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This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Warren Spahn

      (Born April 23, 1921) -- There's no way to determine who is the greatest athlete to come out of Western New York. Even so, everyone would agree that Warren Spahn deserves to be in the argument.

     Spahn was born and raised in Buffalo, attending South Park High School. He dropped out shortly before graduating, heading off to a career in baseball. But before Spahn became established in the game, World War II got in the way. The pitcher became a soldier, fighting at the Battle of the Bulge and earning a Purple Heart.

     The Boston Braves' left-hander finally became established with a 21-10 record in 1947. It was the first of 13 times that he won 20 games in the majors. The wins kept coming from there, even though the location of his home pitcher's mound moved from Boston to Milwaukee. He won a World Series ring in 1957, and won two other pennants in his career.

     After 25 years with the Braves, Spahn was sold to the New York Mets after the 1964 season. He was waived in 1965 and finished the season and his career with the Giants. Spahn won 363 games, one of the largest totals in baseball history. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973.

     Spahn was a pitching coach and manager after retirement. His last pitch in front of a crowd came in an old-timers game in Pilot Field in 1990. Spahn has a street named after him in Buffalo off of Abbott Road; he died in Oklahoma in 2003.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Marshawn Lynch

     (Born April 22, 1986) -- Most National Football League players can be expected to be very good high school players. Marshawn Lynch, though, might have overdone it.

     In 2003 in Oakland (Cal.), Lynch ran for 1,722 yards and 23 touchdowns in eight games; he added 375 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in two postseason contests. He also played some defensive back, and made 20 interceptions. When Lynch played defensive end for a game, he forced three fumbles. Not bad at all.

     From there it was on the University of California. Lynch became a starter as a sophomore and became one of the best running backs in the Pacific-10 conference in those two years. He set a school record for 100-yard games with 17.

     The Bills needed a running back at that point, and Buffalo took Lynch in the first round. He gained 90 yards in his first game, a loss to Denver. He later became the fourth Bills' rookie to rush for more than 1,000 yards, and duplicated that number in 2008.

     In 2009, Lynch was suspended for the first three games of the season, and lost his starting job to Fred Jackson. Lynch only ran for 450 yards that season, and then saw C.J. Spiller taken first by the Bills in 2010. Someone had to go from the Bills' backfield, and Lynch went to the Seahawks for two draft choices in an Oct. 2010 trade.

     Lynch ran for more than 1,200 yards in 2011, his first full season as a Seahawk. He added 13 touchdowns, another career high.

--- Budd Bailey

Live from First Niagara Center: Bandits vs. Knighthawks

7:17 p.m. -- There's always been a little drama tonight. It only took the starting lineup's release to have it.

Mike Thompson is the backup goalie for the Bandits tonight as they get ready to play the Rochester Knighthawks. Thompson has a sprained knee, but Buffalo might have been forced to release a player to make room for him. So, Thompson will be on the bench as Anthony Cosmo tries to stay healthy.

Darryl Gibson is out with a thigh bruise. Tracey Kelusky will play as he tries to come back from a concussion. Travis Irving is the other scratch for Buffalo.

It's simple as far as the postseason is concerned -- the Bandits need to win tonight in order to clinch a playoff spot. If they lose, they must win in Washington next week to make the postseason. By the way, the Bandits haven't beaten a Western team on the road this season.

7:34 p.m. -- Mat Giles just won the Unsung Hero award, while Chris White captured the Kilgour Award for displaying the characteristics of a Bandit. The team MVP award went to John Tavares. Hard to argue with those selections.

It is Fan Appreciation Night, and the place is pretty full. Ought to look good on televison.

7:45 p.m. -- Luke Wiles has the first goal of the game at 4:39. It's been a pretty wide-open game so far, with some good scoring opportunities and a few goal posts.

7:47 p.m. -- Then the Knighthawks replied on a goal by Tyler Burton. Plenty of emotion in the building tonight. I have the feeling that Rochester would get some enjoyment about spoiling the Bandits' playoff plans tonight. By the way, the Knighthawks need two wins to get a home playoff game.

7:52 p.m. -- Chad Culp's goal made it 2-1; it was his first goal since March 16.

8:04 p.m. -- That's the way it winds up after the first period. Tracey Kelusky's playing time has been somewhat limited so far. We'll keep an eye on that as the game progresses.

8:12 p.m. -- Sure enough, Kelusky finishes a nice pass from Giles to make it 4-1. Wiles had the other Buffalo goal.

8:17 p.m. -- Mark Steenhuis answered a Stephen Keogh goal with one of his own to keep the lead at three goals, 5-2. It was the 300th goal as a Bandit for Steenhuis.

8;28 p.m. -- Not much new on the scoresheet here. About 10 minutes have elapsed in the second period, and the Bandits are still up, 5-2. This is an impressive defensive performance by Buffalo so far, especially with only five defenders. Those guys are going to earn their pay this evening.

8:33 p.m. -- Jay Thorimbert scores on a slow-developing transition play from long range. Nice shot. It's 6-2, Buffalo.

8:37 p.m. -- That score hold up until halftime. Time for my traditional "last home game" interview with John Gurtler on Radio 1520 AM.

8:55 p.m. -- Giles rolls a shot like a bowling ball, and somehow it goes in. Buffalo jumps up, 7-2, a minute into the second half.

8:59 p.m. -- Rochester just scored as many goals in 28 seconds as it did in the entire first half.

9:02 p.m. -- And the Knighthawks added another score by Cody Jamieson 21 seconds left to make it 7-5. We've got a game again.

9:09 p.m. -- We're reviewing a goal by Wiles ... and there goes the horn. Buffalo leads, 8-5. I know Tavares was MVP this season, but Wiles isn't far behind.

9:14 p.m. -- Anthony Cosmo has made a couple of great saves in the past few minutes. And he's staying healthy, which is important considering the backup has a sprained knee. It's 9-5, Bandits.

9:22 p.m. -- Assuming Kelusky's goal holds up under review, which it should, the Bandits will have an 11-5 lead. The wave breaks out as we wait. ... and the goal counts. I smell a trip to the postseason.

9:37 p.m. -- Steenhuis is up to four goals, Buffalo is up to 14, and goalie Matt Vinc has been pulled. There shouldn't be much drama down the stretch.

9:47 p.m. -- As I furiously type my story for the newspaper, the Bandits' lead is down to 14-7 with 5:52. It is still safe. Buffalo, Philadelphia and Rochester could still finish at 7-9, setting up a tricky three-way tiebreaker. Not sure who would come out on top there. Oops, make that 14-8.

9:50 p.m. -- OK, 14-9. Can the Bandits go into the Four Corners? Have they borrowed the Red Sox bullpen for the fourth quarter? (This is written by a sad Red Sox fan today.) We'll see

9:58 p.m. -- Seventy seconds left, and the Bandits are up 14-9.

10:03 p.m. -- On to the playoffs. 14-9 final.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Joe McCarthy

     (Born April 21, 1887) -- It would take a much longer space than this to describe all of the accomplishments of Joe McCarthy. But it boils down to the fact that he's clearly one of the greatest managers in the history of major league baseball.

  McCarthy was born in Philadelphia and was one of the rare pro baseball players of his time to attend college for two years -- in this case, Niagara University. Needing money, McCarthy left school and played in the minors during a 15-year career, including a stint with the Bisons.

     Before retiring from playing, he tried his hand at managing in Louisville where he won a couple of American Association pennants. That got the attention of the Cubs, who hired him in 1926 and watched him win the 1929 National League pennant. McCarthy was fired by the Cubs in 1930, only to land the same job with the Yankees in 1931.

     There McCarthy guided the Yankees to five World Series titles, including four in a row (1936 to 1939). He won three more pennants in the 1940s.

     From there it was on to Boston in 1948, where he became known as Ted Williams' favorite manager. McCarthy came close a couple of times but couldn't win a pennant with the Red Sox in two plus years there before retiring in 1950.

     McCarthy spent the final years of his life at his farm in Tonawanda. He died here in 1978, and is buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in the Town of Tonawanda.

--- Budd Bailey

Bandits' Francis gets three games

The word has come down from the National Lacrosse League office: Brandon Francis has gotten a three-game suspension for his actions last week against Edmonton.

It breaks down this way: Francis gets two games for the high-sticking major plus one game for picking up a third game misconduct in a season. Francis was also fined an undisclosed sum.

He could appeal the suspension and thus be eligible to play this week against Rochester. If he lost the appeal, Francis would miss the next three games -- which in theory would sit him out until a potential championship game. Obviously, the Bandits need wins now rather than later, so it's easy to guess that the  team would try to make him eligible to play now.

We'll see how it comes down by gametime Saturday.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Derby tools, tricks and techniques

By Gene Kershner

With two weeks between now and the Run for the Roses on May 5, it’s time to make sure that you’re fully equipped to be in tune with all things Derby. The Derby trail will be quiet this weekend and only one horse in this weekend’s Lexington can produce a Derby runner based on the current graded earnings list.

Reveron’s connections have decided to skip this weekend’s Lexington Stakes, which only has $200,000 of graded earnings available, thus rendering the race a non-factor with respect to a possible late Derby starter, other than Castaway.  Castaway will make the gate with a victory in the Lexington and could temporarily bump Reveron off the list.

This week the connections of Wrote (IRE), the third place finisher in the Dubai World Cup and Drill, from the west coast decided to skip the Derby, and Trinniberg’s connections appear to be opting for next weekend’s Grade 3 Derby Trial Stakes.  Thus opening up spots in the gate for Rousing Sermon, Mark Valeski and Todd Pletcher’s El Padrino. When Secret Circle was given a rest by trainer Bob Baffert on Thursday, it put Reveron in the 20th and final slot. He could still get in with a potential defection by Alpha, who has yet to ship to Churchill, a decision that will most likely be coming down the pipe in the coming days. Don’t be surprised if there is more shake ups in the final two weeks leading up to the big day.

One place to find the latest Derby information is from Darren Rogers’ twitter feed (@DerbyMedia). The Senior Director of Communications and Media Services for Churchill Downs constantly tweets Derby contenders’ workout times, pictures, ticket information and general updates from the iconic Louisville track. It’s an account you should follow for breaking information in the days that lead up to the most exciting two minutes in sport.

On Wednesday, the latest Kentucky Derby mobile application was released at the official website. The app includes event information, a live toteboard, videos and information on the Derby contenders, a betting calculator and general ticket information.

Another app to consider is the Equibase Racing Yearbook 2012, a place where you can watch replays of all of the graded stakes races that the Derby horses have run in leading up to the Derby. It’s worthwhile to look back and watch the most recent prep races to see how the horses you favor raced in the lead up to the Derby.

One of the best features during Derby week at the Daily Racing Form website, is clocker Mike Welsch’s Derby workout report videos, where he recaps the crucial final training workouts over the Churchill Downs track. He has a keen eye for sharp workouts and his workout analysis can be a key to handicapping success.

The post position draw will be televised on NBC Sports Network on Wednesday, May 2 at 5 p.m. and will play an important role for horseplayers who understand the significance that a bad post can have on a horse’s chances.

We’ve already started to map out some tendencies in the top 24 horses. For the past four years I’ve used a spreadsheet approach to analyze the Derby field and try and isolate the horses I plan on keying in on with my betting come Derby day. The sheet includes post position results from the past 42 years, pedigree information, speed figures from each horses prior three races and other statistical nuggets that I’ve tweaked over the years.

It’s a great betting race as there is a great deal of “crazy money” in the pools, with once-a-year bettors playing their favorite numbers, picking names they like best and the like. It’s a day where an educated consumer can make a nice score. It’s time to get to work, we have but two weeks to mine some Derby gold.

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: Ken Murray

     (Born April 20, 1928) -- Some people consider uniform number 13 unlucky. Ken Murray apparently wasn't one of them. In fact, the number was retired by St. Bonaventure University after his fine basketball career.

     The native of East Orange, New Jersey, was a big reason why St. Bonaventure played in its first-ever postseason tournament, the National Catholic Invitation Tournament. Murray was the first Brown Indian (as they were called at the time) to reach 1,000 points, as he finished his career with 1,090. That worked out to an average of 12.1 points per game. Murray was an All-American in 1949-50.

     From there, the guard went to the pros. Murray was selected in the fourth round of the draft by the Chicago Stags. His team moved to Baltimore before playing a game, and his contract was later sold to the Fort Wayne Pistons. He averaged about 13 points per game as a rookie.

     After a couple of years away from the game because of time in the Army, he was traded back to Baltimore. Then it was on to the Philadelphia Warriors when the Bullets folded. And that was it for his NBA career.

--- Budd Bailey

Running notebook: Helping a vet

It's always a good idea to help out a fundraising effort by a local veteran. Dan Frontera is a retired Army specialist. He's trying to raise money for a memorial at Serviceman's Park. Dan is running in area races in full military gear in an effort to raise $50,000.

You can reach Dan through his website, wnyiam.org, or by sending him an e-mail at [email protected]

Here are the weekend's races, courtesy of buffalorunners.com:

* 3 Kings Royal Race, 5K, 10893 Sisson Hwy. in North Collins, 6:30 p.m. on Friday, 337-3780. It must be moving toward summer; here is the first Friday night race of the year.

* Liberty Mutual Hilbert Memorial Miles 5K, 5200 South Park Ave. in Hamburg, 10 a.m. on Saturday, 926-8936.

* Envirun 5K, Goat Island in Niagara Falls, 10:30 a.m. Saturday, 858-7897. It's always fun to run around by the Falls.

* Feel the Spirit 5K, 921 Cleveland Dr. in Cheektowaga, 11 a.m. Saturday, 380-0231. There are more turns on this course than any other 5K in Western New York, I think. At least there's plenty of food and drink if you are dizzy after the run is over.

* UB Run for Smiles, Putnam Way at UB's North Campus, 9:30 a.m. Sunday, 440-0365. It's put on by the Dental School at UB.

* Friends of Night People Run Against Hunger, 320 Porter Ave. in Buffalo, 10 a.m. Sunday, 884-5375. This race is collecting old t-shirts from runners. It's a great idea.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Robyn Regehr

     (Born April 19, 1980) -- Robyn Regehr's name first became familiar to Buffalo Sabres' fans in the summer of 1998. The team has just hired Darcy Regier as its general manager. Fans asked the obvious question then: Would Regier draft Regehr?

     No, he didn't. But the fate of the two men eventually became intertwined.

     Regehr was born in Brazil, the parents of missionaries. Then it was on to Indonesia before they finally returned to Saskatchewan when Robyn was seven.

     It took a little time for Regehr to pick up the game of hockey, but once he did he was pretty good at it. In fact, Colorado selected him with its first-round choice, 19th overall, in the 1998 Entry Draft. The Avalanche later traded him to Calgary.

     Regehr was in an auto accident in 1999, and doctors wondered if he would ever play hockey again. He was in the NHL before the year was out, and the Flames nominated him for the Bill Masterton Trophy.

     Regehr stayed with Calgary until the summer of 2011. The Flames were having trouble with the salary cap, and they asked the defenseman to waive a no-trade clause. After meeting with Sabres' owner Terry Pegula, Regehr did exactly that and came to Buffalo in a deal involving Chris Butler.

--- Budd Bailey

Bandits notebook: New talent arrives

When I walked into the First Niagara Center Tuesday night for a Bandits practice at 6:30 p.m., I saw Anthony Cosmo going in the other direction. Odd, I thought, since practice started at 7.

Not so odd. He was off to the Toronto area to see the birth of Spencer Anthony Cosmo, who arrived at 10:47 p.m. Spencer was 8 pounds, 11 ounces. Sounds like a defender to me. Everyone said to be doing fine, according to Twitter.

While that was the good news from practice, there was some bad news. Mike Thompson is still hurting from his collision in the crease against Edmonton, and may not be ready to play for the rest of the regular season. Darryl Gibson also is questionable because of an injury suffered in that game. Steve Priolo is said to have mono and probably is done for the season. And Brandon Francis may be looking at game misconducts and automatic suspensions from last week; we'll know about that on Thursday.

Tracey Kelusky at least practiced on Tuesday, while Billy Dee Smith sat out the workout but should be OK for the weekend.

Are you getting the idea that the Bandits have some manpower issues? Good.

The obvious issue is in goal. Coach Darris Kilgour said that if Thompson can't be a backup goalie, he'd like to bring up Angus Goodleaf from the practice squad to serve that role. But ... he might have to release someone on the active roster to make room for him. I'm frankly not sure if a Francis suspension would be a temporary, if odd, solution to that problem. But it sure sounds like the Bandits' defense will be short-handed in Saturday's game in Rochester. And if that's the case, well, Cosmo had better squeeze in some sleep when he can between now and then.

--- Budd Bailey

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