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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Welcome, Buster

     December 16, 1959 -- The name Garrard Sliger Ramsey isn't exactly common. It sounds like it should go with someone who is a member of a Presidential cabinet from several decades ago.

   It's clearly not the name of a football coach. Maybe that's why Mr. Ramsey went by the nickname of "Buster." At least in football circles. This is the day when Bills owner Ralph Wilson hired his first coach, Buster Ramsey.

     Ramsey is quite famous among football historians. He was the defensive coach (they didn't call them coordinators back then) for some great Detroit Lions' teams in the 1950. Ramsey invented the 4-3 defense and the linebacker blitz.

     Wilson had been a minority owner of the Lions in the 50's, so he knew of Ramsey but didn't know him personally. A phone call changed all that.

     Ramsey only lasted two years as head coach of the Bills, but his influence is felt in at least one way -- he designed the team's original uniforms, which were more or less copies of the Lions' color scheme.

--- Budd Bailey

Running notebook: Off the calendar

   Before getting to the last racing weekend of the year, there are a couple of notes to pass along about events coming to an end.

   First, the Dash for the Dome, a race that has taken place over the last few years at the Botanical Gardens, won't be run in 2012. The facility is moving to other projects. I'll miss the warmth of the gardens after a chilly run.

   John Beishline reports that he's discontinuing his annual race directors' meeting. He says he's still available for consulting if new race directors want to chat. There goes my one speech per year ...

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

   * Caroler 5K, 206 Main St. in East Aurora, 12 noon on Saturday, 830-6713. The first 300 runners get a shirt and a Santa hat, which is novel.

   * Freezer 5K, 30 Mississippi St. in Buffalo, 11 a.m. Sunday. This race took no time at all to be popular. Let's hope the breeze stays on the lake on Sunday.

   Many runners took part in the It's a Wonderful Run in Seneca Falls last weekend. If you'd like a personal story about the event, you can read it on my personal blog by clicking here.

   We'll be back with running news in 2012. Happy holidays.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: A dream of a win

     December 15, 1984 -- For those making a list of memorable college basketball games that were played in Western New York, one will come to mind immediately.

     St. John's University came to the Niagara Falls Convention Center for a game with Niagara. This was one of the great St. John's teams in school history. Ever hear of Chris Mullin? Mark Jackson? Walter Berry? They were on the team, along with center Bill Wennington. St. John's made it to the Final Four the following spring.

     Yet, Niagara beat the Redmen, 62-59.

     The game was played in almost a dream-like state. Niagara got ahead, and kept holding off rally after rally by St. John's. Surely the visitors would get over the hump and win.

     But they never did. Joe Arlaukus finished with 20 points for the Purple Eagles, while Joe Alexander added 15.

     About 7,000 were on hand for the game, and many won't ever forget it.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Lamonica becomes a Bill

     December 14, 1962 -- Usually when a football team is picking someone in the 24th round, it's the equivalent of throwing darts while blindfolded. You might get lucky once in a while, but the odds aren't with you.

     The Bills used a pick in that round in 1962 on a Notre Dame quarterback named Daryle Lamonica. He obviously wasn't considered much of a prospect, as the Packers took him in the 12th round. Green Bay did have a starter named Bart Starr, so Lamonica took a chance and signed with the Bills on this date instead.

     Lamonica spent four years in Buffalo. He only started four games, but fans loved to call for him when starter Jack Kemp had a bad day.

     Lamonica then was traded to the Raiders in a four-man deal involving Art Powell and Tom Flores. You might say it worked out pretty well for Oakland. Starting in 1967, Lamonica's record as a starter was 13-1, 11-2 (one game missed due to injury) and 12-1-1. "The Mad Bomber" even got the Raiders into Super Bowl II.

     Powell never had caught fewer than 50 passes in an AFL season before coming to Buffalo. He played in six games in 1967, caught 20 passes and was essentially done with pro football.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Shutdown performance

     December 13, 1987 -- The Buffalo Bills actually had a "big" game on this day. You could excuse them if they weren't used to it, but it didn't bother them at all.

     The Bills played the Colts in Indianapolis, with both teams right in the middle of the playoff fight. What's more, the Bills won the game, 27-3, for their first-ever win in the Hossier Dome.

     As could be expected by the score, defense was the story of the game from a Buffalo standpoint. Superstar running back Eric Dickerson was held to 19 yards on 11 carries. The Colts only ran for 33 yards in total, and had nine first downs.

     Jim Kelly threw two touchdown passes, one to Ronnie Harmon and the other to Trumaine Johnson. Harmon and Jamie Mueller both were over 80 yards in rushing as the Bills had 25 first downs.

     The 1987 season was an odd one, thanks to a strike that knocked a game off the schedule and forced teams to use replacement players for three games. The Bills were still in the playoff hunt at 7-6 after this win.

     However, the Colts rebounded to win their next two games to take the AFC East. The Bills lost their next two games and fell out of the playoff picture.

--- Budd Bailey

Winter ski warning


     Holiday Valley is scheduled to open for skiing and riding Wednesday, with enough snow made to open the Mardi Gras and Yodeler quad lifts serving Mardi Gras, Yodeler and the Candy Cane loop.  

  The School Haus area might also be opened. Snow is being made on Cindy's Run and Sunrise and they and other slopes will soon be ready, the resort said in a press release. Hours are 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. with lift tickets costing $40 for adults and $30 for juniors for 8 hours.  

  Whiteface Mountain near Lake Placed is open for skiing top to bottom. Log on to www.whitefacelakeplacid.com for early-season deals.

    Speaking of Lake Placid, check out this video to see how Matt Alheim, watching a hockey game between Union and RPI, came away with a Chevy without having to make a down payment. His shot from center ice had to pass through a barrier with a hole only a half-inch wider than the puck. Local organizers are calling this the second Miracle on Ice.

-- Fletcher Doyle 

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: First on the Bills' list

   December 12, 1992 -- This was a day that almost seemed inevitable in hindsight. After all, you'd expect Marv Levy to be the winningest coach in Buffalo Bills' history. This was the day when he got win no. 71.

   It wasn't easy. The Bills defeated the Denver Broncos, 27-17.

   "The players wanted to win badly," said head coach Marv Levy. "It meant a lot to them, and to a degree, they may have even played a little uptight at times."

   Buffalo made all sorts of mistakes in a game that featured nine turnovers. The biggest giveaway almost went to the Bills, who had a 24-0 lead at one point and almost threw it away by giving up 17 points.

   They held on to snap a two-game losing streak before 71,740, the smallest Rich Stadium crowd since 1987. Buffalo also inched closer to another playoff spot.

   "I could care less about what the score was, as long as we got a 'W' out of it," Darryl Talley said to The News' Vic Carucci.

--- Budd Bailey 

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Happy day for Ringo

   December 11, 1977 -- The Buffalo Bills won a game on this date.

   This was a rather unusual event at the time.

   The Bills improved to 3-10 in a long, long season with a 14-10 victory over the Jets. New York wasn't exactly a Super Bowl contender either; that team fell to 3-10 as well.

   Joe Ferguson and Bob Chandler were the two stars of the game for Buffalo. They hooked up on a pair of touchdown passes. The second one was a 11-yarder, and it came in the fourth quarter to provide the margin of victory.

   Ferguson wound up 17 of 32 for 238 yards. Roland Hooks was the team's leading rusher with 26 carries for 84 years. O.J. Simpson was already out for the year because of an injury. Buffalo held a 26-10 edge in first downs.

   The Bills lost the following week in Miami. Therefore, the Jets' game was the third and last win for Jim Ringo as a head coach.

 --- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Stop the bombing

   December 10, 1970 -- This is a day Joe Daley probably will never forget. After all, how often are you at the wrong end of a shooting gallery?

   Expansion teams in hockey are supposedly to suffer some bad games in their early stages, and this was certainly one of them. The Sabres went into Boston, home of names such as Esposito, Orr, Hodge, Cashman, Bucyk, and got waxed by an 8-2 count.

   What's more, no one was blaming Daley. He made 64 saves in a losing cause. In other words, the Bruins had 72 shots on goal. That remains a club record for shots allowed by a Sabre team.

   By the way, the Sabres scored the game's first goal, and Phil Goyette gave Buffalo a 2-1 lead in the second period. In the third period, the Sabres allowed six goals on an amazing 30 shots.

   Daley is best remembered around the league as playing without a mask for most of his career. It took until the late 1970's for him to put on a mask for a WHA game. If 72 shots on goal weren't enough to do it, you wonder what did.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Paging Santa for some racing gifts

By Gene Kershner

It’s time to get down and get shopping before the big day in a couple weeks. Do you have a racing fan in your life? Need a few tips of what to get him/her to put under the tree on Christmas or pass on for Hanukkah or Kwanzaa? You’ve come to the right place for our annual shopping guide for the racing fan in your life.

1)       On-line subscription to HRTV.  If you are a DirecTV subscriber you have no access to HRTV which means when the big races are at Gulfstream, Churchill Downs, Santa Anita, Oaklawn, etc. you could be shut out watching the races.

2)       The Horse Race Analyzer. This is a nice collectible, that still may have some functionality. It predicts the outcomes of certain races based on several different data points that are entered into the computer. Originally sold by Mattel Electronics, who also developed Intellivision, you can find it on eBay for a decent price. The hand held device was invented by Dr. William Quirin, who has written handicapping books, and Evan Mandel.

3)       Horse Racing Doormat. What could say “Welcome!” more than a horse racing doormat? Also makes a nice home warming gift.

4)       Jockey Cuff Links. Have a formal black tie affair you have every year and you want to spruce up your look?

5)       Jockey Bow Tie. If you’re going with the cuff links, why not the bow ties?

Of course, if you’re not going to any formal parties or really don’t need a doormat for the front porch, there are always a number of collectibles to be had on eBay.  A quick search of the site rendered the following items available for bid:

 6)       Bobbleheads.  From a Laffit PIncay Jr. bobblehead and Lucky Louie from Remington Park to lat year’s horse of the year, Zenyatta, bobbleheads are aplenty for this holiday season.

7)       Racing Pins. Racing pins are fairly inexpensive and you can find some gems, especially during holiday season. One recent search had a 1995 Ak-Sar-Ben race track official pin for the former track located in Omaha. You’ll notice that the track name is Nebraska spelled backwards! Triple Crown pins are easily available and make a nice stocking stuffer for the race fan who dresses up for the big days.

8)       Souvenir Glasses. All of the Triple Crown races over the years have souvenir glasses, whether they hold a Mint Julep, a Black-Eyed Susan or a Belmont Breeze, it’s a nice way to commemorate a past trip to one of racing’s main events.

9)       Old Racing Programs. Available on-line were programs from the 1968 Tucson Turf Club, Hialeah Park, and a Mint 1978 Marlboro Cup Program, when Seattle Slew took on Affirmed, in the only race that two Triple Crown winners ever faced off.

10)   Horse Racing Badges. These appear to be popular items overseas, so why not grab one and bring it back to the States. The coolest one I found was a 1932 Czechoslovakia Jockey Club member badge. I found others mainly from the UK, Australia and even Russia online.

So there you have it, some interesting gifts and treasures at your fingertips to give to the racing aficionado in your life. Happy holidays.

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

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