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This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Cliff Robinson

(Born December 16, 1966) -- Western New York has produced some great basketball players over the years. Cliff Robinson certainly deserves to be in that class.

Robinson played high school basketball at Buffalo’s Riverside High. He averaged more than 20 points per game there, and that caught the attention of a promising young coach in the Big East Conference. Jim Calhoun thought Robinson could help at Connecticut.

The forward averaged more than 15 points per game for the Huskies, who developed one of the nation’s best programs in the years to come. Robinson won an NIT title while he was a junior at UConn.

Robinson went 36th overall in the 1989 NBA draft, as he was taken by Portland. It took him a few years to become a starter, but by 1994-95 he was averaging more than 20 points per game. Robinson left Portland in 1997, but had 10 more years ahead of him. He played for Phoenix, Detroit, Golden State and New Jersey.

Robinson left the game in 2007 as one of the NBA’s all-time leaders in games played. He was a 49-point game away from getting past 20,000 points in his career. Robinson was recently hired by the Pro Basketball Alumni Association.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Billy Shaw

(Born on December 15, 1938) -- Care to guess how many people have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame without playing a single game in the National Football League? The answer is one, and today’s his birthday.

Billy Shaw grew up in Mississippi. When his high school dropped football, his parents moved so that he could continue his athletic career. It worked, as Shaw landed at Georgia Tech.

There he became one of the all-time greats at the school. He played both offensive and defensive tackles, and was an All-American. The Cowboys and Bills both drafted him, but Dallas wanted him to move to linebacker. Buffalo thought he’d be a better fit on one of the lines, and that convinced Shaw to sign with it.

He turned out to be one of the Bills’ all-time greats. He was all-AFL four times and played in eight All-Star Games. When the AFL picked its all-time team after the 1969 season, Shaw was on it.

The guard retired after that 1969 season. It took a while for him to make it to Canton, but he was finally given that honor in 1999.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: 2012 Racing's Candy Bar Awards

By Gene Kershner

There's a bit of a lull in the schedule for the holidays and it’s not quite time to post my ballot for the Eclipse Awards, so instead I’ll share my annual racing candy bar awards for 2012.

We're giving away candy bars to our favorite horses, jockeys and trainers, whether they won a Breeders’ Cup race or not complete with the theory behind each winner’s candy bar award.  So let's get after it....because sometimes you feel like a nut…

Reggie Bar. We give the Reggie Bar to Archwarrior.  There was lots of hype, but not too much substance for the juvenile who was billed as the next coming of Secretariat.

Kit Kat.  It was a rough year for the Cat horses, usually dominated by Storm Cat and Kitten’s Joy progeny. We had to search long and hard to find Csaba, who won three stakes races at Calder, including the Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper Handicap. We’ll give this Kitten’s Joy 3-year old the nod.

Snickers. There were some great names during 2012 that entered the racing scene, but none were better than Notacatbutallama. C’mon that made you snicker, just a little, right?

Everlasting Gobstopper. This one has to go to the winner of The Test of a Champion, the Belmont Stakes victor Union Rags, who gets this long-lasting candy hands down. The horse winning the year’s toughest race matches up perfectly with the gobstopper.

Ghirardelli White Chocolate bars.  I used to love when they called Jason Williams, "White Chocolate" on the hoops floor. Since no white horse established him or herself during the 2012 racing campaign, we’ll give this one to the white-haired Bob Baffert. After surviving a heart attack in Dubai before the World Cup, he returned with a couple of prized 3-year olds, Bodemeister and Paynter, who collectively ran second in all three classic races and won the Haskell,  which was a record sixth time for Baffert! He gets the Ghirardelli white chocolate laurels.

Oh Henry. We'll give one of these to The Lumber Guy, for being a war horse along the lines of Hank Aaron. The New York-bred gave us a tremendous season winning the Grade 1 Vosburgh and the Grade 2 Jerome and running a respectable second in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint behind Trinniberg. His connections were not afraid to run him against the best and he definitely brought the lumber like Hammerin’ Hank.

Baby Ruth.  I’ll Have Another gains a Baby Ruth bar for his Derby/Preakness double. Winning the Preakness in Baltimore, the Babe's hometown, put him over the top.

$100,000 bar (aka 100 Grand Bar). We'll just award this one to trainer Todd Pletcher for winning another Saratoga training title and crushing it with 23 juvenile winners in 67 starts at the Spa meet. That’s 34 percent winners and 58 percent ITM (in the money) resulting in a $2.42 ROI (return on investment).

Heath Bar. Made with old English toffee...we'll send one of these to super-horse Frankel, it just seems right, doesn't it?

Payday. The richest race in North America, the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic went to Fort Larned, who grabs the Payday bar award. He won the Classic holding off Mucho Macho Man in the stretch to collect the big check.

Clark Bar. That’s an easy one. The Clark Handicap went to none other than Shackleford in his final career race. I’ve been a big fan of the Shack since seeing him in the paddock on Derby day 2011, and he has not disappointed since.

York Pepperment Patty. The king of the New York racing colony is as cool a customer as those minty patties are in your mouth. Ramon Dominguez garners this candy bar award as the top jockey in the land.

Whoppers. Louisiana Derby winner Hero of Order lit up the tote board at the Fair Grounds at 109-1, paying $220.80 for the win. Need I say more?

Wonka Bar.  Who's got a golden ticket? Travers dead-heater Golden Ticket wins this one hands down.

So that's a wrap for this year's candy bar awards, next week we’ll treat you to the annual “It’s a Racing Festivus” column.

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: Sam Aiken

(Born December 14, 1980) -- If you had asked Sam Aiken in college what his pro football future would look like, he probably wouldn’t have been mentioned being good at tackling on special teams. Yet that’s where he found a role.

Aiken was born and raised in North Carolina. It’s fair to see he was a good athlete in high school, as he was all-conference in football, basketball and track and was second in the state in the high jump. Then it was on to college at the University of North Carolina, where he set a school record as a senior with 68 catches for 990 yards.

Aiken was a fourth-round pick of the Bills in 2003. He saw little action in his rookie year. The next season, Aiken suited up for all 16 games. He not only caught 11 passes, a career high in Buffalo, but made 14 tackles in special teams. The tackles went up to 24 in 2005, and he stayed a Bill through 2007.

Then Aiken became a free agent, and he jumped to the Patriots for the 2008 season. In 2009 he became a big contributor to New England’s special teams, and caught 20 passes as well.

The now-veteran receiver was released in 2010, and had a brief stay with the Browns later that year. At last report, Aiken was serving as a graduate assistant coach at North Carolina.

--- Budd Bailey

Running Notebook: Quite wonderful

"It's a Wonderful Run" started three years ago in Seneca Falls as a nice addition to the festival celebrating the movie "It's a Wonderful Life." Organizers got a couple of hundred runners to turn out, and were happy about that.

Imagine their reaction this year, when they went past 3,000 registrations. Amazing.

I knew this was going to be a different sort of event when I walked across the bridge that serves as the starting line. A wedding was about to start right in the middle of the bridge. It didn't look like anyone had running shoes on, though.

The streets were a little crowded, but that's to be expected. And virtually everyone seemed to have a holiday decoration. However, the race did feature a computer chip for the shoe that featured twist ties. That led to everyone crossing the finish line ... and kneeling to try to get the chip off to put in a recycle basket. It caused quite a line. That's something to look at for Year Five.

Elsewhere, the certificates are written for the Runner of the Year series. I'll be mailing them soon. Feel free to drop me an email with your current address, particularly if you've moved in the past year.

The racing season is almost over, but tells us we're not done yet.

* Caroler 5K Run, 206 Main St. in East Aurora, 10 a.m. Saturday, 830-6713. Gotta like having a Santa hat as a premium.

* Freezer 5K, 95 Perry St. in Buffalo, 11 a.m. Saturday.

And down the road ...

* Kawelle Ugly Sweater Fun Run, 3K, Glen Park in Williamsville, 9 a.m. on Dec. 22. No results, but a chance to show off an ugly sweater.

-- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Ferguson Jenkins

(Born December 13, 1942) -- If you blinked, you missed the Buffalo stop of Ferguson Jenkins. At least we got to see him at the beginning of his great career.

Jenkins was born and raised in Chatham, Ont. He was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies and spent most of his first season in the pros with Miami in 1962. But apparently, the Phillies’ AAA affiliate needed a pitcher for a while, and Jenkins got the call. He pitched in three games, going 1-1 with an earned-run average of 5.54

The big right-hander worked his way up the ladder more slowly after that, but still didn’t look like a great pitcher. Then the Phillies traded him to the Cubs in a five-man deal involving Larry Jackson and Bob Buhl in 1966. After one so-so season, Jenkins’ career took off starting in 1967.

He went 20-13 in his first full season as a Cub, and at least 20 games in his next six seasons as well. Jenkins threw more than 300 innings four times in that stretch. His acquisition ranks as one of the best deals in Chicago history.

Jenkins eventually was traded to the Rangers, and he also played for the Red Sox before returning to the Cubs. He finished with 284 wins, a Cy Young Award and three All-Star appearances. That was more than good enough to get him into the Hall of Fame.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Randy Smith

(Born December 12, 1948) -- The Buffalo Braves had some great players on the roster during their eight years in the NBA. They may have had a few better ones that Randy Smith, but certainly none more beloved.

Smith was one of the great success stories in NBA history. He was born in Bellport, Long Island, and came to Buffalo State for college. There he was an All-American in basketball, soccer and track. Witnesses said Randy would just jump higher than anyone else in soccer games, and head the ball into the goal.

He was taken in the seventh round of the NBA draft in 1971, mostly in an effort to keep the home fans happy. A funny thing happened in training camp, though -- Smith made the team. He did it as a forward, even though he was 6-foot-3 and gave up inches in height to everyone he guarded. Smith was a good enough athlete to guard taller players and quick enough to run away from them.

Smith eventually moved to guard, and seemed to get better every year. He was named to the All-NBA Second Team for 1975-76, and in a career highlight was the most valuable player of the 1978 All-Star Game.

Randy went to San Diego when the Braves left, and spent one year as a Clipper. Then he was traded to Cleveland, and also played for Knicks and Hawks. Well after retirement, he was working in promotions for a Connecticut casino in 2009 when he had a heart attack after a workout.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Charles Radbourn

(Born December 11, 1854) -- Buffalo had some great baseball players pass through over the years. This is the story of one who got away, in a manner of speaking.

Charles Radbourn was born in Rochester after his parents emigrated from England. After some time working on a railroad, Radbourn tried his hand at baseball. He caught the eye of the Buffalo Bisons, who signed him in 1880.

Radbourn was a second baseman for the Herd for his six games. He supposedly practiced so hard that he hurt his shoulder and was released in those pre-disabled list days. However, Radbourn recovered and signed with Providence the next year.

He pitched for 11 years for Providence, two Boston teams and Cincinnati. Radbourn won 309 games in his career, including a 59-win season in 1884 that is a record.

In his later years, Radbourn lost an eye in a hunting accident and supposedly never came out of a backroom of a saloon he owned in Illinois because of some feeling of shame. He died in 1897, and was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Doc Edwards

(Born December 10, 1936) -- It’s no surprise that Doc Edwards spent part of his baseball career in Buffalo. After all, he’s spent the other parts of his career practically everywhere else.

Apparently, Edwards was determined to see the world after he was born in Red Jacket, West Virginia. The town is named after the Native leader who is buried in Forest Lawn cemetery in Buffalo.

Edwards, who was a Navy media and thus earned the nickname of Doc, arrived in the majors in 1962 after an apprenticeship. He played withe Indians, Athletics and Yankees in the next four years.

After finishing as a player, Edwards moved into the managerial ranks in 1973. He led the Indians from 1987-89. His next stop was in Buffalo in 1993, as he led the Bisons for two seasons. Doc couldn’t get the Bisons above .500.

Edwards still isn’t done managing. He’s worked in San Angelo of the North American League for the past seven years. Edwards has been a consistent winner.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Jim Haslett

(Born December 9, 1955) -- When Jim Haslett first arrived in professional football, he was a goofy kid from Indiana University ... of Pennsylvania. Few could have guessed he’d turn into a football lifer.

Haslett was born in Pittsburgh and was good enough at Indiana to be a second-round draft pick of the Bills. He became part of a rebuilding Buffalo team under Chuck Knox, and he and new pal Fred Smerlas became media darlings with their wacky stories.

But Haslett could play. He was the league’s defensive rookie of the year in 1979, and helped the Bills win the AFC East in 1980. Haslett hung around Buffalo until 1985, and then spent two seasons with the Jets.

He started his coaching career at the University at Buffalo in 1988, and by 1996 was the defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints. In 2000, he landed the head coaching position of the Saints, staying through 2005.

After some time in St. Louis, where he was an interim coach in 2008, Haslett moved on to his present position with the Washington Redskins. We’ll see if he someday gets the chance to improve his 53-61 career coaching record in the NFL.

--- Budd Bailey

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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.