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This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Joe DeLamielleure

   (Born March 16, 1951) -- When O.J. Simpson was having his greatest days as a running back for the Buffalo Bills, he ran behind an offensive line that was called "the Electric Company" … because they turned on the juice. Reggie McKenzie might have been the best-known player of that line -- and he was
very good -- but it was Joe DeLamielleure who ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

   That's not bad for a player who briefly thought he'd never play one game in pro football.

   Joe D. was a first-round draft choice of the Bills out of Michigan State in 1973. He was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat, and told not to suit up with the Bills. But other medical opinions differed, and DeLamielleure was allowed to play.

   Once he got into the lineup, it was impossible to get him out of it. DeLamielleure played in 185 straight games with the Bills and Cleveland Browns. He was a regular choice for All-Pro honors and made six Pro Bowls.

   DeLamielleure didn't think all that would be enough to get him into Canton. But he didn't complain when he was picked in 2003.

   "The longer you wait, the sweeter it is," DeLamielleure said. "I always thought I'm a lineman. I don't have any stats. Nobody knows who I am. I was just blessed to play on great teams. Actually, about seven years ago I gave up hope. But now I made it."

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Punch Imlach

   (Born March 15, 1918) -- There are few beloved hockey figures in both Toronto and Buffalo. Punch Imlach is certainly on that very short list.

   After some time working in management in senior hockey and the pros, Imlach joined the Maple Leafs' organization in 1958. He eventually worked his way to general manager and coach. All he did there was win four Stanley Cups, including three in a row.

   However, Imlach feuded with Leafs' ownership and left in 1969. It didn't take long for the Knox brothers to reach out when they were creating the Sabres for their inaugural season in 1970-71. Imlach took over as coach and general manager in Buffalo.

   Heart problems pushed him off the bench in 1972, but Imlach remained the team's general manager through 1978. He put together a Sabres team that went from expansion squad to Stanley Cup finalist in five years, an impressive achievement by any standards. Imlach's teams also were exciting and entertaining, which help sell NHL hockey to a new market.

   Health issues probably took their toll on Imlach during his final years in Buffalo. When the Sabres turned sour in the fall of 1978, Imlach and coach Marcel Pronovost were both fired. Imlach landed in Toronto for a second stay, but this stop didn't work out so well. He had disagreements with players and suffered from more heart problems.

   Imlach died of a heart attack in 1987. He is a very worthy member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Sabres' Hall of Fame.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Antowain Smith

   (Born March 14, 1972) -- Not many 25-year-olds have been first-round draft choices in the National Football League. Antowain Smith was an exception to that rule.

   The running back went to high school in Alabama. He then worked in a clothing factory for three years to help support his grandparents, who raised him after he was abandoned by his parents. Then it was on junior college in Mississippi, and college at the University of Houston. He was good enough (1,289 yards) for the Bills to take him first in 1997. Buffalo was looking for a running back who could eventually step in to replace Thurman Thomas.

   "You look for running backs to be ready to play maybe more quickly than other positions anyway," coach Marv Levy said. "Age 25 is old to start (a career), but it's not old to play. Neither is 26 or 27 or 28."

   Smith's time in Buffalo peaked in 1998 when he ran for 1,124 yards. But he was down to 354 yards by 2000 and was not brought back.

   The running back wasn't done yet. He rushed for more than 2,000 yards in total over two years for New England in 2001 and 2002. Smith also played for Tennesee and New Orleans. He finished his career with almost 7,000 yards rushing.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Ben Wiltbank

   (Born March 13, 1956) -- The minor leagues are where a lot of dreams go to die. Such was the case for Ben Wiltbank.

   The pitcher came out of Baltimore City College, where Pittsburgh scout Murray Cook signed him and said later, "There is little doubt he had an explosive fastball reaching upwards of 100 MPH and became one of the top prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates' farm system."

   Wiltbank was assigned to Niagara Falls to start his career in 1977, and he struck out 82 batters in 76 innings. That pushed him up the Pirates' organization ladder.

   By 1979, he arrived in Buffalo. The Bisons had returned that season after the city had gone about nine years without professional baseball. Wiltbank split his time between Buffalo and Triple-A Portland with a combined record of 3-12.

   The hard-throwing right-hander spent the rest of his career in Buffalo. He was 7-11 in 1980 and 4-4 in 1981. You could sum up his days here then as tantalizing, but not consistent.

   Then in 1982, Wiltbank suffered a severe knee injury. His season was over, and as it turned out so was his career.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: J.P. Losman

     (Born on March 12, 1981) -- The football career of J.P. Losman hasn't quite worked out the way anyone planned ... particularly the Buffalo Bills.

     Losman was a top high school quarterback from California who originally enrolled at UCLA. When that didn't work out, he transferred to Tulane. Losman started his last two years there and saw his professional stock rise as the NFL draft approach.

     The Bills noticed, and traded up in the first round to get Losman as their "quarterback of the future."

     "This guy's a leader," Bills' general manager Tom Donahoe said. "We think he's got a heck of an arm and he's a good athlete. He's a quarterback who can move around and throw the ball on the move."

     Losman moved into the starting lineup at times in 2005, and had a decent year in 2006 (19 touchdowns). But he lost his job to Trent Edwards in 2007, and left Buffalo after the 2008 season.

     Since then, Losman has played for Oakland, Seattle and Miami. His window for NFL success has just about closed.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Lee Evans

     (Born March 11, 1981) -- Every football team loves to have a wide receiver who could outrun opposing defensive backs and score easy touchdowns. For several seasons, Lee Evans was that receiver for the Buffalo Bills.

     After growing up in Ohio, Evans played at the University of Wisconsin. He caught 75 passes in 2001, missed all of 2002 because of a knee injury, and rebounded to catch 64 passes as a senior. In one game against Michigan State, he caught five touchdown passes.

     That all caught the attention of the Bills, who drafted him in the first round (13th overall). Buffalo hadn't taken a wide receiver in the first round since grabbing Eric Moulds, another receiver with speed, in 1996.

     "Rarely do you find guys with this kind of speed who have hands as good as his are," said Bills coach Mike Mularkey.

     Evans caught at least 37 passes in all seven of his seasons with the Bills. His best year might have been 2006, when he caught 82 passes for 1,292 yards.

     It was a bit of a surprise when Evans was traded by the Bills to the Baltimore Ravens in training camp in 2011. There Evans had injury problems and caught only four passes in the regular season.

--- Budd Bailey

Live from Blue Cross Arena - Bandits vs. Knighthawks

12:30 p.m. -- Yawn.

I'm in my fourth year of covering the Bandits. I believe this is my first afternoon game. The Amerks are playing a night game here; wonder if anyone will do the double-header?

You know the circumstances of this one, no doubt. The Bandits have lost their last five straight games. That sets a franchise record for consective losses. They have a game with Rochester today and then play in Toronto on Friday. They could be looking up at a huge divide in the East Division by the time the next week is over. That would mean Buffalo would be in jeopardy of having to fight for a playoff spot. Only one team misses the playoffs in the NLL, and the Bandits don't want to be remembered for that.

Rochester comes into the game at 4-5. The Knighthawks have been up and down this season, but returning to .500 would be a good starting point as they continue in the second half of the season.

12:50 p.m. -- The scratches are out for the game. Angus Goodleaf, Tom Montour and Brandon Francis are sitting. Jimmy Purves is also listed as playing, but that would give Buffalo 21 players, one over the limit. Mike Thompson is the starting goalie. The Commissioner, George Daniel, is here today. He has a seat in the press box assigned to him, but you'd think he could sit with a better class of people than us.

Glow-in-the-dark thundersticks were handed out today. This is not a game to attend for those who are a bit, shall we say, hung over. One time the Sabres handed out kazoos as a promotion; I believe I ended the game with one of the great headaches of my life.

Darris Kilgour passed on doing the usual pregame interview with Bandits radio broadcaster John Gurtler. I guess he's trying to change the team's luck. I have a feeling his mood still hasn't improved since last week, when he threw practically the whole team under the bus (I love that cliche) in his postgame remarks.

It's been a weekend of upsets so far -- Syracuse lost, Kansas lost, Bruce Springsteen didn't play "Born to Run" at the Apollo Theater last night. We'll see what happens here.

1:06 p.m. -- The p.a. system for the anthem singers didn't work. So ... the audience filled in for the end of the song. Kind of nice sound, actually.

1:15 p.m. -- We've figured out who the extra player is. Mat Giles has been scratched, and Purves has been activated off the practice squad. We'll see if someone else moved to the practice squad. We're at 1-1.

1:26 p.m. -- John Tavares still has the touch on the power play. He has both of Buffalo's goals so far, as the Bandits lead, 2-1.

1:34 p.m. -- Bandits have tied the game on a goal by Jimmy Purves. It's 3-3 after a period of play. There is a decent contingent of Buffalo fans here today, although perhaps the numbers are down a bit from the usual turnoutt.

1:39 p.m. -- The Knighthawks have scored twice in the first two minutes of the second quarter to lead, 5-2. Thompson hasn't stopped much so far today, which you'd have to think is a bad sign. No one warming in the bullpen yet.

1:43 p.m. -- Guess we couldn't see the bullpen. After Rochester made it 6-3, Anthony Cosmo has come on in favor of Thompson.

1:48 p.m. -- The Bandits have falled behind, 7-3, as Rochester has scored four goals in less than five minutes in the second quarter. Too many defensive breakdowns have been followed by few good saves. That would seem to be a recipe for losing.

1:55 p.m. -- The Bandits are officially in free fall, having given up six straight goals in the period. Sometimes Buffalo responds with some physical play. We'll see what happens here.

2:02 p.m. -- We've calmed down a little bit, although that isn't good news for the Bandits. They still trail, 9-3, with 3:27 left in the half. I have the feeling that there won't be much paint left in the Bandits' locker room after Kilgour's halftime speech to the troops.

2:12 p.m. -- The Bandits finish the half losing by 10-3. That only ties the team high this season for worst quarter; Minnesota had a 7-0 period in its win earlier in the season. Might have been as bad a quarter as I've seen in person in three and a half seasons.

2:29 p.m. -- Well, the Bandits are way ahead in faceoffs. Who says we're always negative in the media? Both Buffalo goalies had as many saves as goals allowed in the first half. Do that, and you will lose.

2:38 p.m. -- Trading goals won't help the Bandits in this situation, but at least they scored. Kevin Buchanan got his first since the season open. Cosmo has made a couple of good saves, as the defensive problems continues. Rochester leads, 11-4.

2:47 p.m. -- There is 4:24 left in the third period, and the Bandits still trail by seven goals. Cosmo has stopped the bleeding, but the offense has done little in response. It seems like the Bandits are at times taking long, bad shots, and at times trying to make the perfect pass. Either way it adds up to pressing, although you don't see them together very often.

2:56 p.m. -- The Bandits actually had a goal hold up in spite of a challenge, so Mark Steenhuis gets credit for a goal to make it 12-5.

3:03 p.m. -- If the Bandits lose this game, they would be at 2-6. That would tie a team record for worst record after eight games. The 2010 team also was 2-6, and then won its next foug. We've now gone through all four possible challenges. Bandits went 1-3 in that span.

3:14 p.m. -- The Bandits are down, 13-7, with 5:42 left. The Knighthawks merely have to take it easy and not let down.

3:16 p.m. -- Just tried to find out when the trading deadline is, and I think it is this week. It was on Tuesday, March 15 last year. Easy to wonder if the Bandits will try to do something. Considering that the Bandits still have a chance at making the playoffs (8 of 9 do), it's hard to see them having a clearance sale. Still, I would imagine someone will be making a few calls.

3:19 p.m. -- Bandits have scored four of the last five goals. At least the offense has not qu.it.

3:22 p.m. -- Ought to be an interesting locker room session. Will anyone want to talk to the media? Bandits have cut it to 13-10 with a minute left, which is very deceptive.

3:27 p.m. -- Bandits lose 13-10.

---Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: John Cangelosi

(Born March 10, 1963) - John Cangelosi is mostly remembered for showing that stature isn't everything when it comes to sports, particularly in baseball.

The outfielder had two stays in Western New York. He was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 1982, and was assigned to the Niagara Falls Sox. There he led the New York-Penn League with 45 stolen bases.

Cangelosi continued to climb the ladder from there. He started 1985 in Mexico City, but returned to America to play most of that season with the Buffalo Bisons. The outfielder hit .238 with one homer and 21 RBIs with 14 stolen bases in 78 games.

That earned him the chance to play in the big leagues, and he won the starting job in center field for the White Sox in 1986. His first hit was a home run, and he went on to hit .235 with 50 stolen bases as a rookie.

Cangelosi was something of a fourth outfielder for the rest of his career. He bounced around a bit, including stops with the Pirates, Mets and Astros. Cangelosi picked up a World Series ring with the Florida Marlins in 1997, and retired in 1999. He currently runs a baseball training facility with Bo Jackson in Illinois.

(Got a suggestion for a person to be profiled here? I'm looking for local athletes and coaches who might be overlooked. Send it to bbailey@buffnews.com, and include his/her birthday.)

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Winding down the Derby trail

     Two key Kentucky Derby prep races highlight this weekend's action on the Derby Trail to Louisville. This weekend will conclude the first round of prep races and most colts pointing to the first Saturday in May will have only one more opportunity to garner those cherished graded earnings necessary to qualify for one of the 20 available gates the Derby offers.

     We'll travel from coast to coast this weekend as Tampa Bay Downs' signature race, the Grade 2 $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby to run over 1 1/16-miles on Saturday afternoon. This race received a purse boost in 2012, as well as an upgrade in status from a Grade 3 race.

    A fairly large field of 12 horses will attack the Tampa Bay surface, and one of the top contenders is trainer Eddie Kenneally's Battle Hardened. The Giant's Causeway sophomore certainly has the pedigree to tackle the classic distance of the Derby, his last U.S. colt to threaten on the Derby trail, was the multiple-Grade 1 winner, Eskendereya, who pulled out, early in Derby week 2010. He currently sits 25th on graded earnings list, so this race provides an opportunity to solidify a spot in this year's Derby.

    Kenneally's colt broke his maiden in a stakes race, the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis earlier this month. Julien Leparoux, who also rides one of the top 3-year old in the country, Union Rags, has the mount atop Battle Hardened. When asked what will happen down the road, should his colt qualify for the Derby, Kenneally is going with the flow with regards to his rider.

     "We'll just take one race at a time, but we're delighted that Julien is available to ride him back in the Tampa Bay Derby after winning the Sam Davis.  And as far as Union Rags goes, I mean he's by far the legitimate leader of the 3-year old division right now, so at some point perhaps we'll be looking for a rider.  But we'll just stick with what's working for right now, and figure it out as we go forward."

     Another colt who looked terrific in his last outing is Todd Pletcher's Spring Hill Farm. He will be running his third career race and steps into deeper waters in the Tampa Bay Derby. His last race achieved a milestone in Pletcher's illustrious career, win number 3000, so you know that Pletcher would love to have this colt continue his upward trend in Tampa.

     Turning out west, Santa Anita will host the Grade 2 $300,000 San Felipe Stakes on Saturday afternoon. Breeders' Cup Juvenile third place finisher Creative Cause. The Giant's Causeway colt looking to win the elusive Derby crown will be looking to rebound from a third place finish in the San Vicente where he finished a length behind the eventual winner, Drill.

    Speaking of Drill, his trainer Bob Baffert will send out two colts, Bodemeister and Liaison. Bodemeister broke his maiden impressively posting a 99 Beyer in doing so. Named after Baffert's young son, he does not have any graded earnings to date, so this is a huge race for the Bodemeister. Baffert also sends out Liaison, currently seventh in graded stakes earnings and most likely assured of a gate in May.

     Martin Garcia will be aboard the Indian Charlie colt who clipped heels and tossed jockey Rafael Bejarano at the start of the Grade 2 Robert Lewis. He benefits from winning the Hollywood Cash Call Futurity as a 2-year old which gave him $290,000 of graded earnings, which should be more than enough to obtain a Derby gate.

     Trainer Mike Harrington also will send out two colts in the San Felipe, Creative Cause and Empire Way. Jockey Joel Rosario has ridden both horses in the past, but gains the mount on the talented Creative Cause. He wasn't originally planning on running them in the same race, but his options were limited. "The only reason I'm running them both in the same race is because of the timing.  I had a plan for Creative Cause from the very beginning, which included this race, and Empire Way, I don't really want to ship him out of town at this point in time, plus the timing is right on him also.  So that's just the main reason I'm running them both there is just because of the timing," said Harrington.

     A contender who is looking to stretch out for the first time is the Hard Spun colt, Midnight Transfer. Impressive in several outings at sprint distances for trainer Carla Gaines, this could be his breakout race. He too, had Rosario in the irons for his last two races, thus Victor Espinoza picks up the ride. He's moved forward in every race, so don't count him out when you go to the windows on Saturday.

     Another race with graded earnings implications this weekend is the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park, where Dullahan will try and imitate his trainer's 2010 Derby hopeful, Paddy O'Prado, who went the same Palm Beach-Bluegrass route to Louisville.

     Conditioner Dale Romans sends out the Breeders' Cup Juvenile fourth place finisher.  Romans was bullish on Dullahan's chances and provided the national racing media with his thoughts on his Breeders' Cup effort during Tuesday's teleconference. "I don't know if people picked up on how good it was.  I mean he got really squeezed.  He shut off in the first turn, was all the way back to last, and showed a big run down the lane on the dirt.  So he is very versatile, and that's a good thing in any horse."

     Good luck this weekend and let's go cash some tickets!

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

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Seymour H. Knox III

     March 9, 1926 - Seymour H. Knox wanted to do something that had a lasting impact for the Western New York community, following in the footsteps of his father and an art gallery in Buffalo. It's fair to say he succeeded.

     Knox, along with his brother Northrup, decided in the early 1960s to attempt to win an expansion franchise in the National Hockey League. The brothers formed a group that applied for a team when the NHL wanted to go from six to 12 teams. They were turned down in that request.

     The Knoxes didn't give up. They later tried to buy the Oakland franchise and move it to Buffalo, but that plan didn't work either. But instead, Seymour and Norty reapplied when the NHL was expanding from 12 to 14 teams. This time they were successful, and the Buffalo Sabres started play in 1970.

     Seymour wasn't used to taking the spotlight, and he usually let others in the organization step out in public. Still, when there was talk of building a new arena to replace Memorial Auditorium, Knox stepped up his public profile in order to move plans along. The construction of a new building a block away from the Aud is a tribute to those efforts.

     Sadly, Knox died in May, 1996, only a few months before the building opened. But his contributions to the sporting arena in Western New York will never be forgotten.

--- 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.

@WDX2BB | bbailey@buffnews.com

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