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This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Doug Flutie

(Born October 23, 1962) -- Doug Flutie had one of the most interesting careers in recent pro football history, and some of its most interesting moments came here.

He first became known as a quarterback for Boston College. He’ll always be remembered for his “Hail Mary” pass that beat Miami in 1984 and wrapped up the Heisman Trophy in the process.

Flutie was considered a little small to be a pro quarterback at 5-foot-9. After starting in the United States Football League, he spent four years of backup duty in the National Football League. Flutie jumped to the Canadian Football League in 1990, and was one of the CFL’s all-time greats.

Flutie still wanted to prove he could play in the NFL, so he came to Buffalo in 1998. He was a Pro Bowler that year and helped the Bills reach the playoffs. Considering the Bills' lease was up for renewal, Flutie also generated new enthusiasm for the team, so he might have helped save the franchise for the area. Flutie was good in 1999 too, but lost his starting job at the end of the season to Rob Johnson in a move that still causes arguments.

Flutie moved on to San Diego in 2001, and finished his career with New England. The popular quarterback still does some television work.

--- Budd Bailey

Amy Cavagnaro: Williamsville North swimmer is a trailblazer

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Miroslav Satan

(Born October 22, 1974) -- Miroslav Satan was always good at scoring goals in the game of hockey. As he discovered, this is a marketable skill. Satan took that talent and had a long career that included 1,000 NHL games.

When he was 17, the winger scored 30 goals in 31 games in his native Czechoslovakia (later Slovakia). Satan was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers, and reached the NHL in 1995.

Late in the 1996-97 season, Sabres’ general manager John Muckler sent Craig Millar and Barrie Moore to Edmonton for Satan. It was one of the most underrated deals in Sabre history. Satan scored 22 goals in 1997-98, and hit 40 the following season. He played seven full seasons in Buffalo and had at least 25 goals six times.

The Sabres didn’t offer him a contract in 2005, and Satan signed with the Islanders as a free agent. He had 35 goals for New York in his first season there. From there it was on to Pittsburgh.

In 2009-10, Satan was a part-time player for the Boston Bruins. He haunted his old team by scoring a game-winning goal to beat the Sabres in their first-round series. Satan was still playing in Slovakia last season.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Willie McGahee

(Born October 21, 1981) -- When it comes to burning bridges behind you, Willis McGahee was in a class by himself in Buffalo Bills’ history.

McGahee was an outstanding running back at the University of Miami, running for more than 2,000 yards in a two-year career. The catch was that he suffered a severe knee injury in the national championship game, and wouldn’t be available for the 2003 season. The Bills drafted him anyway in the first round.

Buffalo waited a year and then worked him into the lineup in 2004. He spent three seasons here, and gained at least 990 yards in each of those campaigns. McGahee wasn’t happy here, and he was traded to the Ravens for draft choices.

On his way out, the running back said there was nothing to do in Buffalo, and even implied that the female population wasn’t, um, up to his standards. You can guess how popular that made him here.
McGahee had one good year out of four in Baltimore, and then moved to Denver in 2011. He’s still a Bronco this season.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Juan Gonzalez

(Born October 20, 1969) -- You’ve spent a lot of time watching the Buffalo Bisons if you can remember Juan Gonzalez’s stay here. It wasn’t a long one.

The outfielder came out of Puerto Rico to sign with the Rangers’ organization at the age of 16. He quickly worked his way up the ladder and saw some time in the majors at 19. But Gonzalez fully arrived in 1991, when he hit 27 homers and drove in 102 runs in his first season as a regular.

Gonzalez pounded baseballs for the Rangers for nine seasons. He was the MVP of the American League twice, and had more than 40 homers in a season five times. We’re talking Hall of Fame potential here.
The outfielder bounced to Cleveland and Detroit before returning to Texas. But his production dropped off quickly after he turned 32. What happened? Jose Canseco said he personally injected Rodriguez with steroids, a charge the outfielder denied. He did have injury problems in his 30's, though.

In 2005, Gonzalez played five games as a member of the Buffalo Bisons. He went 6 for 21. That was the last time he played in organized baseball.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Calm before the storm on the racing front

By Gene Kershner

We’re officially two weeks out from the Breeders’ Cup (BC) World Championships to be held at Santa Anita Park, culminating in the $5 million BC Classic in a prime time NBC broadcast at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday Nov. 3. Here’s what’s going on around the track as we prepare to pack our bags and head to the City of Angels for two of the biggest racing days on the calendar.

--The Ladies’ Classic, the race formerly known as the Distaff, is shaping up to be quite the race. Undefeated My Miss Aurelia, defending champion Royal Delta and top fillies and mares such as Questing, It’s Tricky and Awesome Feather all vying to be the top female race horse in the land. Friday’s feature race could be the most competitive in the two days of championship racing.

--Shackleford could pull off a miler Triple Crown of sorts if he could sweep the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and the Cigar Mile on Thanksgiving weekend at Aqueduct.  The Met Mile winner seems to thrive at this distance and has the class and talent to make it happen.

--The Breeders’ Cup pre-entries will be released on Monday and the draw will be held on the following Monday, Oct. 29. Advance past performances should be available next week so horseplayers will have plenty of time to study the contenders before the big weekend.

--Bona Venture Stables’ Summer of Fun, who won on the Travers undercard, will be pre-entered in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, a $1 million one mile race which will be held on Friday’s undercard. She finished third in the Grade 3 Jessamine Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 11 and will follow in the footsteps of stable mate Royal Bonnie who ran in last year’s race. Bona Venture Stables is a racing partnership made up of St. Bonaventure graduates that run their horses mainly on the New York circuit.

--In May the Breeders’ Cup launched a new brand campaign around the Tony Bennett song “The Best is Yet to Come” as the core element in its brand identity, advertising and social media. Bennett will sing the song during the Classic post parade from the winners’ circle on prime time television.

--Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced yesterday that Cornell University President David Skorton would serve as Chair of the NYRA Reorganization Board. The reorganized Board consists of 17 directors: eight appointed by the Governor; two directors each appointed by the Senate and Assembly and five directors appointed by the former NYRA Board. In addition to Skorton, one of the appointed directors by the Governor was celebrity chef Bobby Flay, a long time horse racing fan and owner who won a BC race in 2010 with More Than Real.

--Fort Erie Race Track is down to its final days and while I’m not a regular at the Canadian
“B” track there is a certain fondness I have for the place. I’m hoping to trek over the border before the last day of racing scheduled for Oct. 30 and pay my respects to the grand old track.

 Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Jim Dombrowski

(Born October 19, 1963) -- Careers in professional sports sometimes can be a little sloppy in terms of location. Jim Dombrowski’s days in the arena were nice and neat.

Dombrowski was born here in Western New York and played high school football at Williamsville South. He was good, really good. So the offensive lineman was off to Virginia.

Dombrowski is still remembered as one of the best student-athletes in Virginia’s history. He was a consensus All-American in 1985, and won numerous honors in his career. The lineman’s uniform number was retired by Virginia.

The New Orleans Saints took notice. He was their first-round draft choice in 1986, going sixth overall. He moved into the starting lineup after a year, and didn’t leave. Dombrowski spent 11 seasons and is considered one of the Saints’ all-time best offensive lineman.

Dombrowski is a financial planner in Louisiana. He’s a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, and of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.

--- Budd Bailey

Running notebook: Oops!

I've run a few hundred races over the past decade, but I've never had the sinking feeling I had while running in the Pumpkin Run last week.

I was a mile into the race on Youngs Road, when the thought went through my mind, "Is this a chip race?" I started looking at runners around me, and -- sure enough -- I saw a timing chip on a women's shoe. I had forgotten all about it. Sigh.

I finished the race, went straight to the scorer's truck and reported my time. Since I wasn't exactly close to an age-group medal, they just added me to the list with no controversy. Still, I felt rather stupid.

So kids, make sure you look around for chips well before you reach the starting line. And registration volunteers, it's always a good idea to remind people to grab chips at check-in. I'm probably not the first, or last, to do this.

I'll try to do better this weekend.

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

* Race to Cure Childhood Cancer 5K, 2402 N. Forest Rd. in Getzville, 8:30 a.m. Saturday, 681-4433. There's no quit in the organizers of this race, which has come and gone and changed locations over the years. Nice to have it back on the schedule.

* Tim Hortons 5K Coffee Run, 8289 Main St. in Eden, 10:30 a.m. Saturday, 445-0047.

* Dr. Richard Sarkin Memorial 5K, Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, 10:30 a.m. Saturday, 713-0769. You might remember this race as one that came just after the "October Surprise" snowstorm a few years ago. Let's hope for better weather this time.

* Niagara Falls International Marathon, Buffalo (Art Gallery) to Niagara Falls, Ont., 10 a.m. Sunday, 905-356-9460. I wonder if this is still one of the only two-country marathons in the world.

* Niagara County Deputy Sheriffs' PBA 5K Run, Market St. in Lockport, 10:30 a.m. Sunday, 622-6416.

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Pat McCready

(Born October 18, 1974) -- Pat McCready has been around the block in his lacrosse career. He’s also been around the lake ... Lake Erie, that is.

The defender was born in St. Catharines and has played lacrosse throughout his life. He made his debut in the United States in 1996, when he broke in with the Charlotte Cobras - a team that didn’t last long.

McCready simply moved closer to his home town at that point. He joined the Rochester Knighthawks, and spent five seasons there. McCready became a member of the Buffalo Bandits as part of a seven-player swap before the 2002 campaign.

McCready, who works as a law enforcement official in St. Catharines, spent eight seasons with the Bandits. He was tough and could score a little. McCready’s father Bob was Buffalo’s first-ever coach in 1992.

Pat moved on to Toronto, but only for a year. He returned to Rochester in 2011, and spent the last two years there. He even has played with his cousin, Joel, for the Knighthawks.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Ralph Wilson

(Born October 17, 1918) -- There’s no doubt about it - the life of Ralph Wilson has been a long and eventful one.

Wilson grew up in Detroit and went to the University of Virginia and the University of Michigan law school. After serving in World War II, Wilson took over his father’s insurance business and invested in several other industries.  Obviously, he did well.

In the late 1950s, Wilson heard about a plan to start a new football league. His first choice for a team was Miami, but that didn’t work. Plan B was Buffalo, and the Bills opened for business in 1960. He’s been here ever since.

Wilson was a powerful voice in the American Football League. He loaned money to keep the Oakland Raiders alive, and successfully lobbied for the AFL not to play on the Sunday after President Kennedy’s assassination.

Wilson has been part of football for more than 50 years now. He was honored for his body of work in 2009 when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

--- Budd Bailey

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