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This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Pete Gogolak

     (Born April 18, 1942) -- We're used to place-kickers lining up at an angle in professional football and kicking the ball "soccer-style."

     Kids, this wasn't always the case.

     Gogolak was born in Budapest, Hungary, and his family came to the United States from there. He went to Cornell University, and took his soccer experience along when he tried out for football. There, he kicked a 41-yard field goal in 1961, thus making kicking history.

     After graduating in 1964, Gogolak joined the Buffalo Bills and quickly earned a spot on the roster. There he made pro football history as its first sidewinder kicker.

     But Gogolak wasn't done making an impact on his new game. After two good years with the Bills, he accepted an offer from the National Football League's New York Giants. The two leagues had never raided each other's players before that, and the signing smashed the gentleman's agreement that was in place. The AFL considered it an act of war, and the battle was on ... briefly.

     Eventually, sanity prevailed and the AFL and NFL merged into one league. Gogolak stayed with the Giants, and became the team's all-time leading scorer. He was placed on the team's Ring of Honor in 2010.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Brad Boyes

     (Born April 17, 1982) -- You'd have to think Brad Boyes knows how to take orders from authority figures. He's been doing it all his life. Boyes grew up in suburban Toronto; his mother was a teacher and his father was a school principal.

     Boyes played hockey and roller hockey growing up, but obviously it's a bit easier to make a living with the game played on ice. The forward played his junior hockey with the Erie Otters, and he was drafted in the first round by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2000.

     Boyes never made it to Toronto as a Maple Leaf. He was traded to San Jose in a deal involving Owen Nolan. Then he went to Boston in a three-way deal that included the Sabres. You might remember Jeff Jillson coming to Buffalo in the transaction while Curtis Brown landed in San Jose.

     Boyes landed in the NHL for keeps in 2005, and had 26 goals and 43 assists for 69 points in his first full season. That put him on the all-rookie team. But he was off to St. Louis for defenseman Dennis Wideman in February, 2007.

     Boyes had 43 goals and 33 goals in his first two full seasons in St. Louis. But he slumped after that, and the Sabres acquired him for a second-round draft choice in Feb. 2011. Boyes has been here since then.

--- Budd Bailey

Bandits notebook: The last word, for now

The official word has come down from the National Lacrosse League: The Rochester Knighthawks are indeed in the playoffs. The league determined that the K-Hawks would finish ahead of Washington and Edmonton in a tiebreaker. It will explain why sometime on Tuesday. Bring your math book; there will be a quiz.

That gives Rochester a little less to play for on Saturday when it plays the Bandits here. The division is so close, though, that every win might prove to have benefits.

So we're down to three teams for two spots. Buffalo can clinch a berth in the postseason this weekend, but can't be eliminated. Then again, the Bandits don't want to play an elimination game a week ahead of schedule when they face the Stealth in Washington on April 28.

--- Budd Bailey

Local Boston Marathon results

Amy Moritz has been busy scanning the results database from the Boston Marathon, and she's come up with this list. If you know of a missing person, drop us a note at sports@buffnews.com:

Josh Demars, Buffalo, 3:00:58
Scott Simon, Depew, 3:01:45
William Barclay, North Tonawanda, 3:08:08
Laina Bay-Cheng, Buffalo, 3:17:38
Skip Kunecki, North Tonawanda, 3:20:56
John Deangelis, Orchard Park, 3:21:45
Robert Grimm, Orchard Park, 3:28:33
Brian McElroy, Buffalo, 3:29:47
Derek Schunke, Springville, 3:32:43
David Welby, Buffalo, 3:33:43
David Bolen, Gowanda, 3:33:52
Daniel Brooks, Fredonia, 3:36:34
Elizabeth Randell, Buffalo, 3:37:27.
Matthew McGuire, Niagara Falls, 3:37:42
Kate Borowiak, Buffalo, 3:43:30
Jim Figler, Hamburg, 3:45:19
Jennifer Duquin, Williamville, 3:45:31
Heather Patterson, Clarence Center, 3:49:12
Jeffrey Sabatino, Amherst, 3:51:39
Ronald Prabucki, Lockport, 3:51:40
Melina Buck, Buffalo, 3:52:10
John Ende, Kenmore, 3:52:11
Alan Jaenecke, North Tonawanda, 3:53:27
David Robinson, West Falls, 3:53:31.
Jennifer Donato, Fredonia, 3:55:49
Anthony Lopes, Orchard Park, 4:00:23
Christopher Occhino, Buffalo, 4:03:09
Theresa Palmieri, Buffalo, 4:04:03
Tracy Kelly, Silver Creek, 4:06:59.
Beth Stormer, Hamburg, 4:09:22
Carmel Cerullo-Beiter, 4:10:14
David Gallant, Eden, 4:10:52
Jane Wright, Amherst, 4:11:10
Samuel Neal, Holland, 4:11:18
Robert Dimming, Lancaster, 4:11:57
Rosaria Mannino, Fredonia, 4:12:21
Ed Kamela, Lancaster, 4:13:51
Peter Gorlewski, West Seneca, 4:18:59
Carolyn Corgel, Springville, 4:21:44
Megan Crimmins, Olean, 4:25:20
Jordan Thomas, Buffalo, 4:27:16
Gary Thompson, Lockport, 4:28:14
Belinda Stoll, Lockport, 4:31:38
Peter Ziolo, Cheektowaga, 4:32:06
Salvatore Lamastra, Eden, 4:33:14
James McKell, Buffalo, 4:38:13
Patrick Occhino, Buffalo, 4:49:03
Kieran O'Loughlin, Amherst, 4:42:02
Peter Sowiski, Buffalo, 4:48:28
Kathleen Meissner, Amherst, 5:17:01
Charles Sabatino, Amherst, 5:46:42

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Sandy Hawley

     (Born April 16, 1949) -- It's tough to say who was the greatest jockey in Fort Erie's rich history. It's fair to say, though, that Sandy Hawley is at least in the photo.

     Desmond Sanford Hawley started his career at the age of 17 when he started hanging around a Toronto track. Within a couple of years, he was riding in races and winning them.

     Hawley was a frequent visit to the Fort and its winner's circle. He won 230 races in 1969, and then went on to be the top winning jockey in the United States four times in the Seventies. In 1973 he became the first jockey to win 500 races in a year.

     The numbers are staggering. Hawley finished with 6,450 wins, including four in the Queen's Plate. He's in the Horse Racing Hall of Fame and Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, among many other honors.

     Hawley even beat skin cancer along the way, overcoming a diagnosis in 1987 that only gave him a few months to live. He now works for Woodbine Entertainment and lives near Toronto.

--- Budd Bailey

Bandits notebook: My bad

I may have jumped the gun in the story today on the Bandits' game last night. May have.

I wrote in the story that Rochester had clinched a spot in the playoffs with a win last night and with a Washington loss. Yes, the Knighthawks have to finish ahead of the Stealth, since they have control of the tiebreaker.

But it's not that easy.

First of all, as I read the rules now, the league doesn't take the standings 1-9 in terms of the playoffs. It goes 1-4 in the East and then 1-5 in the West. From there, the worst team in the East is compared to the worst in the West. The worse team stays home, the better team makes the playoffs.

That could get complicated. For example, Rochester, Buffalo, Edmonton and Washington could all tie at 6-10. Then you'd have to see who finished third in the East. (It would be Buffalo, since it would to beat Rochester and lose to Washington while Rochester was losing to Philly in order for both to get to 6-10. Buffalo would have the tiebreaker, having won two of three over the Knighthawks). Then you'd have to compare Rochester to the fifth-place team in the West. If it's Washington, the Knighthawks would be in. Rochester didn't play Edmonton, so then it would get really, really complicated if those teams finished with the same record. It centers on head-to-head record against common opponents. I'll let the league figure this out.

Closer to home, I think the Bandits could clinch a playoff spot this weekend. If Washington loses Friday and Buffalo wins Saturday, the Stealth would be 4-11 and the Bandits would be 6-9. By the way, under that circumstance, Washington would be out of the playoff picture since it loses a tiebreaker to the now 5-8 Rush. (Edmonton needs one win to clinch a playoff spot.)

But if Washington loses to go to 4-11 and the Bandits lose to go to 5-10, Buffalo would have to finish fourth in the East. Again, the Stealth couldn't catch the Rush, so it would be fifth. Then the last playoff spot would come down to Washington and Buffalo, and those two teams finish the season against each other on April 28.

Finally, Washington still could win its last two games to make it to 6-10. If Edmonton lost its last three to go to 5-11, then the Rush would finish fifth. That would mean the Bandits would have to be 6-10 to finish ahead of Edmonton, since the Rush had the tiebreaker on the Bandits because Saturday's game. And that would mean Buffalo would have to beat Rochester, since we're already counting the Washington game as a loss.

Boiled down -- the Bandits really, really, really don't want to lose Saturday's home game with Rochester. If they do, it could come down to a one-game showdown for the last playoff spot in Washington, almost 3,000 miles away. You don't want to live life like that.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Mahdi Abdul-Rahman

     (Born April 15, 1942) -- Mahdi Abdul-Rahman, or Walt Hazzard, might have spent the least important time of his basketball career in Buffalo.

     Hazzard came out of Philadelphia to play with UCLA. He became part of John Wooden's first two championship teams in 1964 and 1965, and the Bruins started on their unmatched dynasty. Hazzard and Gail Goodrich were one of the greatest backcourts in NCAA history.

     Hazzard moved on to the pros as a first-round draft choice of the Los Angeles Lakers. He eventually bounced to the Seattle SuperSonics and Atlanta Hawks. In 1971, it became pretty obvious that having Hazzard and Pete Maravich was one point guard too many for the Hawks. It was also obvious which one was the bigger gate attraction, and which one should be traded.

     The Braves dealt Don May and Herm Gilliam to the Hawks for Hazzard and Jerry Chambers, who played only 26 games here before leaving for the American Basketball Association. While in training camp Hazzard announced that he had changed his name to Abdul-Rahman. As a Brave, he averaged 15.8 points per game in 1971-72.

    However, Abdul-Rahman's career turned sour from there. He was waived by the Braves after a poor start to the 1972-73 season and was out of basketball less than two years later.

     In 1984, Abdul-Rahman -- who returned to the name of Hazzard professionally because he thought his Muslim name cost him job opportunities -- became the head basketball coach at UCLA. He lasted four years, making one NCAA tournament. Hazzard died in 2012.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Tyler Thigpen

     (Born April 14, 1984) -- Backup quarterbacks can be anonymous until they get an extended chance at playing time. That hasn't happened in Buffalo for Tyler Thigpen yet, but he's probably used to it.

     Start with the fact that he was born in Winnsboro, South Carolina, a town of about 3,500 people. He was an all-state selection in high school football ... as a running back.

     Rather than go to a school with something of a history, Thigpen landed at Coastal Carolina University. He's remembered there as the first quarterback in Chanticleers history, as well as the best quarterback the school ever had. In four years he threw for 6,598 yards and 53 touchdowns. Thigpen was the Big South Conference player of the year as a senior in 2006.

     Thigpen was drafted by the Vikings in the seventh round, thus becoming the first Big South player to be selected by the NFL. When he was cut, the Chiefs stepped in and claimed Thigpen on waivers. Thigpen started 11 games for the Chiefs in 2008, completing 54.8 percent of his passes and throwing 18 touchdown passes. Chan Gailey was the offensive coordinator then.

     Thigpen lost his starting job when Matt Cassel was acquired by the Chiefs from New England in 2009, and Thigpen was traded to the Dolphins that year. He saw backup duty with Miami for almost two years. Then as a free agent, he jumped to the Bills in July, 2011.

     Thigpen only threw eight passes as a Bill in 2011. We'll see what sort of role he plays in the future.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Weekend Derby preps at Oaklawn, Keeneland

By Gene Kershner

The Road to the Kentucky Derby series goes through Hot Springs, Ark. and Lexington, Ky. on Saturday afternoon (CNBC, 6:00 p.m.) when two major Derby prep races will be featured in a one hour telecast. The $1 million Arkansas Derby and the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes take over the spotlight on this weekend’s Derby Trail.

The Grade 1 Arkansas Derby will be run at Oaklawn Park on Saturday afternoon as the signature race of the Oaklawn meeting and has attracted 11 entrants looking to punch their ticket for the Kentucky Derby. Leading race contenders include Grade 2 Rebel Stakes winner Secret Circle (5-2), runner-up Optimizer (6-1) and the talented Bodemeister (9-5).

Bob Baffert trains two of the three aforementioned colts, will already have Secret Circle in the gate in Louisville, but will need a victory from Bodemeister for him to have a shot at the roses. Secret Circle, the first ever winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint race last November at Churchill, just keeps on winning and Baffert keeps stretching him out since his sprint victory last fall. Rafael Bejarano will be in the irons trying to win for the sixth time in seven tries aboard Secret Circle.

Bodemeister ran a competitive second to West Coast sensation Creative Cause in the Grade 2 San Felipe and will take plenty of the public’s money at the windows. Anything short of a victory however, will keep him out of the Derby. The Empire Maker colt has only three career races but is starting to mature into a solid race horse. Baffert takes the blinkers off and Mike Smith, who rode his 5,000th career winner last weekend, gains the mount.

Hall of Fame trainer and four-time winner of the Kentucky Derby, D. Wayne Lukas, is hoping his late closing colt out of English Channel continues to move forward off his second place effort in the Rebel. Optimizer had struggled in a decent effort in a fall race at Keeneland in his third career start, missing the board in four straight races before his placing in the Rebel at 28-1. He has an excellent pedigree for the classic distance (A.P. Indy is his dam sire) and could be a sleeper pick in the Derby if he garners enough earnings to make the gate. He currently sits in 26th place on the graded earnings list and will need to hit the board to have a shot at qualifying.

Other notables in the Arkansas Derby are Delta Jackpot winner Sabercat (15-1, currently 9th on the list) and Sunland Derby runner-up Isn’t He Clever (6-1, currently 25th on the list) who also needs to hit the board.

We’ll box the two Baffert horses in an exacta and also play both over Optimizer and Isn’t He Clever, who I think is ready to produce a big effort.

Shifting our focus to Lexington and the beautiful Keeneland Race Course, the Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes will highlight the spring meeting. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion and the horse currently sitting atop the graded stakes standings, Hansen (6-5), will take on 11 challengers in the 1 1/8-mile race. Coming off a big win in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, he shipped back to Kentucky to run on the polytrack at Keeneland instead of last weekend’s Wood Memorial at the Big A.

Dr. Kendall Hansen is amped to see his horse run on the poly again. “It's exciting when your horse has won his two poly track races by 12 and 13 lengths. You know, I hope he can have a lot of fun on it Saturday, you know, without throwing out his biggest race. But I'm really shocked to see how tough the Blue Grass is coming up. There's some great competition in there, and he's going to have to run well—he—just to win the race. And, of course, we don't have to win the race, but it sure would be nice to see him win by daylight, and then have plenty left at the end,” Dr. Hansen told the media on Tuesday afternoon.

Hansen’s biggest obstacles will come from Dullahan (6-1), who won at Keeneland last fall in the Breeders’ Futurity coming from behind to beat a field that included the aforementioned Optimizer. He will attempt to make the Derby a la Paddy O’Prado’s same route in 2010 via the Palm Beach Stakes on turf at Gulfstream followed by the Blue Grass. O’Prado finished third in that Derby two years ago.

Eccentric Russian trainer Gennadi Dorochenko entered 109-1 Louisiana Derby winner Hero of Order (12-1) off two weeks rest. Unfortunately the colt was never Triple Crown nominated and will not run in the Derby.

Another interesting entrant who could make some noise is Howe Great (6-1), who has won four straight races (three on the turf) and defeated Dullahan in the Palm Beach last month. The Hat Trick colt is aptly named after hockey great Gordie Howe and most likely needs to win to earn a Derby gate. Javier Castellano has the mount aboard Howe Great for the first time.

Tampa Bay Derby winner with the Woodbine connections, Prospective (10-1), will also look to put up a decent effort to prepare for the Run for the Roses. Luis Contreras rides the Malibu Moon colt for Toronto-based trainer Mark Casse.

The Blue Grass has been a race that has produced long shot winners in the past, this year could be no different. I’m leaning towards Howe Great, as Castellano has ridden several horses in the race and decided to ride for Graham Motion, so we’ll look to use him to key most of our plays.

Good luck and enjoy this weekend’s Derby trail races.

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: Ted Washington

     (Born April 13, 1968) -- Two rules came into play concerning Ted Washington: You didn't try to run up the middle against him, and you didn't have him over for dinner when he missed lunch.

     Washington was the massive nose tackle who might have been one of the best players the Bills have ever had at the position. They caught him right in the prime of his career, too.

     Washington grew up in Tampa and was a state wrestling champion in the unlimited division in high school. From there it was on to college, where he was a defensive lineman at Louisville.

     He spent his first three years with San Francisco, which took him in the first round of the NFL draft. Washington had trouble cracking the lineup but played on some good 49er teams. He was traded to Denver for the 1994 season.

     Buffalo signed him as a free agent in 1995, and he was a great fit next to Bruce Smith on the Bills' defensive line. Washington made two Pro Bowls as he became a Bills' fixture through 2000.

     Washington then bounced to the Bears, to the Patriots (where he won a Super Bowl), to the Raiders, and to the Browns. He weighed 375 pounds in his final season of 2007.

--- 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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