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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: A new coach in town

     December 31, 1980 -- The Buffalo Stallions had gotten off to a relatively good start upon arriving in the Major Indoor Soccer League in 1979. The team had a 17-15 record in the regular season, and lost to Pittsburgh in the first round of the playoffs.

     However, the 1980-81 season didn't start off to well. The team was only 5-10 as the New Year approached, and general manager Sal DeRosa decided to get himself a new coach. So he resigned from his duties as head coach, and installed Ray Klivecka in that position.

     Klivecka was relatively well-known in soccer circles, especially in upstate New York. After achieving All-American status at Long Island University, he had coached the outdoor game in nearby Rochester for the Lancers. Klivecka also coached the Cosmos when that team was the glamour franchise of the North American Soccer League.

     Klivecka got the Stallions back to .500, as the Stallions finished the season at 20-20. He also was great for public relations, as he was quick with a quip and friendly to the media. That helped make him popular in the area.

     But he couldn't get the Stallions out of the first round of the playoffs either. By the way, Klivecka later turned up as a guidance counselor and PE/Health teacher in Boca Raton, Fla.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: New Year's Resolutions

If you’ve followed me throughout the year, you know I’m a fan of lists, and since we’re approaching the New Year, we have some resolutions for horseplayers as we head into 2012. It’s easy to get caught in a rut or in a slump and fall into bad habits, so don’t be afraid to follow a few simple ideas as you start tapping your bankroll as the calendar turns over. 

1.       Bet on the tracks you know. Don’t fall into the trap of betting tracks you’re not familiar with. Stick with one or two tracks that you follow regularly. You know the jockeys, trainers and horses so much better at a track you follow throughout an entire meet. You’ll see the difference and can catch a live horse the second time he/she runs during the meet by making notes of bad trips, bad conditions during the horse’s initial race.

2.       Don’t chase losses. You’ve had a tough day at the windows and you want to try and you think you can make it all back in the last race and you chase the long shots and try to make a big score to make up for a bad day.  Nine times out of 10, you’ll falter badly in the last race. Chalk it up to a bad day and don’t give them any more moo-lah.

3.       Don’t bet every race. It’s not mandatory that you have to bet every race. Pick your spots. Look for races with big fields that offer value.

4.       Bet with your gut. You’ve read the Form, and you can’t understand why the morning line is so high on a horse you like. No one is picking the horse you like to win. Bet with your gut and go for it. Maybe you’ve found a nugget that no one else has seen. The morning line guy probably isn’t even wagering on the race. Don’t be afraid to bet your instincts. You know as much as the guy/gal sitting next to you.

5.       Play races and wagers that you’re comfortable with. You know the 2-year old maidens. Bet it. You love turf races. Bet it. You do better with sprints than routes. Bet it. Stay away from the races that you’ve struggled with in the past.  You killed exactas in 2011. Bet them. Check your ADW account and review your statistics from 2011 and see which wager-types (exacta, Pick-X’s, etc.) and what races you’ve had the most success with.

Happy New Year everyone and Good Luck in 2012!

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: The Bills' best quote

     December 30, 1996 -- The end of a professional sports career is often a difficult time for all concerned, especially the good ones. In the case of Bills' center Kent Hull, the media might have taken it harder than anyone.

     The man considered the best interview on those Bills' Super Bowl teams moved on to a new career on this day.

      "It's been a great ride," Hull said. "I had an opportunity to play with Hall of Fame players and for Hall of Fame coaches. And without a doubt, for the greatest fans in the world."

     Hull not only was a good talker, but he was a fine player. The center had plenty of extra responsibility in the Bills' no-huddle offense, and Hull was smart enough to help make it all work.

      "Not only was he a great competitor and a great player, but he's probably one of my best friends," said quarterback Jim Kelly. "He was in my wedding. ... He's a family guy and a person I love very much."

     Hull went home to Mississippi. Sadly, he only lived until the age of 50. The outpouring of emotion upon his death from those who knew him, including the media, was swift, deep and heartfelt.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Relief pitcher

   December 29, 2009 -- The number of memorable days that Patrick Lalime had in a Buffalo Sabres' uniform is pretty small. This probably was one of them.

   Lalime got stuck as the backup goalie behind Ryan Miller, which usually meant he wasn't going to play much. But he had to be ready when duty called, and this was such a night.

   Miller earned the start when the Sabres played the Pittsburgh Penguins. He watched Miller give up three goals on 16 shots in the first 21 minutes of play. On came Lalime, and back came the Sabres.

   Drew Stafford, who had been in a slump, assisted on two goals and then scored the tying goal to bring the Sabres back to 3-3. Then Jason Pominville wrapped up the comeback win with a power-play score with 9:05 left.

   "You just try to change things up," Lalime said about his role. "It seemed like we had no emotion. We had nothing going on. Give credit to everybody who came back and played well."

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Not quite

   December 28, 1963 -- Is this the anniversary of the first playoff game in the history of the Buffalo Bills? It depends on how you care to define your terms.

   The Bills finished with a 7-6-1 record in the 1963 season. That was good enough to tie the Boston Patriots for first place in the AFL East, and it set up a matchup game for the right to play for the AFL championship. So it was a postseason game, but perhaps not a classically defined playoff game.

   Whatever you call it, it also was called a Bills' loss. The Patriots recorded a 26-8 win over the Bills in War Memorial Stadium. Boston had plenty of heroes. Gino Cappelletti had four field goals and two extra points, while Larry Garron caught two touchdown passes from Babe Parilli.

   The Bills' only happy moment came when Darryl Lamonica threw a 93-yard touchdown pass to Elbert Dubenion. Here's a key statistic: Buffalo ran the ball 12 times for seven yards. Here's another: Boston had four interceptions.

   What's the phrase? Right, "Wait until next year." And how.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Road trip cancelled

    December 27, 1958 -- This was supposed to be an historic date in the history of the University at Buffalo football program. The Bulls, 8-1 and winners of the Lambert Trophy as the best small-school team in the East, had been invited to play in the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando, Florida.

   But they were told their African-American players could not make the trip to the then segregated South. So, UB, told the Tangerine Bowl, No thank you.‘ East Texas State beat Missouri State, 26-7, in that game on this day.

   "it would have been great to get to go to Florida, but it was more important for us not to go," Gerry Gergley recalled. "These were our teammates and our friends. There was no way we were going to leave them behind."

   However, there was a happy ending to the story. The UB players were invited to Orlando to watch a bowl game there 50 years later.

   "This is icing on the cake," said Willie Evans, one of two black players on the roster.

   UB ended that bowl drought on Jan. 3 in the International Bowl against Connecticut, led by Turner Gill.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Trying to keep warm

   December 26, 1993 -- Parkas were not optional for the Buffalo Bills' game; they were mandatory.

   The Bills faced the Jets through the coldest home game in team history at that point. Buffalo shivered through nine degree temperatures, complete with a minus-28 wind chill. Still, the Bills beat the Jets, 16-14, to wrap up the AFC East title for the fifth time in six years.

   The Bills were a little lucky. Running back Thurman Thomas was given credit for a touchdown on a 2-yard run, even though he may have fumbled on his way to the goal line. Jets kicker Cary Blanchard missed three field-goal attempts, one coming with 42 yards in the final minute.

   The Bills needed to only win their last regular-season game against the lowly Colts to clinch the home-field advantage for the AFC playoffs.

   ‘To me, right now, it just seems like another game,‘ defensive end Bruce Smith said of Buffalo's fourth division-clinching triumph against the Jets in six years. ‘I won't think about the significance of it until the very end of the (regular) season, and see whether or not we have home-field advantage through the playoffs.‘

   Jim Kelly was 20 for 31 for 256 yards to lead the Bills to their 11th win of the season.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Not much of a present

   December 25, 1970 -- When the Buffalo Braves were in their first season in the NBA, they learned one of the facts of life in relatively no time at all.

   The Braves got to spend Christmas away from home.

   Santa Claus didn't do them any favors, either. The Braves played in New York against the Knicks in Madison Square Garden. The Knicks were coming off an NBA championship the previoius spring.

   The result was rather predictable. The Knicks won a 115-102 decision that day.

   The Braves were in the midst of a difficult stretch, leaving them little to celebrate around the holidays. It was their fourth straight win, and they'd go on to drop eight in a row as their record fell to 11-32. A next win came in the New Year, a victory over the San Francisco Warriors on January 6.

   For more on the Braves' first season, click here.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: One of the greats

   December 24, 1995 -- Thurman Thomas joined some very good company on Christmas Eve in 1995.
He reached 1,000 yards rushing for the seventh straight season -- only the third back in NFL history to do that.

   It didn't long for Thomas to get the milestone out of the way. He ran for nine yards on the fifth play from scrimmage, and that put him at 1,005 yards fo rthe season.

   Thomas checked out of the lineup after that. In a sense, the Bills did too. Buffalo dropped a 28-17 decision to the Houston Oilers in a meaningless game for both teams. The crowd was only 45,253, which wasn't surprising on a snowy, cold Christmas Eve.

   The Bills were looking ahead at that point to a playoff game. The Miami Dolphins were coming back to town in the coming week. The AFC East rivals had squared off in the past, and Buffalo had the better of the matchup for the past few years.

   Dolphins coach Don Shula didn't care at that point.  "I've never been so happy to go to Buffalo," Shula told NBC after his team's 41-22 victory over St. Louis.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Racing wish list

‘Twas the night before Tebow, and all through the land, not a racetrack was stirring, must be time to queue up the band. The stockings were hung by the backside with care, in hopes that the Post Time wish list soon would be there.  And here it is!

Here are a few of my racing wishes for 2012:

* To NYRA, I wish a Triple Crown hopeful will grace Big Sandy in June, which will lead to a packed house and renewed energy for our sport.

* To ThoroFan, the non-profit racing fan association, a few hundred new members and new chapters springing up in racing hotbeds throughout the States.

* To Pimlico, a fresh coat of paint and that the press elevator doesn’t fail on Preakness weekend.

* To Aqueduct, some slots money to spruce up the Big A on the racing side of the plant.

 * To Santa Anita Park, a successful Breeders’ Cup 2012, where they all come home safe.

* To the NBC Sports Networks, super television ratings for the Derby prep season and through the Triple Crown season, for taking a chance on our sport.

* To Buffalo Raceway, good weather and good racing when their season starts next month.

* To the Fort Erie Race Track, that the Queen’s Plate winner shows up this year.

* To Churchill Downs, a safe Derby and a dry weekend on the First Saturday in May.

* To the purported leaders of our sport, that you start to work together to make our sport significant again (and stagger post times on the big race days so the big races aren’t going off within minutes of each other).

* To Every Racing Fan, that you bring a friend to the track this year whom has never been.

* To my account deposit wagering account, a couple signers wouldn’t be such a bad gift.

Have a great holiday!

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

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