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This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Torey Lovullo

(Born July 25, 1965) - Give yourself some bonus points if you know the full name of Torey Lovullo. Considering how much time he’s spent in Western New York, more people should know the story of Salvatore Anthony Lovullo.

Lovullo grew up in Southern California, as his father Sam was a producer of the television series, "Hee Haw." Torey played college baseball at UCLA and was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 1987.

Lovullo made it to the big leagues in 1988, but that was only the start of a nomadic career. Playing mostly as an infield utilityman, he spent time with six other major league teams. In between, he played three years in Buffalo and was a big part of two teams that won back-to-back championships here.

In 2001 after a year in Japan, it was time for Torey to turn to coaching. He worked his way up the ladder again and landed in Buffalo as the Bisons’ manager in 2006. No wonder he’s in the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame.

Lovullo has come close to managing in the big leagues, getting interviews for jobs. He’s waiting for another chance while serving as a coach for the Toronto Blue Jays.

– Budd Bailey

 

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Donte Whitner

(Born July 24, 1985) -- Donte Whitner was a surprise choice when it came time for the Bills to make a draft pick in the first round in 2006. Most fans didn’t know just how far Whitner had come in his life to reach that point.

Whitner was hit by a car near his Cleveland home while chasing a football down the street when he was six years old. He suffered 30 fractures in his leg in the accident. Play football? Whitner would be lucky to walk again, the doctors said.

But Whitner was a determined child. He was one of the nation’s top high school football players and landed a scholarship at the Ohio State University.

The Bills took him in the draft, and he intercepted a Tom Brady pass in his very first game. The defensive back stayed with the Bills until 2010.

Then free agency called, and Whitner left Buffalo to join the San Francisco 49ers. He was part of the reason why the Niners were much improved last season, reaching the the NFC Championship game.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Mark Kelso

(Born July 23, 1963)Buffalo’s football fans always have had a soft spot in their hearts for Mark Kelso. No wonder he’s found a home in this area.

Kelso played college football at William and Mary, which has never been known as a football factory. Still, he was good enough to catch the Bills’ attention. Buffalo took him in the 10th round in 1985.

Slowly but surely, he worked his way into the starting lineup. Kelso was never the best athlete on the team, but he was smart and often seemed to be in the right place in the right time. Besides, he wore extra padding on his helmet that made him stand out on the field a bit ... and earned him the nickname "Magoo."

Kelso made 30 interceptions during his time with the Bills. Fans can still hear ESPN’s Chris Berman describe Kelso’s returns in horse-racing style, saying, "And here comes Kelso up on the outside!" He helped Buffalo reach four straight Super Bowls.

After retirement, Kelso moved into teaching and coaching. He also moved smoothly into broadcasting, working the Bills’ games for the past several years.

--- Budd Bailey

 

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Sam Stith

(Born July 22, 1937) -- St. Bonaventure had a great player pass through Olean for the past few years in Andrew Nicholson, a first-round pick of the Orlando Magic. He followed in a tradition of top players who performed for that university. Sam Stith is on that list.

Stith was part of one of the great brother acts in Western New York sports history. Sam teamed up with younger brother Tom. Sam played from 1957 to 1960, while Tom was a year behind him.

Sam was known as a defensive stopper, but he could score as well. He scored more than 1,000 points in his career, and averaged more than 20 points per game as a senior.

Sam made it to his native New York to play as a pro with the Knicks. Tom followed a year later. Sam was on the roster the night Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a game against the Knicks in Hershey, Pa.

Stith has been a successful businessman since retiring from basketball. He eventually moved to Arizona.

 --- Budd Bailey  

 

Bandits notebook: Game on

There was a national story that was overlooked earlier in the week, which -- when added to the Bandits' announcement about a new general manager -- should teach me not to take a day off.

There will be indoor lacrosse in 2013.

The National Lacrosse League and the Professional Lacrosse Players Association reached a collective bargaining agreement for the 2013 season. The league had opted out of the previous deal, which had two years to run.

Interestingly, the terms were worked out on July 12 here in Buffalo. How did all of those lacrosse negotiators sneak into town without telling anyone about it?

The players weren't in a great bargaining position. The number of teams is down to nine, and that means some good players aren't playing anywhere in the winter and spring. An adjustment to the CBA for the time being probably was in order. A schedule for 2013 will be announced in September.

From here, the league hopes to negotiate a long-term deal with the players. Some sort of stability in that area is probably necessary in order for the NLL to even consider taking in new teams. You probably can come up with your own list of expansion cities that would be considered under new rules. Vancouver is considered the obvious choice, and you'd think Montreal and/or Ottawa would pop up.

The one city that seems like a natural to me is Uniondale, Long Island. The Islanders have been trying to get a new arena built for a while, and a team that would give a few more dates to a new facility strikes me as a good idea. Besides, Long Island has plenty of lacrosse interest. It seems like a good idea for the Islanders to go into the indoor lacrosse business, following the business model that has worked well in Buffalo, Colorado, etc.

In the meantime, the new deal was a necessary first step toward looking ahead. This was no time for a suicidal labor dispute, and it looks like both sides realized that. Nice job.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Ortiz wins first graded stake at Spa

2012-07-21 16.53.10

By Gene Kershner

Irad Ortiz, Jr. made his first Grade 1 victory a special one, winning the Coaching Club American Oaks (CCAO) during opening weekend at Saratoga Race Course aboard Questing ($9.80) for Godolphin Racing. The victory was the second straight CCAO victory for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. It was the first Grade 1 race of the premier summer meet and Ortiz came through on the Hard Spun filly.

McLaughlin won last year’s edition of this race with It’s Tricky and will most likely point Questing to the Grade 1 Alabama in four weeks to try and pull off a back-to-back CCAO-Alabama double. He was more than pleased with the effort from his exuberant rider. “Irad [Ortiz] did a great job. He rode an excellent race for a 19-year-old kid. We thought we were faster than [Yara], but he said, and we talked about it, ‘If she goes, let her go.’ And he rode a great race. He used good judgment. He did everything right. I think he’s a very talented and positive kid. He’s upbeat and rides very well. He’s only been on her in the afternoon, but he’s won twice on her,” said the trainer.

After trying the turf a couple times, McLaughlin decided to run Questing back on dirt and she had a big performance at Belmont in a one mile optional claimer. “We tried turf twice, and she didn’t run so well, so we switched her back to dirt and she ran huge. This was kind of lucky I guess, she ran fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, so she did handle the dirt as a 2-year-old. She didn’t run very fast that day. We’re very excited to win a Grade 1 with her,” said McLaughlin.

“I broke good, and when the No. 3 horse [Yara] went, I saved my horse. She was good and relaxed. When I asked her turning for home, she went on,” said Ortiz.   When asked how special it was to win his first ever graded stake, let along a Grade one, Ortiz responded, “It’s unbelievable. Thank you to my trainer who did a very good job getting her ready for this race.”

Two Grade 1 winners completed the trifecta, Zo Impressive, the Mother Goose winner, finished second and Post Time selection In Lingerie finished third. The $2 [Hard Spun] exacta paid $37.80 and the $2 trifecta paid $73.00. Questing completed the 1 1/8-mile race in 1.37.16.

As for the favorite, it just wasn’t In Lingerie’s day although jockey Javier Castellano had her in position to win turning for home. “She ran well. The winner, I give her all the credit. They didn’t come back to us. My filly took me there and put me in the race but at the quarter pole, she was a little flat. Maybe it was because she was inside horses. I think she would do better coming around horses.”

 Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer, handicapper and member of the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com and tweets @EquiSpace.

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Ernie Warlick

(Born July 21, 1932) -- The Bills haven’t had a great tradition of excellence at the tight end position over the years. However, they got off to a good start in that department. Ernie Warlick certainly ranks as one of the most underrated players in Bills’ history.

Warlick was a star for North Carolina Central. He turned pro, but not in this country - landing with Calgary of the Canadian Football League.

After four good years with the Stampeders, Warlick came to Buffalo in 1962. He made an immediate impact. You want speed from the tight end? Warlick averaged 17.2 yards per catch, a very impressive number.

He spent four years with the Bills and was an all-AFL pick each year. What’s more, the Bills won two championships during that span.

Warlick was good after retirement, too. He became the first African American sportscaster in Buffalo television history. Warlick was picked for the Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: James Harris

(Born July 20, 1947) -- You might have heard of one of the rookies in the Buffalo Bills’ backfield in 1969. O.J. Simpson was the team’s first draft choice and one of the most heralded college players in history.

Another one wasn’t quite so famous. James Harris worked his way into the starting lineup after being an eighth-round draft choice of the Bills from Grambling in that same season. Harris became the first African American to be a starter at the position at the beginning of a season.

By the way, Marlin Briscoe, the first black to start at quarterback while he was with Denver, caught some of Harris’ passes that season as a Bills’ wide receiver.

Harris stayed with the Bills for two seasons, and then was released and signed with the Rams. The quarterback helped Los Angeles get into the playoffs and made the Pro Bowl in 1974.

After retirement, Harris moved smoothly into the front office of NFL teams. He worked for the Ravens and Jaguars before landing with the Lions in 2009.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Fillies set to shine in Spa's first big race

By Gene Kershner

SARATOGA SPRINGS  -- The first Grade 1 race on the Saratoga racing schedule this summer is Saturday afternoon’s Coaching Club American Oaks (CCAO), a big race on the 3-year old filly racing calendar. It is the first of two major Grade 1 races for 3-year-old fillies during the Spa’s 40 days of racing, the second being the Alabama Stakes to be held on Aug. 18.

The CCAO will send six entries to post at 5:45 p.m. on the first Saturday of the prestigious race meet. The race will feature the winners of the Mother Goose (G1), Black-Eyed Susan (G2), Davona Dale (G2) and Demoiselle (G2). While it may be a small field, it makes up for it in quality fillies.

The 96th renewal of the race will be run for $300,000 over 1 1/8-miles on the traditional dirt track. Last year’s winner It’s Tricky is still racing at four and has been a tremendous former champion. Let’s take a look at this year’s CCAO challengers (trainer, jockey, morning line odds in parenthesis):

1 – Questing (McLaughlin, Ortiz Jr., 3-1) – The Godolphin filly had a monster outing last out, leading to the low morning line for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin who won last year’s race with It’s Tricky. She’s yet to travel the 9-furlong distance, but her breeding (Hard Spun, out of the Seeking The Gold mare Chercheuse) suggests it shouldn’t be an issue. I tend to shy away from the first time balloon speed figures in the next race out, so I’ll pass on backing her in the CCAO.

2 – Disposablepleasure (Pletcher, Napravnik, 4-1) – Finished second to rival stable mate In Lingerie in the Black-Eyed Susan at the same distance. Came back to finish behind Zo Impressive in the Mother Goose for trainer Todd Pletcher. Rosie gets the mount for the first time in her first full meet racing at Saratoga. This filly won the 9-furlong Grade 2 Demoiselle as a 2-year-old at Aqueduct. She shows an impressive workout on July 15, breezing four furlongs, finishing only behind In Lingerie that day. Will she shed the bridesmaid label on Saturday?

3 – Yara (Guererro, Rosario, 15-1) – Davona Dale winner during the winter Gulfstream meeting puts on the blinkers and garners west coast rider Rosario riding for the first year full-time at Saratoga. It will be his initial ride on the Put It Back filly that has shown versatility going long or in sprints. Her workout tab includes back to back bullets at Belmont Park; she could be sitting on a big one and has an excellent rider aboard. Potential upset play.

4 – Funny Proposition (Casse, Bridgmohan, 8-1) – Trainer Casse won last weekend’s Prince of Wales with his Ontario-bred filly Dixie Strike at Fort Erie for owner John C. Oxley and shows up here trying to keep his owner happy. She returns to dirt after breaking badly in her last effort at Churchill on the turf – draw a line through that effort. Lightly raced Medaglia d’Oro filly was purchased two years ago at Saratoga Fasig-Tipton sale for $275K and is out of a Distorted Humor mare.  We would not be surprised if she hit the board and is usable in the exotics.

5 – Zo Impressive (Albertrani, Maragh, 2-1) – Morning line favorite looks good on paper, but they don’t run the race on paper. One of two Hard Spun fillies in the race, she comes off an impressive win in the Grade 1 Mother Goose at Belmont. Her only race at the distance was the Grade 2 Gulfstream Oaks where she finished second behind early division leader Grace Hall by over six lengths after being bumped at the start. She didn’t train over the Saratoga surface and the Pletcher fillies both did impressively, so I’m playing against.

6 – In Lingerie (Pletcher, Castellano, 5-2) – Second choice has been off since mid-May’s win in the Black-Eyed Susan.  Pletcher/Castellano winning at a 26 percent clip in the last 60 days and she will be looking to avenge her only career loss, courtesy of Zo Impressive.  The well rested Empire Maker filly looks to be fit based on her work tab and Pletcher loves to win at the Spa. Castellano is a hot jockey who has historically rode well at Saratoga. The pick.

This year’s race is shaping up to be a good one and should be a solid indicator for what’s in store for this outstanding division for the rest of the campaign. I’m going with Pletcher’s dynamic duo and trying to beat the favorite on Saturday.

Post Time Outlook: 1 – In Lingerie; 2 – Disposablepleasure; 3 – Yara;  4 – Zo Impressive

Make sure you check out the Saratoga advance in this morning's paper.

Good luck 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. 

Porter Cup round two recap

By Jay Skurski

At the top: He's from Massachusetts, but Richy Werenski strikes the perfect California cool vibe. The 20-year-old Georgia Tech junior with a great name shot a sparkling 8-under 62 Thursday in the second round of the 54th Porter Cup to open a four-shot lead. Werenski, who's playing in his first Porter Cup, has yet to make a bogey.

In the hunt: Joining Werenski in the final group today will be defending champion Patrick Rodgers and Justin Thomas, the fifth- and sixth-ranked players in the world, by the Scratch Players World Amateur Rankings. No pressure. Thomas, the best collegiate golfer in the country, shot a 63 Thursday, while Rodgers carded "only" a 65. Also at 8 under, four shots back and tied with Rodgers and Thomas, is University of Florida senior Tyler McCumber. It's a great leader board, one that Tournament Director Steve Denn must have been hoping for before the tournament started.

Birdie barrage: The wind picked up and then the rain came in the afternoon, but you wouldn't know it by looking at some of the scorecards turned in Thursday. Lewiston's own Mike Boss ripped off five birdies in a row to start his back nine, shooting a round of 66. Werenski birdied four in a row and five of six holes. McCumber went five in a row and six of seven at one point in his round.

Locals go low: Boss' 66 was his career best at NFCC, where he's the club champion. Clarence's Matt Stasiak shot 3-under 67 in the second round to move up 26 spots in the field.

Buffalo's Chris Covelli also improved on his opening-round 74 by shooting a 73. It was a struggle for North Tonawanda's James Blackwell and Hamburg's Brian Jurkiewicz, though. They shot 77 and 79, respectively, and will be in the first group off the tee at 8:30 a.m. Friday.

Quotable: "After that I really tried to hammer on the gas pedal and see how low I can go ... It was just a good day," -- Thomas, talking about his stretch of four straight birdies.

 

 

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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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