2 –To Honor and Serve; 3 – Pletcher Entry

Long shot possibility : Hymn Book

Good luck and let’s go cash some tickets!

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

Running notebook: Good day for a trot

By Buffalo's Thanksgiving standards, the YMCA Turkey Trot in Buffalo run was staged under almost ideal conditions. A couple of past champions took advantage of temperatures in the 40s to add to their trophy collection.

Dennis Pollow Jr. of Ransomville and Maura Frauenhofer of Hamburg were the winners in the 116th annual event, which attracted a record attendance figure of more than 13,000 runners.

Pollow won his fourth straight event, which hasn't been accomplished by a men's runner since Mark Finucane, a member of the Western New York Running Hall of Fame, swept the races from 1980 to 1983 (records before 1980 are unavailable). The current overall modern record for consecutive victories was set by Vicki Mitchell, who won five in a row from 1996 to 2000. Mitchell won eight Trots overall.

Pollow finished in 24 minutes and 42 seconds, good for a 28-second win over Aaron Lancel of Lander, Pa. Ben Snodgrass of Buffalo was third in 25:21.

On the women's side, Frauenhofer also won this event in 2009. Her time was 29:11, 16 seconds faster than her 29:27 of '09. Frauenhofer finished 10 seconds ahead of Jackie Rzepecki of Rochester, Mich., herself a three-time winner. Katie Niblock of East Amherst was third, also in 29:21.

The event was the last in The News' Runner of the Year series, but the championships had been determined before the race started. Dan Giza and Allison Carr both successfully defended their titles.

--- Budd Bailey

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