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This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Dale McCourt

(Born on January 26, 1957) -- Dale McCourt was a good player during much of his career. Somehow, though, good wasn’t quite good enough.

The center was a great junior hockey player by any definition. He had at least 126 points in three straight seasons, playing less than 70 games. That helped make him the first overall draft choice in 1977, going to the Detroit Red Wings.

McCourt wasted no time making an impact. He had 72 points in 76 games in his rookie season. He worked his way up to 86 points in 1980-81, and was still around a point a game early in the next season.

Then the forward was traded to the Sabres in the huge swap that sent Danny Gare and Jim Schoenfeld to Detroit. McCourt’s production slipped under a point per game in his almost two full seasons in Buffalo, as the numbers stopped going up.

The Sabres released him in the fall of 1983, and he landed with Toronto for the rest of that season. Then it was on to Switzerland, where McCourt stayed eight years. He was such a star there that his uniform number was retired when he finished play in the 1991-92 season.

--- Budd Bailey

Video: Good Reads & Bozos of the Week on the 'Bucky & Sully Show'

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Bozos of the Week:

Watch all the segments of this week's show here.

Post Time: Juvenile champ starts Derby trail off in Florida

By Gene Kershner

On Saturday afternoon, the newly crowned 2-year-old champion Shanghai Bobby will begin his quest on the Derby trail in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The race is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby Prep Season schedule and is worth 10 points to the eventual winner in the new Derby points qualifying system.

The undefeated colt has entered is taking the Florida route to the Derby, one that’s been successful for such 3-year olds such as Barbaro and Big Brown in recent years and looks to extend his five race winning streak. He drew the rail (which is winning at a 20 percent clip) for the first test of his sophomore season and has been training well for Todd Pletcher. 

He’ll be part of a respectable field of 10 horses looking to accumulate valuable points in the 8-1/2 furlong race going two turns at the Hallandale Beach strip.

Let’s take a look at the field (trainer, jockey, morning line odds in parenthesis):

1 – Shanghai Bobby (Pletcher, Napravnik, 4/5). Rosie has been in the irons for all five of the Juvenile champion’s victories and is looking to become the first female jockey to win the Derby, so there will be added pressure as this colt progresses down the trail. By class alone it’s hard to dismiss him, but this is the race where last year’s Juvenile champ, Hansen, was upended and exposed. The rail has been hot so it’s unlikely that the champ will finish out of the exacta.

2 – Frac Daddy (McPeek, Cohen, 8-1). Best name in the field, but that usually doesn’t win the race. Won impressively breaking his maiden at Churchill and was headed in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club by the talented Uncaptured, so he has the talent to win this one. Both the jock and trainer have been ice cold at Gulfstream which is the only signal to wait one out. 

3- Clearly Now (Lynch, Saez, 12-1). Woodbine shipper will be trying dirt for the first time. He had a solid 4-furlong work at Palm Meadows, but the transition to dirt is enough to keep me away in this talented field.

4 – Bern Identity (Breen, Lopez, 4-1). Has the class to compete, winning the G2 Sanford at Saratoga and finishing second to Goldencents (the current leader in Derby points) in the Delta Jackpot. Connections won the 2011 Belmont with Ruler On Ice, so they are no stranger to the Triple Crown trail. Workout tab suggests he’s ready to run and Breen is a 29 percent winner after being beaten as the favorite. 

5 – Sr. Quisqueyano (Olivares, Rosario, 20-1). The Exclusive Quality colt faded in the non-graded Gulfstream Park Derby to Itsmyluckyday. He finished over six lengths behind in second in the one mile affair. Breeding indicates he’s more of a sprinting sort and I don’t favor him to challenge in
here. 

6 - Dewey Square (Romans, Lanerie, 12-1). Eclipse award winning trainer Dale Romans will try and be a figure on this year’s Triple Crown trail with this Bernardini colt that finished behind Frac Daddy in the Kentucky Jockey Club race. He has an impressive work tab and posted a bullet on Jan. 20, so he could be a dangerous foe on race day. 

7 – Itsmyluckyday (Plesa Jr., Trujillo, 6-1). Freaked on New Year’s Day with Paco Lopez aboard who will ride Bern Identity instead. Usually a signal as to who is the better horse, but the Lawyer Ron colt looks to be the real deal and could see him hitting the board.

8 – Tulira Castle (DiVito, Castellano, 30-1). The War Pass colt steps into deeper waters after winning in the allowance ranks. May be over his head in here, but like that the connections are taking a shot.

9 – Fredericksburg (Matz, Velazquez, 30-1). Finished behind the 8 horse in the last race after a bobble at the start. The connections scream potential upset play and may be worth throwing a few bucks on a possible long shot play 

10 – Joshua’s Comprise (Rose, Desormeaux, 50-1). Stranger things have happened on the Derby trail, but this one doesn’t seem likely. Probably should have been running last weekend with the other Florida-breds. 

It’s hard to go against the class of the champion, Shanghai Bobby, who has done no wrong in his five career races and if the rail is golden on Saturday he should prevail.

Post Time Outlook: 1-Shanghai Bobby; 2-Itsmyluckyday; and 3-Bern Identity

Long shot Play: Fredericksburg

Good luck this weekend and let’s go cash some tickets!

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: Corey McIntyre

(Born January 25, 1979) -- Old-timers remember the years when fullbacks got to carry the ball regularly. Look up such players as Jim Brown, Jim Taylor and Cookie Gilchrist and you’ll get the idea. Then the game changed, and Sam Gash made the Pro Bowl without carrying the ball once.

Corey McIntyre probably wouldn’t mind going back to those old days.

He was born and raised in Stuart, Fla., and earned a scholarship to West Virginia. There he was a linebacker and defensive end . McIntyre did get to carry the ball three times as a Mountaineer.

He went undrafted in 2002, but the Eagles signed him as a free agent. McIntyre popped up in the World League in between stints there. Then it was on to Cleveland, New Orleans and Atlanta.

The Bills needed a fullback in Sept. 2008, and McIntyre was available. He’s been here ever since. Corey hasn’t touched the ball much; his career high in carries before this season was seven. But, Buffalo likes what he does for it.

--- Budd Bailey

Running notebook; How many R's in brrrrrrr?

Run outside during the past few days?

I don't see many hands raised.

The racing year is about ready to start, and the two races this weekend are appropriately named at least. Here's the list, courtesy of buffalorunners.com:

* Ice Man 2-Miler, Delaware Park in Buffalo, 10 a.m. Saturday. This is part of the Winter Festival, and the race picked up a new name and format from last year.

* Penguin Run, 5K, 2425 Niagara Falls Blvd. in Amherst, 11 a.m. Sunday, 549-6307 x201. It was interesting to me that this race's brochure said it was voted Western New York's best post-race party. Has anyone ever conducted such a vote? That said, this race put on a fine lunch at the Classic V Banquet Facility and would be a contender for that distinction.

By the way, I'm hoping to do a story in a week on the Lockport Y-10. If you have any stories about the race, send me a quick email at BBailey@buffnews.com, and we'll talk. Thanks.

-- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Hank Bullough

(Born January 24, 1934) -- Hank Bullough is mostly remembered in Western New York for his losing record as the Bills’ head coach. It’s too bad that his time here in that capacity wiped out the memory of a long career in football.

Bullough was born in Scranton, Penn., and went to Michigan State. There he was a starting guard for the Spartans. Bullough was a starting guard for Michigan State when it won the 1952 Rose Bowl.

After a short playing career with the Green Bay Packers, he turned to coaching at his alma mater. Bullough spent 11 years there before landing in Baltimore as an assistant with the Colts. He moved to the Patriots in the 1970s, and is credited with helping to bring the 3-4 defense to the NFL.

Bullough moved to the Bengals, and turned up in Buffalo as defensive coordinator in 1985. Buffalo gave him the head coaching job when Kay Stephenson was fired. But it was a difficult spot, and the Bills went 2-12 in the rest of that season. Buffalo started 1986 by going 2-7, and that was enough – Marv Levy came in as a replacement.

It was back to the Packers as defensive coordinator for four seasons in 1988, and finished up his coaching career in Detroit in 1993.

---Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Marty Brown

(Born January 23, 1963) -- F. Scott Fitzgerald once famously said, “There are no second acts in American life.” We’ll see if Marty Brown can change that belief in Buffalo this summer.

The Oklahoma native was drafted by the Reds in 1985 after playing college ball at Georgia. He played with the Reds and Orioles briefly but couldn’t stick, so it was on to perform in Japan for three years. Brown, an infielder, finished his playing days in Oklahoma City in 1995.

Brown started his managing career in Erie with the Pittsburgh farm system in 1997. He arrived in Nashville in 2001, and spent two years with that Pacific Coast League team. Then Brown landed in Buffalo, where he had a winning record in all three of his seasons. The team won the International League title in 2004.

Brown spent five years managing in Japan in 2006-10, and then came back across the ocean to manage in Las Vegas for the Blue Jays. The team went 79-64 last season.

When Toronto moved its top farm team to Buffalo, it seemed like a natural fit for Brown to come back here to manage. That’s exactly how it worked out, as he’ll be guiding the Herd in 2013.

-- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Jason Peters

(Born January 22, 1982) -- Few football players who aren’t drafted make an NFL roster. Even fewer end up as starters. Even fewer are Pro Bowlers. Jason Peters was the exception to many rules.

Peters was born in Texas and went to the University of Arkansas. He was a huge physical specimen (6-foot-4 and more than 300 pounds), but ended up playing tight end for the Razorbacks. He was good at it too.

Peters was signed by the Bills as a free agent in 2004. They first put him on special teams, and discovered that he absolutely destroyed wedges on kickoffs. Then the Bills gave him a crash course on playing offensive tackle.

By 2006, Peters was a starter on the line, and made the Pro Bowl in 2007. That led him to holding out for a better contract for part of the 2008 season. Peters eventually turned up, but more financial problems led to his trade to the Eagles in 2009.

Peters made the Pro Bowl in 2010 and 2011, but he ruptured his Achilles tendon during a workout last March. Peters missed all of the 2012 season. The Eagles obviously missed him.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Tom Stith

(Born January 21, 1939) -- St. Bonaventure has had all sorts of great basketball players over the years. Two of the best were a brother act from Brooklyn.

Tom Stith and older brother Sam certainly were a dynamic duo in Olean. Sam was an all-around player who could play defense and score as well. Tom, meanwhile, was the one who collected attention. That happens to scorers.

Tom was named an All-American in 1960 and 1961. He scored more than 2,000 points in three years of varsity play. As a junior, he averaged 31 points per game.

All of that caught the eye of the New York Knicks. He went second in the NBA draft, right behind Walt Bellamy. Stith broke in to the NBA but only played a couple of seasons due to tuberculosis.

Still, the Stith name is remembered fondly. He’s a member of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. Stith died in 2010.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Rian Lindell

(Born January 20, 1977) -- Sometimes kickers have been known to bounce around the National Football League, as a couple of bad weeks can send them to the unemployment line. Rian Lindell has been the exception to the rule.

Lindell grew up in Vancouver, Washington, and was a college kicker for Washington State. There he played with future first-round pick Ryan Leaf. Lindell wasn’t picked in the 2000 NFL draft, so he started making the rounds.

After an initial stop with the Cowboys (no game action), Lindell landed with Seattle in 2003. He stayed three seasons, and then was a free agent. The Bills were losing Mike Hollis to free agent, and thought Lindell would be a good replacement. He was known for his strong leg.

Lindell just finished a full decade with the team. He only made 70 percent of his field goals in his first season, but that was his worst such season with the Bills. In 2007, he set the team record for consecutive field goals.

Lindell signed a four-year contract with the Bills last year around this time. Nothing is for certain in the NFL, but it looks like he’s found a home.

--- 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.

@WDX2BB | bbailey@buffnews.com

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