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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Alive and kicking

   November 17, 1979 -- Something of a new era was about to start in Buffalo's sports history, and today marked the first sign that it was going to come to pass.

   The Buffalo Stallions were an expansion entry in the Major Indoor Soccer League. On this date, the Stallions played their first game in history, an exhibition contest against the Philadelphia Fever.

   It was part of a good-sized expansion by the league. Cincinnati had folded over the summer, but Buffalo joined Hartford, Wichita, Detroit and St. Louis as members of the league.

   That first Stallions team had an interesting collection of talent. Its first acquisition was Jim May, a goalie who had played outdoor soccer in Rochester. But general manager/coach Sal DeRosa headed to Yugoslavia to acquire talent for the team. He came back with Slobodan Jankovic, Iubo Petrovic and Stan Karasi. It also had Jim Sinclair, who turned out to be the rookie of the year.

   And give yourself 10 points if you recognized the title of this article as coming from the Stallions' theme song.

--- Budd Bailey

Sabres in HD coming to FiOS next month

Verizon announced today that it expects to provide MSG Network channels in high definition by mid-December.

The Federal Communications Commission ruled in September that MSG could not withhold HD feeds of its programming from Verizon and AT&T. MSG sports programs include Buffalo Sabres games, which have been available to Verizon FiOS viewers only in standard definition.

A federal court last week upheld the FCC ruling, which compels MSG to negotiate with Verizon  regarding HD feeds. A statement from Verizon today says the HD programming is expected to be available by mid-December.

Sabres viewers who get their TV via the Dish Network are still in the dark when it comes to watching their team. Dish last year dropped MSG from its lineup, in a dispute over rights fees. All indications are that it won’t be coming back to Dish anytime soon.

---Greg Connors

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Happy ending

   November 16, 1983 -- In a free-scoring game, you wouldn't expect a defensive defenseman to provide the winning moment. Not only did Mike Ramsey do that, but he made a little bit of history along the way.

   Ramsey scored the first regular-season overtime goal in Sabres history. The defenseman got the winner in a 6-5 victory over the Jets in Winnipeg.

   This one started out like a Winnipeg romp. The Jets scored three goals in the first 11 minutes of the game, including one by future Sabre Dale Hawerchuk.

   The Sabres kept fighting back. Phil Housley, Craig Ramsay, Real Cloutier, and Brent Peterson had goals for Buffalo, and it looked as if Sean McKenna's goal with early in the third period would hold up as the game-winner. But Morris Lukowich scored for the Jets with 3:15 left in regulation.

   Ramsey scored at 17 seconds of overtime, with the assists going to Real Cloutier and Gilles Hamel. It gave the win to goalie Tom Barrasso.

   Ramsey always will be associated with the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, but he might have been the best defenseman in Sabres history.

 --- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Together again

   November 15, 1995 -- The French Connection of the Buffalo Sabres was reunited, in a sense, on this night.

   The Sabres retired the numbers of Rick Martin and Rene Robert in a pregame ceremony in Memorial Auditorium. Thus they joined linemate and center Gil Perreault in that most special of categories.

    "I've waited a long time to say this," Martin said. "You fans are the reason we play hockey .‚.‚. you are the greatest fans in the world.

   Robert echoed martin's remarks about Buffalo's fans. He also had some warm words for former general manager Punch Imlach and coaches Joe Crozier and Floyd Smith.

   "For me I went through this five years ago so I felt that this was for Rick and Rene," Perreault said. "They really deserved this night ... Just walking into the locker room brought back a lot of great memories."

   As for the game, the Sabres defeated the Dallas Stars, 2-1. Pat LaFontaine had the game-winning goal for Buffalo.

--- Budd Bailey

Bandits notebook: New TV package

You'll have to switch channels in order to watch the National Lacrosse League on television for the next two seasons.

The NLL has signed a two-year deal to appear on the CBS Sports Network. it will contain five regular-season games and three postseason games. All will be shown live on Saturday nights in high definition.

The schedule will begin on April 7, with the complete schedule to be announced at a later date. It sounds like there might be a double-header involved there somewhere, with four weekends in April and five games to show.

The NLL games were on Versus in the recent past. In one sense, the new deal is a good one because it gets the games on live in prime time. Most of the games on Versus were on tape delay and thus didn't carry a great deal of suspense. However, speaking as a basic cable subscriber who gets Versus but not CBS Sports, I won't get to see any of the national games.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Down to the wire

   November 14, 1965 -- The Bills cut it mightly close on this day.

   Buffalo was playing the Raiders in Oakland, the second game of four straight on the road. The Bills gave up an early 41-yard scoring run to Clem Daniels, one of the AFL's best runners, but they tied the game in the second quarter on a 1-yard run by Billy Joe.

   Early in the fourth quarter, Daniels scored again. He caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Dick Wood. But the Bills had some fight left. Pete Gogolak kicked a 37-yard field goal .

   Then Joe tallied on yet another 1-yard run. The score came with seven seconds left and capped a 62-yard drive. When Gogolak added the extra point, the Bills had a 17-14 lead.

   Buffalo moved to 8-2 on the season with the win. The Bills only had 223 total yards for the game. Joe ran 11 times for 23 yards, while Jack Kemp was 11 for 33 for 142 yards and two interceptions.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Big Bob's big day

   November 13, 1971 -- Fans always have a little soft spot in their hearts for a team's first star. Such is the case of Bob Kauffman and the Buffalo Braves.

   Kauffman was acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers with a second-round pick after the 1970 expansion draft for Bailey Howell, a veteran who was of more use to an established team than the Braves.

   Kauffman was a two-year veteran entering the season who had bounced from Seattle to Chicago to Philadelphia. At 6-foot-8, Kauffman was supposed to be a forward on the team, but he somewhat unexpectedly found himself as the Braves' starting center.

   Kauffman thrived in that role, raising his scoring average from 4.3 points per game in Chicago to more than 20 points per game in 1970-71. He was a reason to go to the Aud to see pro basketball in those early days.

   Kauffman hit his number with 44 points in a game with the Bucks on this date. That sort of performance helped him make the All-Star Game for three straight years.

   Buffalo later had hopes of teaming him with Bob McAdoo to form a powerful forecourt, but Kauffman suffered a hip injury that essentially ended his career.

   For more on the 1971-72 Braves, click here.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Return to duty

   November 12, 1995 -- Sometimes the big victories in life aren't posted on a scoreboard.

    Yes, the Bills defeated the Atlanta Falcons on this date to grab the AFC East lead. But more importantly, it was the first game back for coach Marv Levy, who had been out for three weeks because of surgery for prostate cancer. Levy was feeling particularly fortunate to be coaching on that day.

    "When you're at home, all you can do is give it a little body English," he said. "Today I had to make decisions about whether we should go for it or not. At home I had to make a decision between potato chips and popcorn."

    On the field, the Bills held on for a 23-17 over the Atlanta Falcons. Buffalo moved into sole possession of first place in the AFC East.

   "It's nice," quarterback Jim Kelly said of the Bills' one-game lead over Miami and two-game edge over Indianapolis. "But we're not even three-quarters of the way through the season. It matters if we're in first place at the end of 16 weeks."     

   Kurt Schulz intercepted a pass by Falcons quarterback Jeff George in the end zone to preserve the win. Buffalo moved to 7-3 on the season.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Breeders’ Cup aftermath

By Gene Kershner

The dust has settled, the Breeders’ Cup is in the books after a successful weekend under the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs. The Cup moves to the west coast in 2012, where it will be held at beautiful Santa Anita Park marking the 29th anniversary of the championship races. It will be the sixth time that the races will be held at the Great Race Place with the gorgeous San Gabriel Mountains in the background.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves discussing next year’s Cup, let’s take a quick look back at Breeders’ Cup 2011:

• Friday’s races were more formful, as three of the six race favorites emerged victorious. Thanks to Musical Romance and Perfect Shirl, the average mutuel win payout on Friday was $21.60.
• Saturday’s races were pretty wide open with only two favorites winning the nine races and four favorites missed the board totally. The average win mutuel on Saturday was a whopping $38.36.
• Every turf race, except the Turf Sprint, was won by a closer that was no closer than fifth place at the second call.
• Eight of the 15 favorites missed the board completely over the weekend.
• The trifecta was lucrative all weekend long. The average $2 tri paid well over $2,800. With a $0.50 minimum bet available, making more combinations possible, the $0.50 tri average payout translated to over $700.
• While attendance was down when compared to the 2011 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill, the total 2-day attendance of 105,820 was the second highest all-time.
• Brad Free of the Daily Racing Form reported today that trainer Bob Baffert was disappointed in the track conditions and cited it as the reason several of his horses didn’t “fire” over the weekend. This is consistent with a conversation I had with trainer Kiaran McLaughlin on Sunday morning, where he called the track “tiring.” He had the post time favorite Trappe Shot in the Sprint and Rattlesnake Bridge in the Classic.
• Caleb’s Posse’s effort was the most visually appealing to me over the weekend. He could steal the 3-year old division honors on the heels of his Grade 1 wins in the King’s Bishop and BC Dirt Mile. He raced at six different tracks during the year and also picked up graded wins in the Grade 2 Amsterdam at Saratoga and the Grade 3 Ohio Derby at Thistledown.
• The Horse of the Year honors are wide open and voting in the biggest award of the year could be all over the board. The filly Havre de Grace had an ambitious campaign and sports a win over the boys in the Woodward. Game On Dude, runner-up in the Classic, has three big Grade 1 wins in the Big Cap, the Hollywood Gold Cup and the Goodwood, which should generate serious consideration.
• I admire the gritty effort by Hansen, hanging on desperately at the wire to defeat the heavy favorite Union Rags in the BC Juvenile. It was a thrilling race that saw Rags drift out in deep stretch before Javier Castellano righted him in the final drive. The sport could use a big rivalry and if they both stay healthy the Derby trail could get very interesting should these two meet again.

There are still a few big races remaining during 2011, including the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct and the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill.

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

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: The Cards get shuffled

     November 11, 1990 -- The Buffalo Bills were on a roll in the middle of the 1990 season. Ask the Phoenix Cardinals.

     Buffalo left little doubt about this one in a 45-14 win in Rich Stadium. The Cardinals were hit by practically everyone on the Bills' offense over the course of 60 minutes.

     Jim Kelly threw three touchdowns in the second quarter alone. Did Andre Reed or James Lofton get any of them? Nope, as Keith McKeller, Butch Rolle and Steve Tasker had possession of the ball in the end zone.

     The Cardinals closed to within seven points in the third quarter. The Bills then came up with 24 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to establish dominance. Don Beebe scored on a touchdown pass from Kelly, while Jamie Mueller and Kenneth Davis ran in for scores.

     Thurman Thomas ran for 112 yards, and eight different players caught passes as the Bills improved to 8-1.

--- 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.