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Running notebook: Everyone knows it's windy

The Shamrock Run could have been worse. It could have rained.

Yes, there might have been more wind at this race than at any other Western New York race in recent memory. Those 60 miles per hour gusts made me, and probably a few others, head for the sidewalk for a moment until the air turned calm. Plus, the wind knocked down a light pole, forcing organizers to take a detour on the course map and shorten the race by almost a half-mile.

Still, it's easy to remember what the weather was like last year. when it was in the high 30's, with heavy rain and good-sized winds. I talked to a lot of runners who were more miserable last year than they were this year. Congratulations to the winners.

The schedule turns calm for a couple of weeks, at least in the immediate Buffalo area ... unless you like climbing stairs. The schedule from buffalorunners.com:

* St. Patrick's Day Dash, 3 miles, 319 W. Third St. in Jamestown, 9:15 a.m. Saturday, 488-2203 x230.

* Fight for Air Climb, 40 flights of stairs, One HSBC Center in Buffalo, 10 a.m. Saturday, (585) 442-4260 (x101).

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Jim Veltman

     March 8, 1966 - Indoor lacrosse championships seemed to follow Jim Veltman around. This was not a coincidence.

     Veltman won eight of them during a 16-season career in the sport. The first three came right here in Buffalo.

     Veltman was an original Buffalo Bandit, joining the team in 1992. That team had plenty of scorers, but Veltman carved out a unique role with that team. He quickly became known for his skill at grabbing loose balls, prompting the nickname of "Scoop."

     The 1992 Buffalo team won the championship as did the 1993 and 1996 teams. That prompted teammate John Tavares to call Veltman the best teammate he ever had.

     After a year off, Veltman landed in Ontario and played through 2008. He won four more championships there, and upon retiring had the National Lacrosse League record for loose balls.

     Veltman was an all-pro 12 times, the NLL's most valuable player in 2004, and played in 10 championship games. He went into the league's Hall of Fame in 2009.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Sam Gash

     March 7, 1969 -- Here's how good a blocker Sam Gash was when he played for the Buffalo Bills in 1999:

   The fullback carried the ball zero times during that particular season. Yet he made the Pro Bowl and was a second-team all-NFL selection by the Associated Press. It was the first time a running back had done that.

     Gash was always known as a punishing blocker. He started his career in New England, and in 1993 he carried the ball 48 times for 149 yards Ñ the highwater mark of his time in the NFL.

     It was on to the Bills for the 1998 and 1999 seasons. Gash wasn't a bad receiver coming out of the backfield. He caught a total of 39 passes in those two years.

     Then it was on to Baltimore for three years, before returning to Buffalo for the 2003 season. Gash played 12 seasons, and had a career rushing total of 327 yards.

     But you'd have to say he made an impact, especially if you lined up on the other side of the ball.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Don Reinhoudt

     March 6, 1945 - When the list of great Western New York athletes is studying, there's little doubt that Don Reinhoudt was about as strong as any of them.

     Reinhoudt was born in Brocton and went to high school at Fredonia. There he was all-Western New York in football, all-league in basketball and a regional star in track's shot put. From there it was on to Parsons College in Iowa, where he played football and track while majoring in finance.

     Reinhoudt had done some weightlifting in college and even entered some competitions, but he took up powerlifting in 1969. By 1972 he was up to third in the world in an AAU competition. That was a warmup for four straight championships from 1973 to 1976. Reinhoudt was the first superheavyweight to hold the world records in all three types of lifts at the same time.

     In 1978, Reinhoudt became well-known outside of the world of powerlifting when he competed in the "World's Strongest Man" competition. He finished second in 1978, and then won the event in 1979.

     After retiring, Don worked on a variety of youth-targeted causes. Reinhoudt is in several Halls of Fame, including the World Powerlifting's version and the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Bob Halkidis

     March 5, 1966 - The career of Bob Halkidis didn't exactly work out the way the Sabres planned it.

     Halkidis was the team's fourth-round draft choice in 1984. In 1984-85, he bloomed as an offensive defenseman for London of the Ontario Hockey League, scoring 14 goals and 50 assists. Suddenly, Halkidis was a hot prospect.

     He went into the NHL lineup in the toughest positive situation -- as a rookie, in the playoffs. Halkidis played four games, not scoring but piling up 19 penalty minutes.

     The defenseman had some chances to move up to the NHL for good the following season, but he wasn't quite ready. Therefore, he hopped on the Thruway and headed to Rochester. Halkidis divided his time between Buffalo and Rochester in 1986-87 too. And in 1987-88, and 1988-89.

     Finally, on Nov. 24, 1989, the Sabres ended his Thruway driving days by trading him to Los Angeles for Dale DeGray. That started him on an odyssey that lasted for more than a decade.

     Halkidis played in the NHL for the Kings, Red Wings, Lightning and Islanders. He also played for many minor league teams, plus spent some time on the ice in Germany, Finland and Russia.

     Halkidis finally left the game in 2001.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Shane Conlan

     March 4, 1964 - It's always a nice story when a local high school players reaches the pros in his home area. Shane Conlan was such a player.

     He played his high school football at Frewsburg, and went on to an outstanding career at Penn State. Conlan helped the Nittany Lions win the national championship in 1986.

     From there it was on to the pros, and the Buffalo Bills were waiting. The linebacker was taken in the first round -- eighth overall -- by the Bills in 1987. Conlan was an immediate hit, moving right into the starting lineup. He was named the defensive rookie of the year in that first season.

     From there, he stayed through most of the Bills' Super Bowl run and was an important contributor along the way. Conlan jumped to the Rams as a free agent in 1993, signing a three-year, $5.4-million deal.

     "I don't think that they thought that I was going to get an offer of this magnitude," Conlan said.

     Conlan was a starter for the Rams for three seasons, leaving football after the 1995 campaign.

--- Budd Bailey

Live from the First Niagara Center: Bandits vs. Colorado

7:18 p.m. -- So far, so good. It looks as if I'm back in the blogging business at games. It's been a troublesome few weeks, which saw me buy a new computer, return it (eventually), get a replacement, and then have trouble connecting last week at the All-Star Game. Cross your fingers; I can use the support.

There are a couple of pregame news items here. Billy Dee Smith is not in the lineup. He has been suspended for a game for an undisclosed violation of team moves. And Anthony Cosmo gets the start in goal. Cosmo was acquired during the three-week break from Minnesota for a couple of first-round draft choices. He's had a couple of weeks to get rid of some rust. He'll be under the spotlight tonight.

We might see a little history tonight. John Grant Jr. of the Mammoth has 496 career goals. Since he is the league's top scorer this season, you'd have to think he has a chance to break that mark.

The Bandits have lost four in a row. They have never ... as in ever ... lost five games in a row. And they have to beat the best team in the league (6-1) tonight.

Tonight's other Bandits scratches: Tom Montour and Angus Goodleaf.

7:37 p.m. -- The Bandits seem intent on creqating contact tonight. We have a bit of a scrum going on right now. Shouldn't be surprised by that when on a losing streak. Cosmo already has made a couple of good saves. It's fair to say he doesn't look rusty.

7:45 p.m. -- We've had a little flurry of scoring, with the Mammoth taking a 2-1 lead. Mark Steenhuis had the goal for Buffalo.

7:48 p.m. -- Adam Jones of Colorado and Canisius College is on the scoresheet ... for a penalty. He took a slashing penalty, as did Chris White. Jones smashed his stick in the penalty box. We're 2-2 after a goal by Tracey Kelusky.

7:58 p.m. -- Bandits get through the first 15 minutes with the lead. Both sides have had some power-play time.

8:05 p.m. -- OK, Adam Jones is on the scoresheet for real, with a nice bounce shot from the slot. Drew some extra applause from the crowd, too.

8:12 p.m. -- Colorado has pulled away a bit to lead, 6-3, with 8:30 left. John Grant Jr. has the last two goals to reach 498. I always root for milestones on either side, journalistically speaking.

8:19 p.m. -- The Bandits are staying in range, at least. They trail, 7-5, with 3:53 to go in the period. Colorado has had the better of the play overall, though.

8:27 p.m. -- Until now. Buffalo has scored the last four goals, including two by Luke Wiles, to take an 8-7 lead.

8:33 p.m. -- And that's the way it stays at the half.

8:48 p.m. -- One interesting stat from the first half -- the Bandits were 14-3 on faceoffs. Remember a couple of years ago, when they won 14 faceoffs a month?

8:51 p.m. -- Another goal for Grant; that's 499. Only Tavares and Gary Gait are at 500.

8:55 p.m. -- Derek Hopcroft put the Mammoth up, 9-8, and that's where we stay with 9:38 left in the third quarter.

9:04 p.m.. -- Kelusky to the rescue. He has scored two straight goals to tie matters at 10-10.

9:11 p.m. -- John Grant Jr. gets #500, the third NLL player to reach that number. John Tavares and Gary Gait are the others. Nice job. Good hard shot from outside. 13-12, Colorado.

9:15 p.m. -- The Bandits have scored between 10 and 14 goals in every game this season. They are at 12 now with more than a quarter to go.

9:19 p.m. -- Make that a quarter to go. Colorado leads, 13-12, in a game which looks like it might go down to the last possession. Buffalo's last two games have been decided by a goal (both losses)

9:30 p.m. -- Mammoth up, 15-13, and Mike Thompson has replaced Cosmo in goal.

9:37 p.m. -- Score remains the same with 3:24 left.

9:46 p.m. -- Bandits lose, 16-13.

11:40 p.m. -- Darris Kilgour came out firing in the postgame news conference, leaving no unit and few players untouched. He opened the session with this: "Our defense was terrible, and until we fix the defense we're going to be a bad team, and we are a bad team right now." After five straight losses, I would guess few would disagree.

-- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Dennis Shaw

     March 3, 1947 - For a moment there, Dennis Shaw looked like he was going to be the answer for the Buffalo Bills' quarterback problems. It just didn't work out.

     Shaw played college football at San Diego State. He threw 39 touchdown passes as a senior including nine in one game against New Mexico State. That impressed the Bills enough to make him the team's second-round pick in 1970.

     Shaw was given a chance to play as a rookie, and he capitalized in a big way. Shaw started 12 games, completed 55.5 percent of his passes, and threw for 10 touchdowns. That was good enough to make him the Associated Press offensive rookie of the year.

      Shaw was still the starter for the Bills in 1971, but the team lost 11 of 12 games that he started. Part of the problem was his 26 interceptions that season. Shaw had one more season as a Buffalo starter, and another as a backup.

     In 1974, Shaw made another contribution to the Bills' success, albeit in an odd way. He was traded to the Cardinals for Ahmad Rashad, who turned out to be a dynamic wide receiver. Rashad played a major role in getting the Bills to the playoffs in 1974, while Shaw threw eight passes in two years for St. Louis and then was done with football.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Derby Trail arrives in Gotham City

By Gene Kershner

   As the Derby trail winds its way around the continental U.S., this weekend's stop is in Ozone Park, New York, home of Aqueduct Race Track. The 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Gotham Stakes will be run on the winterized inner track at the Big A with a purse of $400,000 of coveted graded stakes on Saturday afternoon. The winner will certainly put himself in a good position to attain a gate in the $2 million Kentucky Derby in May.

Several horses fell off the trail this week, including Algorithms, who scratched out of last weekend's Fountain of Youth. He beat the Breeders' Cup Juvenile champion Hansen in the Grade 3 Holy Bull in January at Gulfstream Park. Hansen heads a rather ordinary 13 colt field in the Gotham, and drew post 12 and was set as the 6-5 favorite on the morning line.

Trainers Todd Pletcher and Dale Romans both send out two colts in this rather large field for the major prep race for the Wood Memorial, the Big A's signature race of its winter meeting. Other than Hansen, only two horses in the field have even hit the board in a graded stakes race.  There's also a good chance the weather will be less than perfect on Saturday afternoon, so pay attention to the Tomlinson figures and mud stats for these sophomores.

Last week our selection, the unheralded Mark Valeski, was nipped at the wire by El Padrino in the Risen Star. We'll take a shot at beating the favorite again this weekend. So let's take a look at the field for the Gotham (Morning Line odds, trainer and jockey in parenthesis):

1 -- My Adonis (5-1, Breen, Trujillo). His running line in the Holy Bull tells it all. After being bumped at the start he was 20 lengths behind at the first call, and finished just over five lengths behind Algorithms and only 1/2-length behind Gotham favorite Hansen. The race was run on a sloppy track and he made up some major ground late.  His sire was a late bloomer which won the Breeders' Cup Classic at age 5 and the Dubai World Cup at age 6. Leaning this way.

2 -- Stealcase (12-1, Casse, Contreras). Woodbine-based jockey/trainer connections ship in from Gulfstream where Steelcase broke his maiden. The second-place finisher in that race won next time out. He sports a major bullet workout on his resume at Palm Meadows on Feb. 25. His sire, Lawyer Ron, was dangerous at this very distance, so this one has to be respected.

3 -- Finnegans Wake (20-1, Romans, Desormeaux). Romans will try the turf to dirt angle with this Powerscourt colt. Only effort on a sloppy track was during his first career race where he finished 26 lengths behind the winner. Too many others in here make way more sense, although Romans isn't afraid to take a shot. "We're experimenting a bit to see if he likes the dirt; if he does, he'll run a big race," said Finnegans' conditioner.

4 -- Pretension (20-1, Grove, Santiago). Bluegrass Cat colt won a non graded stake at the Big A in early February. He has decent mud stats especially from his dam's sire, Street Cry (IRE), who won 20 percent of his mud starts. Interesting.

5 -- Maan (15-1, Kenneally, Maragh). Maan won his last in the slop at Gulfstream Park in an optional claimer. Only his third career race, but should improve after winning after a long layoff. Should handle the stretch out based on his pedigree and has a local rider aboard.

6 -- Dan and Sheila (8-1, Pletcher, Velazquez). The dreaded Pletcher/Velazquez combination will certainly depress his odds by post time. He finished fourth in the Grade 3 LeComte at the Fair Grounds. The top three horses finishing ahead of him didn't show much last weekend in the Risen Star, which is an indication that it wasn't a very strong race.

7 -- Suns Out Guns Out (30-1, Romans, Ortiz Jr.). This Empire Maker was purchased by West Point Thoroughbreds last February for $325K and has yet to win in four maiden efforts. I blame the fact that he is badly named. Seriously, Romans says he's been training lights out since the first of the year. 

8 -- Raconteur (15-1, Pletcher, Velasquez). The "other" Pletcher with the "other" Velasquez (Cornelio). Has the classic stamina (AP Indy) on top and speed (Storm Cat) on the bottom. He's 2 for 3 on the inner at Aqueduct and appears to be improving. 

9 -- King and Crusader (15-1, Dutrow Jr., Luzzi). Started his career running in maiden claiming ranks, but claimed away at Saratoga last summer and turned over to Rick Dutrow and he's won four of five, including the 6-furlong Jimmy Winkfield in January, where Cornelio Velasquez had the mount.

10 -- Side Road (12-1, McLaughlin, Garcia). This one broke his maiden impressively for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin in late January and drilled a bullet Wednesday morning at Belmont Park. Has the red-hot Alan Garcia in the irons for Darley Stable. Appears ready to rock and roll.

11 -- Done Talking (20-1, Smith, Cohen). First start of the new year for this Broken Vow colt. He finished fourth in the Grade 2 Remsen in November here just a head behind top Derby contender El Padrino, winner of last weekend's Risen Star. Thinking he'll need a race before showing his best stuff. (That's the Post Time kiss of death right there, meaning he'll win by a pole).

12 -- Hansen (6-5, Maker, Dominguez). The 2-year-old champion looks to rebound off his disappointing second-place finish in the Holy Bull. He didn't have enough in the tank to hold off Algorithms, but might have just needed a race. The object is to win on the first Saturday in May, not March. It will be interesting if trainer Maker tries to rate him instead of turning him loose on the front, which is his modus operandi in every race in his career. We'll try to beat him at such short odds.

13 -- Tiger Walk (Correas IV, Castro). Finished third in the Grade 3 Withers behind Derby-bound Alpha and Speightscity on the inner track. Has a tough post, but gets the veteran Eddie Castro to ride the Tale of the Cat for the first time.

Combined with the bad start last out and the favorable inside post, My Adonis is the selection this week. We're also seeing a big step up by Maan, who has matured over the winter into a strapping long colt.

Post Time Outlook:  1 -- My Adonis; 2 -- Maan; 3 -- Hansen; and 4 -- Stealcase.

   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: Jim Konstanty

     (Born March 2, 1917) -- You can probably guess how many most valuable players in major league baseball were born in Strykersville, at least if it's mentioned here.

     One is correct.

     Jim Konstanty was born in the Wyoming County hamlet, and grew up to become the National League's MVP in 1950. He pitched in 74 games that season, a league record, with 16 wins and 22 saves. The Phillies won the pennant that year.

     Konstanty went to Syracuse University, where he was a member of the basketball team. He joined the Phillies in 1948, and became a key part of the team's bullpen the next year.

     But 1950 was his big season. The Phillies became known as the "Whiz Kids," and Konstanty was a big reason why they shocked the baseball world by edging the Dodgers to reach the World Series. There they were dismissed quickly by the powerful New York Yankees.

     Konstanty stayed with the Phillies until 1954, when he joined the Yankees. He finished his career in St. Louis at the age of 39.

     The 1950 season featured his only appearance in a World Series or All-Star Game. He later became athletic director at Hartwick College. Konstanty died at the age of 59.

--- Budd Bailey

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