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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Game off

   November 24, 1963 -- Plenty of Americans remember what they were doing on Nov. 22, 1963, the day President Kennedy was assassinated. It led to an odd situation two days later.

   The American Football League postponed its week's games, so the Bills and Patriots did not play on the 24th as scheduled. However, the rival National Football League opted to play its games that Sunday. The contests weren't televised, as coverage of the news story took precedence.

   NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle said at the time, "It has been traditional in sports for athletes to perform in times of great personal tragedy. Football was Mr. Kennedy's game. He thrived on competition."

   Rozelle later said that playing the games was his single biggest regret about his tenure. The NFL learned a lesson from the weekend. It cancelled games the week after September 11, 2001.

--- Budd Bailey

Running notebook: One big race

It's a rather light weekend for racing, if you don't count Thursday morning.

But Thursday morning certainly counts. The Turkey Trot gets underway on Delaware Ave., and goes to the Buffalo Convention Center. More than 13,000 runners will be there. Can't wait to see how long it takes everyone to get over the starting line.

I received a nice note from Neil Farrell that should be passed along to everyone at the race:

As you may know, for the last ten years the South Buffalo Athletic Club has been a fixture at the Delaware Park overpass encouraging the Turkey Troy runners with our welcoming sign and music. The music standards have been the "Notre Dame Victory March" along with a couple of classics from South Buffalo's favorite son, Willie Schoellkopf.  This year in honor of South Buffalonian-at-heart Willie Nile's generous concert for the Food Bank of Western NY this past Friday we will also be including his rocker, "Run Run Run".

Don't forget to wave to us on the overpass and have a great Thanksgiving!
 
Meanwhile, there is one other race, according to buffalorunners.com:
* Amy King 5K, 9 West Summit St. in Lakewood, 11 a.m. Saturday, 763-0303.
See everyone at the finish line Thursday morning ... eventually.
-- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Open for business

   November 23, 1959 -- The Buffalo Bills officially went into the football business on this day, as they acquired the rights to some players in the American Football League's first college draft.

   The team took Richie Lucas of Penn State, a quarterback. Lucas finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting that year, and would later go on to the College Football Hall of Fame.

   But while he signed with the Bills, his career in Buffalo was a short one. He only played for the Bills in 1960 and 1961, and had a quarterback rating of under 50 in losing three out of four starts. Part of that problem was that he hurt his ankle in his rookie year, and never caught up. Besides, he was a running quarterback when the pro game didn't use its passers that way. Lucas did return a fumble for a touchdown while playing defense in 1961. Lucas was off to Denver after two years, but never played there.

   The Bills took 32 other players that day, including Willie Evans from the University of Buffalo and future Hall of Famer Larry Wilson (he went to the Cardinals). The league had another draft on December 2, as the owners realized they needed a larger player pool.

--- Budd Bailey 

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Up in the rafters

   November 22, 2005 -- It took almost a quarter-century for the Buffalo Sabres to honor one of their all-time greats. Then again, Danny Gare probably will say it was worth the wait to see his uniform number retired by the Sabres on this night.

   Gare was a big part of the Sabres' teams during his time in Buffalo, which stretched from 1974 to 1981. He had 500 points in 503 games here.

   Gare did a lot of running around in the days leading up to the ceremony. That only stood to reason for someone who had the nickname of "Tickets," as he was always asking his Sabre teammates for spare tickets for games.

   "It's a little hectic, yeah, but that's a good hectic," Gare said before the ceremony. "You never know until it really happens as far as how your emotions will rise and fall, but I think we're pretty much ready."

   Gare gave an emotional speech, then he watched his number (18) go up into the rafters. Number 18 joined the numbers of Gil Perreault, Rick Martin, Rene Robert and Tim Horton.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Bad, bad start

   November 21, 1971 -- The losses for the 1971 edition of the Buffalo Bills were starting to add up quickly by this point in the season. Buffalo dropped number 10 in a row, a 20-7 loss to the New York Jets. That's not so good when you've only played 10 games.

   Dennis Shaw threw a first-quarter touchdown pass to Marlin Briscoe, and then the bottom fell out.

   Buffalo quarterbacks threw five interceptions for the afternoon. Shaw had four of them, and James Harris contributed a fifth. Shaw was 7 for 18 that day for 109 yards, while Harris was 6 for 15 for 41 yards.

   New York broke the game open with 17 unanswered points in the second quarter. Don Maynard and George Nock both caught touchdown passes to give the Jets the lead for good.

   Care to guess who the Jets' quarterback was that day? You're probably wrong. It was Bob Davis, as Joe Namath was hurt. Davis was only 6 for 14 for 81 yards, but the Jets did run for 153 yards.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: A perfect season

   November 20, 1897 -- It's not as if the 2008 University at Buffalo football team is the only one in school history to enjoy a great season. It's just that sometimes the best seasons go a little ways back.

   On this date, UB racked up a 28-0 win over Hobart as part of a 7-0 season. Other victims that year were Niagara, Syracuse and Western Reserve. The UB team gave up a total of 12 points in the entire season.

   The manager of the team that year was E.J. Meyer, and the coach was C.W. Dibble. The 1897
season marked the first time that UB had ever had a football coach, so Mr. Dibble must have helped. There were only 12 players on the roster.

   It was a rapid rise to success, as the program had only started in 1894. In fact, the team needed a couple of years to get permission to play its games on UB's campus.

   That 1897 campaign remains the only unbeaten season in school history. Dibble left at that point, so he finished his UB coaching career with a winning percentage of 1.000.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Cross over the bridge

   November 19, 1928 -- Once upon a time, a Buffalo team played its games in a different city ... in a different country.

   No, this isn't like the Buffalo Bills playing in Orchard Park. It's the debut of the Buffalo Bisons, who played their first game in the Canadian Professional Hockey League. They played their home games in Fort Erie, at the Peace Bridge Arena.

   The first game was in London (Ont.) against the Panthers. The news wasn't good, as the Bisons dropped a 3-2 loss in overtime. Harry Lott had the first goal in team history at 13 minutes of the first period.

   The Bisons didn't win a game until December 7 that year, and went on to a 17-18-7 record in that initial season. Rollie Huard was the team's leading scorer with 18 goals and eight assists for 26 points. The best nickname on that team might have belonged to Burton Lederman. They called him "Gamey."

   The team lasted until 1936. After a four-year wait, Buffalo entered the American Hockey League in 1940.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Let's get this Derby trail started

By Gene Kershner

Say it ain’t so. The 2012 Derby trail is about to get started with the $1 million Grade 3 Delta Jackpot in Louisiana this weekend. Getting into the gate in the Kentucky Derby is all about graded stakes earnings and the first big race subsequent to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is in the South at the bullring known as Delta Downs on Saturday.

Of course, it’s so early in the season that only one horse of any winner since its inception in 2002 has actually made the gate in the Derby, that the chances are slim that the 2012 winner will actually show up in Louisville on the First Saturday in May. The 2008 winner ended up the Eclipse Award winner in the Sprint category in Big Drama, who challenged Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness, so it’s possible that a star could be born in this year’s edition.

One thing to consider when looking at Derby preps is that the favorite rarely wins, and these are the types of races to look elsewhere for value and a horse ready to move forward in his training pattern and win a big race of this nature.

Let’s take a look at this year’s Jackpot’s talented field …

1 – Longview Drive (Hollendorfer, Rosario, 10-1) – An intriguing horse that’s won at the distance and has a three-race winning streak going. Recent Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer changes jockeys and goes with the talented Joel Rosario to try and make his mark in south Louisiana. I’m kind of digging this horse with an excellent pedigree (see A.P. Indy as grand sire).  He’s in my mix for sure.

2- Seven Lively Sins (Stall, Leparoux, 9-2) – Looks like a sharp horse, but I’m staying away based on the Average Winning Distances (AWD) of his sire and dam sire. Looks to be more of a sprinter to me and will take a lot of money at the windows based on the connections and morning line odds. No thanks.

3- Tiz Moe (Calhoun, Theriot, 15-1) – I’m a big Tiznow fan, and the price may be right to throw a deuce on this horse, only because he can get the 9-furlongs without a problem. Got whacked pretty good by 5-My Adonis in the stretch last out, but these are young horses and we can see progression from poor performances. He shows an awesome workout on November 12, so don’t discount based on his last effort.

4 – Basmati (O’Neill, Nakatani, 8-1) – Finally broke his maiden in his sixth race, but his speed figures match up with the top contenders in here and top trainer Doug O’Neill not afraid to head east of the Mississippi to grab some graded earnings. Cautiously optimistic about this guy, but will probably lay off and play wait and see before investing any hard earned cash on this one.

5 – My Adonis (Breen, Trujillo, 4-1) – Hasn’t missed the exacta in five races and has a win over the bullring. That alone has this one in my mix. His bloodlines say that he can handle the route distance and winning over the track puts him in the forefront for his handicapper.

6 – Drill (Baffert, Garcia, 2-1) – He’s the odds-on favorite for the race. Running back in two weeks after a dismal tenth place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. This is the one to try and beat if you’re looking to make a few bucks. Not sure he’s the bullring type, so I’m laying off him. Good chance he disappears with a poor performance here.

7 – Laurie’s Rocket (Stewart, Hernandez, 10-1) – I loved Bluegrass Cat in his day, but this colt looks more like a sprinter to me based on his previous races. His best speed figure that would even challenge his foes in this race was in his last race at 6 1/2-furlongs. We’ll be taking a pass on this one.

8 – Sabercat (Asmussen, Melancon, 8-1) – Tough not to like a Sabercat in Buffalo, and this one actually has a decent chance off his last two efforts. Asmussen is dangerous in these scenarios and he wouldn’t have this colt in here if he didn’t think he had a legitimate chance at bringing this one home. Considering.

9 – Dougs Buddy (Petrowski, Stokes, 20-1) - So he’s undefeated in four starts at Northlands Park in Edmonton. He sports a solid workout at Delta, but coming from Canada, he’s a complete unknown. Hard to wager any hard earned cash based on that alone. Not that I won’t be eating my tuque if he comes through.

10 – Jake Mo (Milligan, Simmigton, 15-1) – That’s one jockey/trainer combo I’ve never seen, so I’m skeptical and tossing even though he’s run well in sprints at Prairie Meadows. I’ve got certain angles I like to play, and this isn’t one of them.

Post Time Outlook: 1 – My Adonis; 2 – Sabercat; 3 – Longview Drive

Long shot possibility: Tiz Moe

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: Great start, good finish

     November 18, 1984 -- Bright spots for the Buffalo Bills were few and far between during the 1984 season. By this time, all hope of the year had gone away. An 0-11 start will do that.

     Still, the Dallas Cowboys were in town, and a big crowd was on hand to see the perennial NFL powerhouse play in Rich Stadium. Those who turned up were stunned by what they saw.

     Greg Bell set the tone right away. The halfback went 85 yards on the first play from scrimmage to give the Bills a 7-0 lead.

     Rafael Septien kicked a 20-yard field goal for Dallas in the second quarter. That was it for scoring until the final period, when Bell caught a 2-yard pass from Joe Ferguson. Final score: Buffalo 14, Dallas 3.

     Bell had one of his greatest games as a pro, running for 206 yards on 27 carries. Ferguson finished 13 for 29 for 117 yards. Tony Dorsett ran for 70 yards on 17 carries for Dallas.

     The Cowboys fell to 7-5 for the season with the loss. They ended up 9-7 and missed the playoffs. Buffalo ended up 2-14.

--- Budd Bailey

Running notebook: New champ

Care to guess what the most popular 5K race in Western New York this year was?

We have a new champion. The Lindsay's Legacy Run took over that title on Saturday, with more than 1,200 runners. What was striking about the race was the number of participants from the "Girls on the Run" program, which tries to mentor girls into the spot. It obviously has taken off. I did a story on the group when it was first starting up, but that may deserve a follow-up sometime soon.

The Turkey Trot filled up its registration quota a couple of days early, despite increasing the number by a few hundred. Looks like I'd better go get in line now in order to start running when the gun goes off. (Kidding. Just kidding.)

Here's the weekend's schedule, courtesy of buffalorunners.com:

* Martime March 5K, 3 Porter Ave. in Buffalo, Saturday at 11 a.m., 574-4101. I've never done this race before, but running along the waterfront at this time of year is always an adventure.

Didn't take long to type those races up.

-- 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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