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Running Notebook: Lingering fall

Was there anyone complaining about the weather earlier this week? I didn't think so. Felt great to run in a t-shirt and gym shorts in November in Buffalo, although my apparel was a little different this morning.

Earlier I wrote that Tonawanda native Paul Gesl was planning to run in the New York City marathon, after some unusual training in Afghanistan. Paul did just fine, thank you. He finished in 2 hours, 49 minutes and 20 seconds, a personal record. Nice going, Captain. Paul and his wife are stationed in Valdosta Georgia.

This looks like about the last relatively busy racing weekend of the year. Here's the schedule, from buffalorunners.com:

* Cancer Warrior 5K, 12861 Route 438 in Irving, 10:30 a.m. Saturday, 532-8450.

* Lindsay's Legacy Run, 5K, Clinton Park in Tonawanda, 11 a.m. Saturday, 695-7406. The race's website has a list (with times) of the 20 people who have done every one of this race's stagings, and I'm on the list. When I look at it, I can see myself get older and slower. Ouch. Fine race -- nice course, excellent premium, more food than even runners can eat.

* SBAC/Potter's Field XC Challenge, 2.44 miles, Cazenovia Park in Buffalo, 2 p.m. Saturday, 652-9921.

* Thanks Running 5K, Lakeview Cemetery in Jamestown, 9 a.m. Sunday, 969-8520.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: A happy day in Newark

   November 10, 2010 -- Perhaps you could say that Lindy Ruff had a grand time in Newark, N.J., on this night.

   Ruff coached his 1,000th game in the NHL. What's more, he won it, and was more happy about the win than reaching the milestone.

   The Sabres defeated the Devils, 5-4 in a shootout. The win improved Buffalo's record to 5-9-2 overall as the team tried to recover from a poor start.

   ‘You can't build unless you put one on the back of the other one, and we've done that,‘ Ruff said. ‘But when you're in the hole you're in, you need to run a pretty good string together. The easiest way to get back in the picture is win four or five straight.‘

   That poor start made some wonder if Ruff was going to make it deep into the season. He had been around since 1998, but firing the coach is an popular technique for trying to turn a troubled season around. Buffalo wanted to make this particular night special for Ruff.

   ‘We wanted to win that for him, most definitely,‘ Derek Roy said. ‘He's a great coach. He's been around for a long time, and the boys showed some desperation and played really hard for him.‘

--- Budd Bailey

Live Blog from the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony

ESPN's Everett eloquent on Penn State

Tuesday was a bizarre day, to say the least, when it came to what happened in State College, Pa. 

Some of the twists and turns were woven into the reporting of it all, including on ESPN. Foremost was Matt Millen's conflicted-to-the-hundreth-power segment with Chris McKendry in the afternoon, one in which the Penn State alum and former player for Jerry Sandusky had angry tears well up as he discussed the situation. It was stunning to watch it live. Many surely saw it later as it was given the heavy rotation treatment the rest of the day -- one that included a mini-press conferences in driveways, parking structures and out ranch-home windows as well as footage of students marching in the streets.

I tweeted this evening that "College football is the most religious zealot-like of all American sports." There's a whole conversation to be had there (one thing that always comes to mind to me is how I watched news footage of a grown adult woman fan kissing Nick Saban in an airport upon his arrival in Alabama as head coach/savior), but I think the events at Penn State -- inactions, actions, reactions -- would certainly be part of it.  

At the end of the bizarre day, Neil Everett, hosting the late-night edition of Sportscenter from Los Angeles, introduced a Penn State segment with what I thought was a superbly written and delivered piece. He nailed it -- in five sentences.

"Penn State is 8-1 overall, 5-0 in the Big Ten, 12th in the BCS. This weekend the Nittany Lions host Nebraska.

"Whoever thought a home football game at Penn State -- one against an program as accomplished as Nebraska -- would be the diversion to something of greater importance on the campus and in the community?

"Well it couldn't happen, because nothing's bigger than football in State College, Pa.

"And therein lies the problem, that appears to have led, to the current problems."

---Keith McShea

(@KeithMcSheaBN on Twitter)

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Dramatic finish

   November 9, 1980 -- The Bills and Jets put on one of the most thrilling games of a relatively exciting (at least for the 6-3 Bills) 1980 season on this day.

   It started as if the Bills were going to blow the Jets out of Shea Stadium. Joe Ferguson threw two touchdown passes to Mark Brammer, and Nick Mick-Meyer added a field goal. That put Buffalo up, 17-0, early in the second quarter. The 2-7 Jets figured to cave in a bit at that point.

   But they didn't. Richard Todd scored a touchdown and Pat Leahy added a field goal before halftime to cut the margin to 17-10. Roosevelt Leaks of the Bills scored on a 1-yard run in the third quarter, but the Jets scored two touchdowns to tie things, 24-24.

   That's when Frank Lewis came through. He caught a pass from Ferguson and outran the Jets' secondary in dramatic fashion. He rambled 31 yards for the winning touchdown in a 31-24 classic.

   The difference in the game, besides Lewis, might have been turnovers. The Jets had four of
them, including three fumbles. The Bills had none.

--- Budd Bailey

Ali-Frazier in video perspective

If you weren't around when Joe Frazier fought Muhammad Ali for the world heavyweight championship in the 1970s, you can find plenty of fight footage on YouTube and other video sites. To put into perspective what their first bout meant in 1971, a time of social unrest in the country and an era in which a boxing match could command the nation's attention, give a look to HBO's 2000 documentary, "Ali-Frazier I: One Nation ... Divisible."

The whole program is available on YouTube. Part I is below.

 

--Greg Connors

 

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Working overtime

   November 8, 1991 -- Donald Audette will never forget this particular day in his first full season in the National Hockey League. After all, how often does someone score his first overtime goal?

   The 5-foot-8 Audette had spent much of the game getting hit by the physical Philadelphia Flyers. But once in a while he got behind the Flyers' defense. He beat goalie Ron Hextall at 1:29 in overtime after taking a nice pass from Dale Hawerchuk.

   "He [Audette] has put it in his mind that for him to stay in the league he has got to get involved," teammate Dave Andreychuk said. "The little guys are the toughest to play against. He realizes that and he keeps plugging."

   It was a big win by November standards for the Sabres. They had lost four straight games and saw their overall record to 4-9-1.

   "This was a crucial win for us as a team," said Christian Ruuttu. "Hopefully, it's a step for us in the right direction."

   It turned out to be a rare good moment in the first half of that season. About a month after this game, coach Rick Dudley was fired by the Sabres and replaced by John Muckler.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Good rebound

    November 7, 1965 -- A championship football team knows how to rebound from its hiccups. And the Buffalo Bills were a championship team in 1965.

   Maybe that's why they never had a two-game losing streak in that season. The Bills had lost to the Oilers on October 31, but rebounded a week later to beat the Bosotn Patriots, 23-7. That improved the team's record to 6-2.

   Oddly enough, it was a kickoff return that put this game in the record books. The Bills scored the first 13 points of the game, but J.D. Garrett got a touchdown for the Patriots to get Boston to within striking distance. That good feeling lasted about, oh, 12 seconds for the Patriots.

   Charley Warner of the Bills took the kickoff and ran it back 102 yards for a game-breaking touchdown. It was the longest in the history of the team to that point. It made the score 20-7 at halftime, and the Bills finished the scoring with a Pete Gogolak field goal in the second half.

   Buffalo's offense wasn't too sharp, as Jack Kemp was only 7 of 23 for 99 yards. Wray Carlton was the Bills' leading rusher … 16 carries for 43 yards.

   The game marked the start of a five-game unbeaten streak that wrapped up the Eastern title and a date in the AFL championship game.

--- Budd Bailey

The fall's top sports books

     It's been a busy couple of months in the book department, with several interesting titles released. Here are capsule reviews of the ones I've read; just click on the title to go to my book web site for a more detailed review:
    
     * West by West, by Jerry West and Jonathan Coleman. Five stars. The former NBA great opens up his life here, and it's not a pretty picture. West has battled demons throughout his life, due in part to physical abuse by his father and the death in combat in Korea by a beloved older brother. Not the typical memoir, but it's a fascinating human story.
    
     * The Mets, by Anthony McCarron and Anthony Martino. Three stars. New York's National League baseball team has finished 50 years of play. Here's a coffee-table look at the five decades that will be mostly of interest to Mets' fans, naturally.
    
     * The Best American Sports Writing 2011, edited by Jane Leavy. Four stars. Leavy selected some articles that aren't a particularly great fit in a sports anthology, and that weakens this year's package somewhat. However, there are many choices that are more than well worth your time and money, especially near the end. I buy this every year for good reason.
    
     * Between the Lies, by Marv Levy. Four stars. I read about a novel every five years, but couldn't resist this one. It will be fun for Bills' fans to figure out who Levy's fictional characters are in real life, although some are more difficult than others (a quarterback named Kelly James, for example). There's nothing too deep here, but it's still enjoyable.
    
     * Hockey Prospectus 2011-12, edited by Timo Seppa. Three stars. This still isn't as good as its sister publication, the Baseball Prospectus. Still, this is showing signs of progress in its second year of publication. If you like stats mixed with sports, this might interest you.
    
     * Fenway 1912, by Glenn Stout. Four stars. Stout did some intensive and interesting research on the origins of Fenway Park, which has its 100th birthday next spring. Some familiarity with the place probably helps, but this is still an interesting story.
    
     * The Last Icon, by Steven Travers. Two stars. This covers the basic points of Tom Seaver's still career. Even so, this is filled with such hero worship for the major league pitching great that it was difficult to finish. I haven't read a more annoying sports book in quite a while.
    
     * A Moment in Time, by Ralph Branca. Three stars. Branca is mostly known for one pitch, to a guy named Bobby Thomson in the 1951 National League playoff. That's unfair, but it's reality. The good news is, the revelations about sign stealing by the New York Giants that year have cleared Branca's name. It's easy to root for Branca, particularly after reading this quick autobiography.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Short and not so sweet

     November 6, 1921 -- This was your only chance to see a team from Tonawanda play in the National Football League. That's right, Tonawanda.

     It's a great story, and relatively unknown except for that city's historian and a few others.

     American Kardex was a business machines company around World War I. It is believed the firm sponsored a football team that started play in 1916 as the All-Tonawanda All-Stars. The team won the state championship by beating Rochester in 1917. Then as the All-Tonawanda Lumberjacks, it went 7-1 in 1920.

     The franchise opted to move up into the NFL and call itself the Kardex. Scheduling was a hit-and-miss situation back then. Tonawanda went to Rochester to play an official league game, and got waxed by the Jeffersons, 45-0.

     Supposedly the team's owners realized that this NFL stuff was out of their league, and didn't try to play again. So it was one and done. The Lumberjacks' name lives on, at least, at North Tonawanda High School.

--- Budd Bailey

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