Skip to primary navigation Skip to main content

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Outside looking in

   December 9, 1949 -- Buffalo has a history of being on the outside looking in when it comes to a major league baseball franchise, at least since 1900. The trend continued in football, at least for a while.

   Buffalo was a member of the All-America Football Conference from 1946 to 1949. The circuit was a rival to the National Football League. You can guess how that played out -- teams from both leagues spent more money than they wanted, and player salaries went way up. So it was off to the negotiating table to put together some sort of merger.

   Today is the anniversary of that merger plan. The NFL agreed to take in Cleveland, San Francisco and Baltimore for the 1950 season. That meant every city that had pro football in 1949 would have pro football in 1950. Except one.


   The Bills were left out of the merger, even though the team had drawn well and been relatively successful on the field. The area didn't react well to the snub, and the strong reaction probably helped when the American Football League -- specifically, Ralph Wilson -- went looking for cities about a decade later.

   The Browns had won every AAFC title, and there was talk that they would return to earth when they played in the NFL in 1950. Hardly. Cleveland won that title, too.

--- Budd Bailey 

Running notebook: What's in the bag?

   Fritz Van Leaven, the race director of the Lindsay's Legacy Run, is known for his love of statistics. Here's a research project for him:

   How many races hand out T-shirts as premiums?

   It comes to mind every time I look in my closet, thanks to a year in which I've set a personal best for number of races. And it came to mind on Saturday in the Reindeer Run at Medaille College.

   The Reindeer Run has been giving out a nice windbreaker for several years, which is a unique gift for runners. I would estimate that two-thirds to three-quarters of events hand out some sort of T-shirt, either long-sleeve or short-sleeve, and that may be low. Since most people don't run in 45 events, the shirt is a fine keepsake for many participants.

   The schedule is winding down a bit; here's a look at the weekend from

   * Kawelle Ugly Sweater Fun Run, 5K, Glen Ave. in Williamsville, 9 a.m. Saturay, 803-4551. This is just a fun run, with no times. However, runners are urged to show off an ugly sweater at the race. Sounds like fun.

   * Snowball Run, 5K, 4110 Bailey Ave. in Amherst, 12 noon Saturday, 440-7507. Has there ever been an event that has had two runnings in the same calendar year? This one got postponed until January last year, not that it helped much … runners took off through a few inches of snow that Saturday morning.

    One other race of interest … several local runners head down the Thruway this weekend for the "It's a Wonderful Run" in Seneca Falls, which goes off Saturday at 4:40 p.m. The town was part of the inspiration for the movie "It's a Wonderful Life," and the race starts from a bridge that looks just like the one in the movie. The race goes down Main St. at the end, so last year I got to say hello to the beautiful Bailey Building and Loan (renamed for the weekend) ... feeling like Jimmy Stewart along the way. It's part of a weekend festival that's quite charming.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Closing time

   December 8, 1936 -- The Buffalo-Niagara Bisons learned a lesson in this particular hockey season. It's tough to play the game without a home arena. It's even tougher to make a profit.

   That was the reason why the Bisons played their last game in the International-American Hockey League on this date. At least they won the game, 2-0, over Springfield.

   Back in the spring, the Bisons had been playing their home games in Fort Erie, Ont. In March, a massive snowstorm led to the collapse of the roof, which used an experimental design with the idea of improving sightlines.

   The building hadn't been fixed by the fall, so the Bisons had to find a new home. They landed in Niagara Falls, Ont. But it was smaller than their own home, and the team had trouble making financial ends meet.

   The team finished with a 3-8 record, and it was outscored, 30-23, in that span. Buffalo was out of the hockey business until 1940. Then, Memorial Auditorium was open for business, and the city has hosted a pro hockey team ever since.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Game One

   December 7, 1979 -- Consider yourself an all-time champion of Buffalo sports trivia if you can get this one: Who scored the first goal in Buffalo Stallions' history?

   The answer is Joe Horvath. He got the Stallions on the board in their opener, which was also the first indoor game in the forward's career. Horvath had spent the summer of 1978 playing outdoor soccer with the Rochester Lancersm and then played for the Washington Diplomats in the summer of '79.

   Horvath's goal helped the Stallions gain a 9-5 win over the Philadelphia Fever. He had 16 other goals that season to go with 11 assists

   Buffalo went on to a 17-15 record in the Major Indoor Soccer League's 1979-80 season, good for third place in the Eastern Division.

   As for Horvath, he played a year in the North American Soccer League's indoor division in 1980-81, and then returned for one last season in the Major Indoor Soccer League with New Jersey in 1981-82.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Your serve

     December 6, 1981 -- It was football as a tennis match.

     First San Diego scored. Then Buffalo. Then the Chargers. Then the Bills. Back and forth they went. Who would crack first?

    As it turned out, the Chargers' last two scores were "only" field goals. The Bills scored nothing but touchdowns. It added up to a 28-27 win.

     Cornerback Rufus Bess had his biggest moment as a pro when recovered a Chuck Muncie fumble at the Buffalo 26 to wrap up the game in the final two minutes.

     San Diego finished the game with 482 yards in total offense, including 343 passing yards by Dan Fouts in a 28 for 43 performance. Kellen Winslow had six catches for 126 yards and a touchdown.

     The Bills had four rushing touchdowns, including two by Roosevelt Leaks and one each by Joe Cribbs and Joe Ferguson. The Buffalo quarterback completed 13 or 29 passes for 248 yards, and Frank Lewis caught five passes for 113 yards.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Number one

     December 5, 1959 -- You could say the first Buffalo Bill, modern version, came into existence on this date.

     The Bills signed their first player for the 1960 season. Joe Schaffer was an linebacker/lineman from Tennessee, and thus became something of a minor trivia question forever. Schaffer was drafted by the Bills in 1959, although the round wasn't revealed. Schaffer was the captain of the Vols that season.

     Sure enough, Schaffer did make the Bills' roster in 1960. Wearing #67, he played in all 14 games but started none of them. The highlight of his season might have been an interception, which he returned 19 yards.

     The Bills' first season wasn't too memorable under coach Buster Ramsey. It went 5-8-1 and finished third in the AFL East.

     As for Schaffer, that was it for his football career. He didn't turn up on the 1961 roster. Schaffer was immortalized on the first set of AFL football cards, produced by Fleer.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Knocking off the champs

   Dec. 4, 1970 -- In the late fall of 1970, the New York Knicks were still the toast of professional basketball. They were coming off a championship season, and names such as Reed, Frazier and Bradley were well-known in hoop circles.

   Meanwhile, most basketball fans away from Western New York couldn't name more than a couple of members of the Buffalo Braves' roster. The team had been playing for fewer than two months, and hadn't been tearing up the league in its first year.

   Which made the result of the first game between the teams that much more surprising.

   The Braves stunned the Knicks, 97-91, in Memorial Auditorium. Dick Garrett and Bob Kauffman had 22 points each for Buffalo, while Dave DeBusschere of New York did not score a point.

   The Sabres' win over the Maple Leafs, with former Toronto GM/coach Punch Imlach behiind the Buffalo bench, is well remembered. But former/future Knicks' GM, Eddie Donovan, must have enjoyed the game just as much while serving as the Braves' GM at that point.

   Buffalo won only 22 games that season, and took a 117-93 pounding from the Knicks the night after the initial win. But this was a nice moment.

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

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Knocking off a giant

   December 3, 1960 -- At the time, this looked like one of the greatest wins in the history of University of Buffalo basketball. Fate wasn't so kind looking back.

   The Bulls went into the Palestra in Philadelphia to take on Villanova. The Wildcats at the time were ranked ninth in the nation.

   And UB beat them. Buffalo recorded a 63-62 win, coming back from a four-point deficit.

   Kenny Parr had 14 points for the Bulls while Nicholas Shosho added 12. Villanova was led by Hubie White, who had 22 points. White had his uniform number retired by the school in 2001. Future pro Tom Hoover added 14 points.

   The Wildcats had their problems from that point on. Villanova finished only 11-13 that season. But UB had an outstanding season, going 18-5.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Winter racing ready to heat up

By Gene Kershner

This is the time of the year on the racing schedule where things are slowing down, meets are coming to an end and transitions are occurring from North to South around the country. Unlike the big four major mainstream sports, thoroughbred racing never takes a break and there is always racing somewhere.

Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida opens this weekend a month earlier after petitioning the state for an earlier opening date. The highlight of that meet is the Grade 1 Florida Derby, a key prep race for the Kentucky Derby on March 31. Tampa Bay Downs will also be opening this weekend and a good number of Woodbine horses will travel south to Tampa for the winter as that meet winds up this weekend.

The racing at Aqueduct has transitioned from the main track to the winterized inner track earlier in the week. The first day ended up with the Pick-6 paying in excess of $55,000 when Bona Venture Stables’ Prince Dubai ($8.40) won the final leg.

Santa Anita opens on its traditional date on the day after Christmas and will be highlighted by the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on April 7.

So what’s a horseplayer to do when there are no real significant races during the month of December? There are a number of contests that one can enter at various websites. This is the last month to attempt to qualify for the National Handicapping Championship (NHC) held in Las Vegas in January. Of course, we’ll have our annual race fan’s holiday shopping guide in next week’s Friday blog.

Some horseplayers will take a holiday to refresh themselves for the winter meets and the Kentucky Derby trail that will start heating up in late January and early February with key races at Oaklawn Park, Gulfstream, Fair Grounds, Santa Anita and Aqueduct. Once again we’ll focus our Friday blogs on the key Derby prep races as we move towards the first Saturday in May.

NBC Sports has announced they will televise six key prep races on the Kentucky Derby trail (including two preps for the fillies for the Kentucky Oaks) on three of its networks.  The schedule for the prep races is as follows:

Saturday, March 24, 2012, 5-6 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)
Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes and Bourbonette Oaks (Turfway Park)

Saturday, March 31, 2012, 5-6 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)
Florida Derby and Gulfstream Oaks (Gulfstream Park)

Saturday, April 7, 2012, 4:30-6 p.m. (NBC)
Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial (Aqueduct Racetrack) and Santa Anita Derby (Santa Anita Park)

Saturday, April 14, 2012, 6-7 p.m. ET (CNBC)
Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (Keeneland) and Arkansas Derby (Oaklawn Park)

It’s encouraging that thoroughbred racing is once again receiving some attention from the networks on the races that lead up to the sport’s biggest event. In the past few years, a racing fan would either have to go to a simulcast facility, watch online on a ADW account or be subscribed to one of the two racing networks, HRTV or TVG. It’s a start, but we’ll need a horse to step forward during 2012 if there is any chance for the mainstream to take notice of our sport. No horse emerged during 2011 to become racing’s next big hero and the Triple Crown was not achieved for the 33rd straight year.

Maybe this will be our year…

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

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: A massive trade

   December 2, 1981 -- People's mouths opened a little wider every time they heard another name from one of the biggest trades in the history of the Buffalo Sabres.

   The Sabres had traded Danny Gare ... and Jim Schoenfeld ... and Derek Smith ... and Bob Sauve ... all to Detroit. It was a huge transaction, in terms of what those players meant to the team's history.

   General manager Scotty Bowman certainly blew up the nucleus of the team withe the deal. Gare eventually would have his number retired, while Schoenfeld had been a popular, rugged defenseman for almost a decade. Smith and Sauve had made contributions.

   The prize of the package coming to Buffalo was Mike Foligno, a tough forward with a scoring touch. Dale McCourt, a former first overall draft choice, came to Buffalo as well, as did center Brent Peterson, who became the team's best faceoff man.

   Technically, the Sauve deal was separate and was something of a loan. The Red Wings gave up a first-round draft pick, but had the option of cancelling the deal at the end of the season, which they did.

   In a hockey sense, the trade didn't turn out to be earthshaking. Gare and Schoenfeld never contributed much to a struggling Detroit team. Foligno played well and was one of Buffalo's best players for years, but McCourt didn't do much here. The Pat LaFontaine trade had more of an impact overall. But, if any hockey fan thought that his or her favorite player couldn't be traded, this one might have dispelled that notion.

--- Budd Bailey

« Older Entries Newer Entries »

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.