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This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Richie Dunn

     (Born May 12, 1957) -- The career of Richie Dunn could be split into two distinct sections. He's wasn't a bad hockey player in either of the portions of his career.

     Dunn, who was born in Boston, arrived in Buffalo as a defenseman during the 1977-78 season. He worked his way up to regular duty in 1979-80, when he played all 80 games for a Sabre team that reached the semifinals of the playoffs. Dunn kept his spot for two more years.

     Then the Sabres made a major trade with Calgary, sending Dunn and goalie Don Edwards to the Flames for three draft choices. But the defenseman only stayed for a year out West before he was traded to Hartford. Dunn spent one more season as an NHL regular before he lost his job and spent most of 1984-85 in the minors.

     Dunn became a free agent in the summer of 1985, and signed with the Sabres. Regular duty wasn't in his future, but he still had a use to the team. Every NHL squad likes to have a veteran around who can come up from the minors and fill in when someone gets hurt.

     That was Dunn. He did it so well that he served the Sabres from 1985 to 1989. Dunn also played one more year with Rochester before retiring.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Buffalo top TV market for Kentucky Derby

By Gene Kershner

The 2012 Kentucky Derby television ratings showed that overall viewership was up by 2 percent from last year’s ratings by drawing close to 14.8 million viewers. The Buffalo market was admirably represented as the No. 4 market nationally with a 13.4 rating and a 26 share nationally.

Trailing only Louisville, nearby Cincinnati and Fort Myers in the national ratings, Buffalo proved that it has its share of horse racing fanatics and horseplayers who tune in for the big event. In the past, Buffalo has always proved to be a tremendous racing market showing up in the top ten for Triple Crown races over the past decade. This Saturday’s results however were the highest that our fair city has climbed in recent memory.

While I was at the Derby this weekend, I received numerous emails and text messages telling me that the local Western New York OTB’s were packed to the gills, lines were long and betting on the Derby was in high gear.

 I received an email from the vice president in charge of Breeders’ Cup media alerting me to the numbers and he was very impressed with Buffalo’s showing in the ratings.  Below are the ratings by city for this year’s Derby:

Top metered markets for 2012 Kentucky Derby (Rank City Rating/share)

1. Louisville 31.7/59 2. Cincinnati 18.3/37 3. Ft. Myers 17.0/31 T4. Buffalo 13.4/27 T4. Hartford 13.4/26 T4. West Palm Beach 13.4/24 7. Columbus 13.3/27 8. Knoxville 13.0/24 9. St. Louis 13.1/28 10. Boston 12.8/31 11. Indianapolis 12.2/25 12. Tampa 12.1/26 13. Orlando 11.7/26 14. Baltimore 11.1/24 15. Richmond 11.0/21 T16. Pittsburgh 10.9/25 T16. Greensboro 10.9/21 18. Milwaukee 10.7/22 T19. New York 10.4/23 T19. Nashville 10.4/20 T19. Providence 10.4/21 T19. Dayton 10.4/21

Source: Thoroughbred Times

It’s impressive that we ranked higher than cities such as Baltimore (holds next weekend’s Preakness and the second jewel), New York (holds the final jewel, the Belmont Stakes), and cities with prominent tracks like Los Angeles (Santa Anita, Hollywood Park), Chicago (Arlington, Hawthorne) and Miami (Gulfstream, Calder) don’t even show up on the ratings listing. It goes to show that Buffalo loves its horse racing,

Preakness Notes

The Lumber Guy (4-1), decided to pass on the Preakness and will run in the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes, a prep race for the Belmont Stakes, instead.  He will take on Mark Valeski (5-2), who passed on the Derby to run in the Peter Pan, in a highly competitive race that has drawn 12 colts that will travel 1 1/8-miles over Big Sandy at Belmont Park.

 I’ll Have Another shipped directly from the Derby to Pimlico Race Course the day after the Derby. After three days of walking on the track, he took his first spin around the Baltimore oval. “He got over the ground really well, his ears were pricked and he was full of energy,” assistant trainer Doug Sisterson said. The O’Neill team felt that its colt had come out of the Derby in terrific shape and has been watching him for any signs of fatigue. He passed another test Wednesday. “His energy level is fantastic, something that we want to see his first time back on the track,” Sisterson said. “You wouldn’t want to see him with his head down going along there.”

 - Bodemeister and Liaison worked out at Churchill Downs on Wednesday and await the arrival of trainer Bob Baffert over the weekend wherein he will make a decision whether to send either or both to Baltimore for the Preakness.

- The $300,000 Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes and $300,000 Grade 3 Pimlico Special will headline the May 18 (Friday) card that features six other stakes races. Twenty-nine three-year-old fillies were nominated to the Black-Eyed Susan, including likely favorite Mamma Kimbo. Thirty-four runners were nominated to the Pimlico Special, including expected starters Alternation, Cease, Eighttofasttocatch, Toby’s Corner and Yawanna Twist.

 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: Billy Inglis

     (Born May 11, 1943) -- When the history of the Buffalo Sabres is written, Billy Inglis pops up twice. One of his contributions was trivial, one was significant.

     Inglis played junior hockey with the Montreal Jr. Canadiens, and worked his way through minor league hockey for a few years. Then in 1967, the National Hockey League doubled in size, and Inglis found himself in the big leagues. He played 22 games with the Los Angeles Kings.

     Inglis became a Sabre in 1970, the team's first season, and turned up in training camp. The center scored in Buffalo's very first preseason game, and took the ice at the start of the Sabres' first game.

     Inglis had one assist in 14 games as a Sabre, and then returned to the minor leagues for several years. Then he became a coach in 1978, and in a bizarre series of events he became Buffalo's head coach when Marcel Pronovost was fired. He led the Sabres to a 28-18-10 record the rest of the way, as the team relaxed after a nervous start.

     But Buffalo lost in a best-of-three series to Pittsburgh in the first round of the playoffs, and the popular Inglis lost his head coaching job. Scott Bowman was hired for the jobs of general manager and coach; Inglis coached in the International Hockey League for several years.

--- Budd Bailey

Running notebook: 13.1 miles of running

The Grand Island half-marathon was held last weekend, and a couple of local veterans were the winners. Jim Park came home first in 1:19:48, while Jennifer Koeppel-Acker finished in 1:25:11.

We have three events done in the News runner of the year series. Chris Walters and Koeppel-Acker have taken the lead. Check out the standings from buffalorunners.com.

It's the busy season for races, as the Saturday schedule is crowded. In fact, one race was postponed because there was just too much competition. Sometimes it pays to look at the calendar; there were no 5K races around town last Saturday morning.

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

* Crouse 5K Challenge, 100 Legion Dr. in Gowanda, 6:30 p.m. Friday, 860-8782.

* Moving Towards a Cure 5K, Delaware Park in Buffalo, 9 a.m. Saturday, (727) 781-4673.

* Holland Tulip Festival 5K, Holland Speedway, 9 a.m. Saturday, 537-2264. Who wouldn't want to finish on a race track?

* Nancy Price Memorial 5K, Veterans Park in Youngstown, 10 a.m. Saturday.

* Heritage Centers Foundation 5K, 101 Oak St. in Buffalo, 10 a.m. Saturday, 856-4202 x1228.

* DeSales Race for Fitness 5K, 6914 Chestnut Ridge Road in Lockport, 10 a.m. Saturday, 438-2014.

* The Elephant Run, 4 miles, Delaware Park (Marcy Casino) in Buffalo, 9:30 a.m. in Buffalo, 836-7045.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Randy Cunneyworth

     (Born May 10, 1961) -- Randy Cunneyworth keeps coming back to Western New York ... for one reason or another.

     The forward played junior hockey in Ottawa and was an eighth-round draft choice by the Sabres in 1980. He spent most of the next four years with the Sabres' farm team in Rochester, although he did play 20 games with the Sabres in 1981-82.

     His stay in Western New York ended with a 1985 trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins that brought Pat Hughes to Buffalo. Cunneyworth found a home with the Penguins, scoring 35 goals in the 1987-88 season.

     The left winger bounced to Winnipeg from there, and then journeyed through Hartford, Chicago and Ottawa. Finally, in 1998-99, he landed back in Buffalo. Cunneyworth played his last game in the NHL in Game Six of the NHL finals.

     After a year as a player/coach in Rochester, Cunneyworth was a head coach of the Amerks for eight years. That landed him an assistant coach's spot with Atlanta for two years.

     This year, after starting in the minors, Cunneyworth was promoted to head coach of the Montreal Canadiens. In that role, he returned to Buffalo a few times as a visitor.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Calvin Murphy

     (Born May 9, 1948) -- Calvin Murphy used to pack in the crowds when he was a junior high basketball player while growing up in Connecticut. It was no surprise, then, that he kept doing that throughout his career.

     Murphy was an All-American in high school; he was so good that the high school is 23 Calvin Murphy Road. From there it was on to Niagara University. That may surprise people who don't remember the 1960's, when the top colleges didn't gobble up every major prospect.

     It didn't take long for the 5-foot-9 guard to become the greatest player in Niagara history. He came along at the same time as LSU's Pete Maravich, and they brought individual scoring to unprecedented levels. Murphy averaged 33.1 points per game for the Purple Eagles.

     Along the way, Murphy gained fame for another hobby -- baton twirling. He had won a national championship at it at eighth grade, and carried his baton to Western New York. He twirled during Bills' game at War Memorial Stadium.

     Murphy finished at Niagara in 1970, and the Buffalo Braves passed him up in the first round of the draft in favor of John Hummer. That one didn't work out. He averaged 18 points per game during a very good NBA career.

     Murphy did some television work for the Houston Rockets after retirement. He was picked for the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Dan Brouthers

     (Born May 8, 1858) -- Imagine what it would be like to have someone called the Mickey Mantle of his era playing baseball for years right here in Buffalo. As it turns out, it happened ... but not recently.

     Dan Brouthers, who was born in Sylvan Lake, was a baseball player starting in childhood, no small task considering the game was just becoming popular. He was on a semipro team at the age of 19 when he collided with a catcher, who suffered a head injury and later died. Brouthers was cleared of responsibility.

     The first baseman, who was big for his time at 6-foot-2, was signed by the Bisons of the National League in 1881, and it was here that he became a star. Brouthers won two batting titles in Buffalo, led the league in slugging percentage, and set an all-time record for runs batted in with 97 in 1883. He broke his own record the next year with 102 in 1884.

     Buffalo's ownership had severe financial problems in 1885, and ended up selling the entire roster to Detroit. He passed through a number of teams after that, including two Boston franchises, Brooklyn, Baltimore, Louisville, Philadelphia and the New York Giants. He more or less hit for all of them.

     Brouthers finished with a .342 career batting average, in the top 10 all-time in major league history. He died of a heart attack at the age of 74.

     Historians ranked him as the sixth-greatest baseball player of the 19th century. Small wonder, then, that he went into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1945.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Tim Connolly

     (Born May 7, 1981) -- The number might surprise you -- Tim Connolly spent 10 seasons as a member of the Buffalo Sabres.

     The center was born outside of Syracuse and played junior hockey in Erie. His strong play there earned him a spot in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft, as the New York Islanders took him fifth overall.

     Connolly made a good impression right away, which is unusual for an 18-year-old. He had 34 points as a rookie, and 41 points as a second-year player. His future was considered very bright by most hockey experts.

     The Sabres thought so too. They traded Michael Peca to the Islanders for Connolly and Taylor Pyatt. After two seasons in which Connolly missed a total of two games, injuries started to become the biggest obstacle to his success. He missed all of the 2003-04 season because of a concussion, and never played in as many as 74 games again as a Sabre.

     Connolly re-signed with Buffalo for two years in 2009, and then left as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs. By the way, when Connolly left Buffalo he had a reputation for not producing in the postseason. For the record, he was averaging .629 points per game in the regular season, and .638 points per game in the playoffs.

--- Budd Bailey

Bandits notebook: Class act

A quick point here to wrap up Saturday's Bandits' game with the Toronto Rock:

The media isn't allowed into the locker rooms after Bandits' games. We request players to come out into the hallway for interviews; most times they do, some times they don't.

Saturday night, coach Darris Kilgour addressed the reporters, followed by Anthony Cosmo and Chris White. Then out came Tracey Kelusky.

It was Kelusky who was in the crease at the end of the game Saturday, thus wiping out the tying goal by John Tavares. It capped what was a frustrating night and season for the future National Lacrosse League Hall of Famer.

Kelusky has rarely displayed in Buffalo the form he showed while playing for many years in Calgary. His scoring has been down here, and he has gone public in expressing his disappointment with his play. Then on Saturday, after scoring the first goal of the game, Kelusky had a variety of good chances to score and couldn't get any of them to go in. Kelusky finished with 12 shots for the game.

In the interview session, Kelusky said he got bumped into the crease and took the blame for the negated goal. I asked him about the fact that he had a great night in creating chances in the game, and wondered if he'd be staring at the ceiling at bedtime. He said he would indeed be pounding his pillow. Kelusky answered all the questions asked of him, and headed back to the locker room.

I don't know what the future holds for Kelusky. He has a history of concussions, including one taken a few weeks ago here. The Bandits are likely to have plenty of changes after a disappointing season. And he is 36 years old, turning 37 in the fall.

If this is it for Kelusky in Buffalo, our last image of him will be a memorable one. He took responsibility for his actions, and acted like a true professional. There's a lot to be said for that.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Tom Cousineau

     (Born May 6, 1957) -- Four players have been taken first overall in the National Football League draft by the Bills. Tom Cousineau is the one that never played a down in a Buffalo uniform.

     Cousineau was born and raised in Ohio, and attended Ohio State University. There he became an All-American linebacker under coach Woody Hayes, and was the most valuable player of the Orange Bowl. The pro scouts liked him ... a lot.

     The Bills had the first pick in 1979 due to a trade with San Francisco involving O.J. Simpson, another of the first overall choices. Buffalo grabbed Cousineau as part of the rebuilding plan of Chuck Knox. But Cousineau got away, choosing instead to sign with Montreal of the Canadian Football League. The Alouettes offered twice as much money as the Bills did originally.

     Cousineau headed north of the border through 1981, and decided he wanted to try his luck in the NFL. The Bills swapped his rights to the Cleveland Browns for a first-round choice, which was used to select Jim Kelly eventually.

     Cousineau led Cleveland in tackles three times but never made the Pro Bowl. Then he landed in San Francisco at a backup, retiring in 1987.

--- Budd Bailey

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