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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: The neon lights are bright ...

   Feb. 16, 1995 -- Many pro athletes have left Western New York for one reason or another over the years, so it's difficult to come up with a surprise.

   Tony Meola surprised us.

   Meola left the Buffalo Blizzard to take the lead role in an off-Broadway play. He was signed to perform as the "celebrity lead" in "Tony n' Tina's Wedding."

   Before he left, the goalie at least gave the fans here something to remember. He played all 71 minutes and 59 seconds of the longest game in Blizzard history at the time. Buffalo defeated the Cleveland Crunch, 17-15. The "School Day" crowd of 12,134 was Buffalo's largest of the season.

   "I'll be back here assuming that we're in the playoffs," Meola said to The News' Bob Summers upon exiting.

   The former member of the United States national team (two World Cup teams) didn't come back. Instead, he ended up playing a great deal of outdoor soccer, and won the MLS goalie of the year award in 2000. As for the play, it ran off-Broadway for 22 years before ending a run in 2010.

--- 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.