Skip to primary navigation Skip to main content

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Hal Lahar

   (Born July 14, 1919) -- Fans of the All-American Football Conference might remember the name Hal Lahar. He’s better known for a long career as a college coach, rather than as a player.

   Lahar grew up in Oklahoma City, so it was a natural move to go to college at Oklahoma. He played guard there, and played it well enough to be all-conference and be drafted by the Chicago Bears. Lahar spent the 1941 season there.

   Students of history know what happened next. Pearl Harbor changed a lot of people’s lives, and Lahar served in the South Pacific in the U.S. Navy. When he came back, he joined the new Buffalo franchise in the AAFC. Lahar played for the Bills from 1946 to 1948.

   After an apprenticeship as an assistant coach, Lahar landed the head coaching job at Colgate in 1952. He stayed five years and had a winning record.

   From there it was on to Houston, where he won two Missouri Valley Conference titles in three years. But then it was back to Colgate, the first Division I football head coach to return to the same school. Lahar stayed six years, leaving in 1967. He worked as an administrator in the Southwest Conference for 10 years, and died in 2003.

 --- Budd Bailey

 

Post Time: Rough week in horse racing

By Gene Kershner

The hits just kept on coming. Thankfully we have some great racing on tap this weekend to offset the deluge of bad news and scrutiny the sport is facing over the past eight days. There will be some great turf racing at Arlington Park, the Prince of Wales at Fort Erie, the Man 0’War at Belmont Park and the American Oaks on the west coast at Hollywood, to distract us from the negativity that rocked the industry this week. 

Last Thursday afternoon, jockey Jorge Herrera was killed in a racing accident. Herrera, from Jalisco, Mexico, suffered massive head injuries when his horse, Morito clipped heels with Tribal Sun just past the half-mile pole in the final race of the day at the Almeda County Fair in Pleasanton, Calif. Several days after the accident, track management announced they would have a full-time paramedic on site going forward. At the time of the accident only EMT’s were on hand to tend to Herrera.

On Tuesday, it was announced that Union Rags, the Belmont winner has a tendon injury that will keep him out of the rest of the season. That means that no Classic winners remain after the injury suffered by I’ll Have Another who is on his way to the breeding shed in Japan in a deal reportedly worth $10 million.

Union Rags was scheduled to run next at Monmouth Park in a very competitive Haskell Invitational which has attracted the likes of Bodemeister and Dullahan and most likely Long Branch winner and Belmont competitor My Adonis.

Wednesday was graced by another New York Times article taking shots at the sport, specifically the treatment of Triple Crown hopeful I’ll Have Another in the weeks leading up to his scratch the day before the Belmont Stakes. The article enraged racing fans within the twittersphere, many challenging one of the co-authors, Joe Drape, on the social media platform on both the perceived sensationalism of the article as well as the timing of the piece. Soon after the article was published, The Blood-horse posted a retort to the article utilizing several other veterinarians stating the drugs given to 'Another' were deemed routine.

Finally, a U.S. Senate Subcommittee met on Thursday to discuss the prevalence and use of medications and performance-enhancing drugs in horse racing. A link to the archived webcast of the hearing can be found here.

On the racing front, Del Mar and Saratoga open up next week, so summer racing will be off and running. We’ll have a preview of the Saratoga meet next week in print as opening day is Friday, July 20.

The Prince of Wales draw was held on Wednesday afternoon and I made the trip over the Peace Bridge to watch former Secretariat jockey Ron Turcotte as the guest draw master of the post position draw. The $500,000 race and richest one on the Fort’s schedule is the second jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown. Queen’s Plate winner Strait of Dover is skipping this race to return in the Breeders’ Stakes in August, the final leg of the Canadian Crown.

As only one entry has raced on traditional dirt (Dead On), it makes it difficult to predict who will react positively to the dirt track. I’m thinking that Colleen’s Sailor, our long shot pick in the Queen’s Plate will split the two fillies in the race. Post Time Outlook: 1 – Dixie Strike; 2 – Colleen’s Sailor; 3 – Irish Mission.  Long shot play: Dead On.

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: Jack Kemp

  (Born July 13, 1935) -- It’s a little difficult to find new information about Jack Kemp for a Western New York audience. People here know all about him, including the fact that he and wife Joanne named their children Jeff, Jimmy, Judith and Jennifer. You may detect a trend there.

   He certainly took the long way to Buffalo. Kemp was born in Los Angeles, and one of his high school classmates there was musician Herb Alpert. He played football and threw the javelin at Occidental College.

   Kemp was drafted in the 17th round by the Lions, was cut and spent a year with the Steelers and then moved on to the taxi squads of the Giants and 49ers. After one game in Canada, he landed with the new San Diego Chargers of the American Football League, where he played in the new league’s first two championship games.

   Buffalo picked him on waivers when San Diego tried to save a roster spot, and it was one of the Bills’ best-ever acquisitions. He led the Bills to championships in 1964 and 1965, and played in five of the AFL’s ten title games.

   In 1970, Kemp retired to run for Congress. He won and stayed in the House from 1971 to 1989. From there he joined George H.W. Bush’s Cabinet, and ran for Vice President with Bob Dole in 1996. Kemp died of cancer in 2009.

--- Budd Bailey

Running notebook: Following in the footsteps

Sunday's running column created some conversation about the issue of consumer rights when it comes to races. I had a good-sized chat with someone in the race timing business. He gave me the name of a man who, according to some newspaper articles and other accounts, has sometimes scheduled races, collected fees, cancelled races and kept the entry fees. The problem with such individuals is that it's difficult to bring such people to "justice." One person would have to go to a lot of expense, time and trouble to try to get an out-of-state vendor to issue a refund.

I'm not sure what can be done here. Buffalo had another case of fraud last fall, when a website advertising the "Buffalo Moonlight Marathon" for the fall popped up. Apparently there was never a plan to do anything but take your money.

It's almost as if someone needs to set up a national clearinghouse to keep an eye on all such operations. Not sure if it is a consumer rights issue or something for the USATF, but it's not a pleasant aspect of this sport.

Changing subjects drastically ...Allison Carr's son Gary apparently is following in the family tradition. The nine-year-old qualified for the USATF Junior Nationals by running a 1:12.31 in the 400 meters. It was only his second attempt to run the distance. Very impressive. Allison is a multiple winner of the Buffalo News runner of the year series.

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

* Old Home Days 5K, 5565 Main St. in Williamsville, 6:30 p.m. tonight, 839-2543.

* Buffalo Orienteering Club 5-Mile Trail Run, Chestnut Ridge Park in Orchard Park, 6:30 p.m. tonight, 652-8727.

* Tuscarora Nation 10K Run, Tuscarora Indian Reservation in Lewiston, 9 a.m. Saturday, 940-0852.

* Tom Drake Memorial 5K Thunderbird Club Run, Mayville Lakeside Park, 9 a.m. Saturday, 607-0328.

* One Small Step for Prader-Wili Syndrome Run, 5K, Chestnut Ridge Park in Orchard Park, 10 a.m. Saturday, 316-9344.

* Niagara Catholic Alumni Run, 520 66th St. in Niagara Falls, 10:30 a.m. Saturday, 531-6198.

-- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Donnie Green

     (Born July 12, 1948) -- Not all the stories of Buffalo's athletes are happy ones. Donnie Green is one such story.

     Green was always big. He checked in at 220 pounds in eighth grade. Green wound up in Purdue and became a fifth-round draft choice of the Bills in 1971.

     It was a good time to be an offensive lineman in Buffalo. Green worked his way into the starting lineup at right tackle, and helped O.J. Simpson run for more than 2,000 yards in 1973. He was part of the Electric Company, which turned loose the Juice.

     Green spent six years in all in Buffalo, and then moved on to Philadelphia and Detroit. That was it for football, and his life later took a turn for the worse.

     Green drifted from job to job, had two failed marriages, suffered from congestive heart failure, and used drugs. Eventually he ended up in a homeless shelter, and was still there at last report.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Ken Irvin

     (Born July 11, 1972) -- If you were asked how many years Ken Irvin played in the NFL, the answer probably would be on the low side.

     The surprising answer is 10, and the first seven of them were with the Bills.

     Irvin was a fourth-round draft choice out of Memphis in 1995. He's well-remembered by the Tigers, who have named the annual special teams player of the year after him. The cornerback was a backup for the first three years of his career.

     Then he got a chance to start in 1998. Irvin stayed in the starting lineup for three seasons before becoming a reserve again in 2001.

     That was it in Buffalo; the defensive back played one year for New Orleans and two years in Minnesota.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Darryl Talley

     (Born July 10, 1960) -- Darryl Talley wasn't a flashy football player, and he didn't play in flashy places. But he played well enough to be remembered as a superb performer.

     Talley -- the cousin of the Yankees' Derek Jeter -- grew up in Cleveland, where he played fullback and linebacker in high school. From there it was on to college at West Virginia Univerity. He was an All-American in 1982.

     That got the attention of the Bills, who took him in the second round. He spent 12 seasons here and never missed a game.

     Talley became the Bills' all-time tackler during those years, and recovered 14 fumbles. He might not have been the team's biggest star, but he might have been the heart of the Bills' teams that reached four straight Super Bowls.

     His run in Buffalo ended in 1995, when he left to join the Falcons. Then the linebacker spent one year in Minnesota before retiring. Talley was voted to the Bills' 50th anniversary team.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: O.J. Simpson

     (Born July 9, 1947) -- You may have heard of this fellow for a variety of reasons. Since this is the sports section, let's stick to that area.

     Simpson was born with the name Orenthal James Simpson, supposedly after a French actor. He developed rickets and needed braces until the age of five. What were the odds of him becoming a running back?

     That's what happened, though, and he was a great one in high school and junior college in the Bay Area. Then it was on to Southern California for two years, where he might have been the best college running back ever. He won one Heisman Trophy, and probably should have won two.

     Simpson was an obvious choice as the top draft pick after the 1968 season, and the Bills grabbed him. It took a while for things to come together here, but Simpson was sensational once he got going. In 1973 he ran for 2,003 yards, the first NFL player to reach that number.

     Simpson added two more great years before injuries slowed him up. He was traded to San Francisco for a boatload of draft choices, but only played two mediocre seasons there. Simpson did enough, though, to be a first-year selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Hector Lopez

     (Born July 8, 1929) -- There are plenty of longtime fans of the New York Yankees in Western New York. They no doubt remember Hector Lopez, a member of some great Yankee teams in the 1960s. But maybe they remember his contribution to baseball history.

     Lopez grew up in Panama, and after high school played semipro baseball in Canada. He was then signed by the Kansas City Athletics, arriving in the majors in 1955. Lopez was a pretty good hitter as he divided his time in the field between second and third.

     Most good players on the Athletics seemed to end up with the Yankees, and he and Ralph Terry came over in a five-player trade in 1959. Lopez mostly played in the outfield in participating on five straight pennant winners. He drove in five runs in the Series-clinching win over the Reds in 1961.

     Lopez retired from playing in 1966. He moved on to the coaching ranks. In 1969, Lopez was named the manager of the Buffalo Bisons. He is considered the first black manager in Triple-A baseball history. The Herd went 59-78 that year as a member of the Washington Senators' farm system.

     Lopez got another shot at managing 25 years later, when he coached some Yankee rookies in the Gulf Coast league in 1994-95.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Robert Rich Sr.

     (Born July 7, 1913) -- It might seem funny for one of Buffalo's most successful businessmen to be listed in a tribute to sportsmen. However, there's little doubt that Robert Rich Sr. belongs.

     Rich was born in Buffalo as his father owned an ice cream plant. He graduated from Bennett High School and went on to the University of Buffalo. There he was captain of the football and the wrestling teams. For his efforts, Rich eventually landed in UB's Athletic Hall of Fame.

     In 1945, Rich invented the first non-dairy whipped topping made from soybeans that could be frozen. He spent a lot of time in court defending his company from lawsuits from the dairy industry, but his side won every game and Rich built up a large fortune.

     Rich gave something back to the community in terms of athletics. He represented the city in squash tournaments around the country. Rich also was part of a group that tried to bring NHL hockey to Buffalo in 1965. The company purchased the naming rights to the new football stadium in Orchard Park when it opened in 1973. More famously, Rich Products saved professional baseball in the 1980s when it bought the Bisons.

     Rich was honored for his work in 1991 when he was inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.

--- Budd Bailey

« Older Entries Newer Entries »