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This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Dean Cain

(Born July 31, 1966) -- How often do we get to have "Superman" in this column? This is such a day. And yes, he belongs here in a slightly silly way.

Cain grew up in California, and was a classmate of Charlie Sheen at Santa Monica High School. It was on to Princeton from there, where he played free safety on the football team. Cain even made 12 interceptions in one season for the Tigers. By the way, he also dated Brooke Shields while at the Ivy League school.

Cain really wasn’t an NFL prospect, but in 1988 the Bills needed an extra safety during training camp. Cain accepted the invitation to participate, so he was on a Buffalo sports roster for a while. He promptly injured his knee and his pro football hopes died relatively quickly.

Cain rebounded rather well. He first went into screenwriting and then into acting. In 1993, Cain landed the role of Superman in the television series, "Lois and Clark." The show ran for four seasons.

He’s still taking acting roles almost 20 years later, even if he isn’t faster than a speeding bullet any more.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Frank Pytlak

(Born July 30, 1908) -- It’s never easy for baseball players to make the major leagues. The spring weather isn’t exactly working in their favor in terms of playing conditions. So when someone such as Frank Pytlak makes it, we celebrate their careers.

Pytlak was born in Buffalo and first played for the Bisons at the age of 19. He spent the rest of the 1929 season in Hagerstown and the 1930 season in Erie. Then the catcher returned to Buffalo in 1931 and hit .306.

Pytlak landed in Cleveland in 1932 for only for a short time, spending most of the year in Toledo. But the Indians had use for him starting in 1933, and he became a starter in 1937. Pytlak was behind the plate when Bob Feller struck out 18 batters in a game in 1938.

The catcher set a major league record for chances without an error from 1938 to 1940 (571). He moved on to Boston in 1941, when World War II got in the way. He spent most of the war at a recruiting station in Buffalo.

He died in Millard Fillmore Hospital in 1977, and is buried at St. Stanislaus Cemetery.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Gary Marangi

(Born July 29, 1952) -- Pro football teams go through all sorts of backup quarterbacks over the years. Sometimes they are very popular, particularly when the starter is having trouble. Sometimes they are close to anonymous and merely a clipboard carrier.

Gary Marangi filled that role with the Buffalo Bills. He played for Boston College before turning pro. He completed better than 50 percent of his passes for the Eagles from 1971 to 1973. B.C. went 20-13 during his time there, but Marangi never participated in a bowl game.

His play was good enough to get him drafted by the Bills in the third round. He landed as the backup to Joe Ferguson, who was only a year into his career in 1974. Marangi only threw 18 passes in three games that season as Ferguson led the Bills to the playoffs.

It was more of the same in 1975, as Marangi saw limited action again for a good Bills’ team. Buffalo fell apart in 1976, and an injury to Ferguson was part of the problem. Marangi was forced into duty for seven starts, and the Bills lost every one of them. And that was it for his career.

Marangi at last report worked for a high school on Long Island. He supposedly does a little coaching for the football team as well.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Hap Myers

(Born July 28, 1947) -- The first players of a pro sports expansion franchise always carry a little charm. The team usually isn’t good, filled with players who weren’t quite good enough to make a large impact on the old teams. And they usually aren’t good enough to hang around their new team for long.

When your first name is "Hap," you have an extra portion of charm.

Hap Myers was part of the Buffalo Sabres’ first season in 1970-71. He started his hockey career in the junior ranks in Edmonton, playing for the Oil Kings for several seasons.

Then it was on to the pros. The defenseman spent one year in Fort Worth and one year in Cleveland. Then the NHL expanded in the summer of 1970, and the Sabres claimed him in the reverse draft.

Myers only lasted 13 games with the Sabres in that first year. It would have been nice if he had a goal or an assist, but his only stats were six penalty minutes and a minus-11 rating. Then he was released and he landed in Salt Lake City. Myers spent the final three years of his career played for Buffalo’s farm team in Cincinnati.

Harold, we still remember you.

--- Budd Bailey

Bandits Notebook: Wheeling and Dealing

It was quite a day for trades in the National Lacrosse League on Friday, and the Buffalo Bandits were right in the middle of it. Let's have a recap to sort these matters out.

The fun started when Edmonton shipped Shawn Williams, its leading scorer, to Minnesota for a pair of second-round draft choices in 2013. The Rush also sent Paul Rabil to Rochester for Jarrett Davis.

Then came the big deal. The Bandits gave up their first-round pick, the third overall in 2012, to Minnesota. In return the Swarm gave up Williams, defender Brendon Doran, a first-rounder in 2012 (the fifth overall), and two second-rounders (#14 and #18) in 2012. If you are counting, that's a five-for-one transaction.

That's quite a haul, although circumstances may make this a little easier to understand.

First off, Williams is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent on Wednesday. The Rush made it sound as if they couldn't re-sign him, and were happy to get some picks for a player who has scored more than 1,000 points in his career. Williams had 68 points last year, not bad for a man of 37 years of age at the time. It's interesting that Minnesota gave up two picks for him under the circumstances.

The Swarm obviously gave up a lot to move up two spots in the first round. But think of the big picture -- they now have the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 10th picks in the first round. If you are wondering how Minnesota can have the 10th pick in the first round of a nine-team league, I believe it is a case where a pick was acquired before a team such as Boston dropped out of the league, so it still gets the choice. That is a huge, huge haul in total from one draft. It's easy to believe that second-round picks would have trouble making the Minnesota roster next season, so the team won't miss them too much in 2013.

Still, the Bandits didn't do badly for moving down a couple of spots. They needed some young players badly, and this turns one draft choice into three ... all of them in the top 18 of the draft. So Buffalo will have five picks in the top 18. You'd have to like the chances of the Bandits getting some help there. Williams, a former Bandit, obviously could wait until next week to sign anywhere, so there is some risk there. But new general manager Steve Dietrich talked as if Williams was already signed, and Williams -- according to our friends at IL Indoor -- wanted to come back East. No matter when or how he gets to Buffalo, Williams ought to help if he does sign a contract. As for Doran, maybe Dietrich spotted something when the defenseman played in Toronto in 2010.  

Therefore, the Bandits moved down two spots -- in a draft in which there are said to be two great players and then a drop-off -- for a couple of extra seconds, a young defenseman, and the chance to talk money with a Hall of Famer. And maybe, two of those four second-rounders can be packaged to sneak back up into the first round.

That sounds like a good deal for Buffalo under its circumstances, but I can't argue with what Minnesota did either. Stars usually are taken with the first few picks in a draft, and the Swarm have a great chance to add to an excellent young base led by last year's first rounders Jordan MacIntosh and Evan Kirk. It's easy to like their situation entering the draft as well -- even if it's easy to wonder if they had to do all that to move up two spots.

As for Rabil, he was never going to play out West so at least the Rush get Davis, a helpful player, for him. It's good to have Rabil, an exciting, athletic player, in the league.

Why do I have the feeling the Bandits aren't done yet? Hmmm.

--- Budd Bailey

Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame dinner Oct. 17

  Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame president Therese Forton has announced the date for the 22nd annual induction ceremony. This year’s event will be held Oct. 17 at the Hyatt Regency Ballroom in downtown Buffalo. Cocktails will be served at 5:30 pm, dinner promptly at 7 p.m. and the induction ceremony will start at 8 p.m. Cost for the event is $85 per person, or $750 for a table of 10.

  “Receiving induction that evening will be former St. Bonaventure basketball star George Carter; Buffalo Bills linebacking great Harry Jacobs; Sabres broadcasting legend Rick Jeanneret; local amateur sports star Kim Kaul; Niagara County Community College wrestling coach of 38 years, Eric Knuutila; highly regarded tennis coach, Todd Miller; former Nichols hockey coach Frank Sacheli; St. Joe’s Collegiate football coach and athletic director, Joe Wolf; and brothers Craig and Ron Wolfley, who both starred in the NFL. Entering posthumously are former U/Buffalo softball coach and administrator Nan Harvey, former major league baseball players Wally Schang and Stan Rojek and boxer Lou Scozza. The 14 inductees will bring the total number of local sports legends in the GBSHOF to 254.

For information on tickets, please contact Tina Pastwick at 716-693-3807, or visit the hall of fame’s web site at www.gbshof.com. Melissa Gearhart will, once again, serve as the event chair.

For additional information, call 716-888-2977 or e-mail John Maddock at: [email protected].

Post Time: East Coast hosts sophomores in big weekend races

By Gene Kershner

OCEANPORT, N.J. -- Starting this afternoon at Saratoga, three days of big 3-year-old races on the East Coast will kick off a huge summer racing weekend. While the 3-year-old ranks have taken some hits with the year ending injuries by classic winners I’ll Have Another and Union Rags, and a fever-ridden Bodemeister, this weekend’s races will give several horses the opportunity to step forward.

The weekend of sophomore racing commences with the $100,000 Curlin Stakes at Saratoga, with eight 3-year-olds vying to step forward. This non-graded stakes race has produced some brilliant winners in the past three years, including Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic champ Blame (2009) and Grade 1 United Nations winner Turbo Compressor (2011).

The morning line favorite is Street Life (5-2) who is a deep closing type that finished fourth in the Belmont Stakes. He seems to me to be a horse who needs the right pace scenario to win, so we’ll try and beat him. Two horses I favor and will be playing in the top two spots are Easter Gift (7-2), a lightly raced Nick Zito-trained colt and Politicallycorrect (8-1), who draws Joel Rosario for the race. Politicallycorrect has also cross-entered in Sunday’s Grade 2 Amsterdam, so there is a chance he may scratch out of this race.

Easter Gift finished second behind Le Bernardin in the Grade 3 Pegasus and looks to step up and be a contender in the division. Politicallycorrect had Rosario in the irons when he ran second to Belmont Stakes show horse Atigun at Churchill on Derby day. I think he has faced solid competition all year long and this seems to be the right spot for him as a long shot possibility.

Saturday’s Spa card is highlighted by the $600,000 Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes, the traditional prep race for the $1 million Grade 1 Travers Stakes. The field has drawn three horses that ran in the Kentucky Derby, the favorite Alpha (5-2), third choice Liaison (7-2) and Ohio Derby winner Prospective (8-1).

Alpha returns after pulling out of the Belmont Stakes late that week with a fever and assumes the favorite role for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin who won the meet’s first Grade 1 last weekend with Questing. He’ll tackle the 1 1/8-mile track where he broke his maiden last September and will have the red-hot Ramon Dominguez aboard.

Liaison ships in for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and is winless in six graded stakes starts this year, the last two as a beaten favorite.

I am favoring Teeth of the Dog (5-1) who has won his last two races, the Easy Goer, on the Belmont Stakes undercard and the Grade 2 Dwyer. He looks ready to step forward and I’m hoping his odds stay at or above his morning line. Trainer Michael Matz also is bullish on the Bluegrass Cat colt that will be ridden by the talented Rosario. “His last two races were good, more so being that in one of then he was on the pace and in the other he came from behind,” said Matz of Teeth of the Dog. “We’ve asked a lot of him this year, and he’s handled himself pretty well. One of the great things about this horse is that he’s got a big heart and will give us his all. We’ll wait and see if he can propel himself into the Travers.”

I like Atigun (8-1) to complete the exacta, coming off an impressive performance in the Belmont Stakes for trainer Kenny McPeek. He has a bullet workout on July 22 and looks to have come out of the grueling Belmont in great shape.  One horse that will be taking a lot of dough at the windows that I will be tossing is Neck n’ Neck who has two big speed figures out of his last two races. I feel he is a bounce candidate and with a jockey who is relatively inexperienced at the Spa, I’ll stick with Alpha and Fast Falcon to pick up the final spots in the trifecta and superfecta.

I will be at the biggest race of the weekend at Monmouth Park in New Jersey on Sunday afternoon, the $1 million Grade 1 Haskell Invitational which has a small, but star-studded field of six horses including Gemologist, Paynter and Dullahan. It will be my first trip to the track at the Jersey Shore since the Breeders’ Cup which was engulfed by monsoon-like weather in October 2007. My last Haskell in person was the 2006 edition, won by Bluegrass Cat, who was the runner-up in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes that year.

The cast of trainers is also impressive in this short field that includes two Hall of Famers (Hollendorfer and Baffert), a trainer that has won this race twice and has nearly 3,100 career wins (Pletcher) and this year’s Kentucky Derby/Preakness winning trainer (O’Neill).

Pletcher will try to win his third Haskell Invitational with Gemologist, who returns after a disappointing effort in the Kentucky Derby. The Wood Memorial winner will look to rebound after his only loss in six starts. Javier Castellano will come down from Saratoga to ride him for the seventh straight time.

Paynter, who led nearly gate-to-wire in the Belmont, will return at the shorter distance as a big win threat in this short field. Bob Baffert has him pointed at the Travers should he come out the race in good form. Rafael Bejarano ships in for his first ride on the talented colt who has worked lights out since the Belmont. Baffert has won a record five Haskell Invitational’s in his career and will be looking for his third in a row (Lookin at Lucky, Coil).

Dale Romans will give Dullahan another shot on the dirt after his dismal performance at the Belmont. Castellano rode him in the third leg of the Triple Crown, but Kent Desormeaux will regain the mount with Javy riding Gemologist.

The other three horses entered are Nonios, a California shipper who finished second in the grade 2 Swaps; Handsome Mike, who has the same connections as I’ll Have Another; and Stealcase, a Lawyer Ron colt who is stepping up in class here.

It’s hard to see any of these three to challenge the big three horses, although Nonios could break into the trifecta. 

Post Time Outlook (Haskell): 1 – Gemologist; 2 – Paynter; 3 – Dullahan; 4 - Nonios

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: Reggie McKenzie

(Born July 27, 1950) -- Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler once recalled that Reggie McKenzie was a "tall, gangly kid" when he showed up for his sophomore season in 1969. McKenzie filled up nicely from there, and so did his resume of football success.

The offensive lineman had an outstanding career with the Wolverines. He was all-conference as a junior and All-American as a senior. The Buffalo Bills needed help on the offensive line when their turn in the second round came, and McKenzie was an obvious choice.

Waiting for McKenzie in Buffalo was a running back named O.J. Simpson. O.J. had struggled in his early years here, but help was clearly on the way with the arrival of McKenzie and Joe DeLamielleure. Suddenly, the Bills had a good offensive line, and Simpson was free to show his ability.

When O.J. ran for 2,003 yards, McKenzie became the public face of the offensive line. His good humor came across nicely in interviews, and running back and guard became linked. Simpson had two more amazing years in 1974 and 1975 while at the peak of his career.

McKenzie started every game he ever played for the Bills through 1982. That’s when he was traded to Seattle, where he spent two years before retiring. McKenzie eventually became a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

--- Budd Bailey

Running notebook: Marcia, Marcia, Marcia

We start with an apology.

I did an interview with one of the volunteers for a story last week ... and never thought to ask her for the spelling of her first name. If this isn't rule one of the business, it's in the top 10. So, the next time I interview Marcia Spitler, and not Marsha Spitler, I'll be ready.

Sigh.

The week's running schedule actually started Wednesday with the run at Ronald McDonald House. I heard that they had more than 1,000 runners. However, their volunteer system for the postrace party, etc. has to be about the best in the area. People sail through the food line in record time and are well fed. It's an operation that could be copied by other races. Jeff at Buffalorunners.com should have an update soon on the News Runner of the Year standings if he doesn't already.

It's a funny week, with some fine midweek races coming up and a light schedule on weekend mornings. Here's the rundown from buffalorunners.com:

 * St. John Vianney Kickoff Run, 5K, 2950 Southwestern Blvd. in Orchard Park, 6:30 p.m. tonight, 677-4039.

* NCCC Thunderwolves 5K, 3111 Saunders Settlement Road in Sanborn, 6 p.m. Friday, 614-6231.

* Lake View Field Day 5K, Center St. and Lake View Road in Lake View, 8 a.m. Saturday, 698-4005. I wonder if the 8 a.m. races would be better off waiting an hour if possible to attract the sleepyheads in the audience. Like me.

* East Aurora Rerun, 5K, Firemen's Field in East Aurora, 9 a.m. Saturday, 652-8579.

* Dash 'N Splash Family Fun Run, 2.5 miles, Frontier Middle School in Hamburg, 9 a.m. Saturday.

* St. John the Baptist Midsummer Nite Run, 2.3 miles, Belmont and Highland in the Town of Tonawanda, 7:30 p.m. Satrurday, 862-9604.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Rick Martin

(Born July 26, 1951) -- Rick Martin’s career came close to being of Hall of Fame caliber. Still, it’s easy to wonder what might have been with one of the most talented players in the history of the Buffalo Sabres.

Martin played for the Montreal Junior Canadiens before landing with the Sabres as their first draft pick in 1971. He teamed up with center Gil Perreault, the perfect target for his linemate’s slick passes. Martin scored 44 goals that rookie season to break Perreault’s one-year-old record.

It only got better from there. Martin had 52 goals in 1973-74, and duplicated it in 1974-75. That last season was noteworthy because Buffalo reached the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in history.

Martin continued to pile up the goals before injuries got in the way. A bad knee injury in Nov. 1980 essentially ended his effectiveness as a player. He was traded to the Kings in 1981 but only played four games in Los Angeles.

Martin eventually returned to Western New York after retirement, and no one enjoying mixing with hockey fans more than he did. He suffered a heart attack while driving and died in 2011. An examination revealed that he was suffering from brain damage, perhaps because of a severe concussion suffered during a game in 1977.

--- Budd Bailey

 

 

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