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This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Dan Carnevale

(Born on February 8, 1918) -- It’s doubtful that anyone was more enthusiastic about Buffalo baseball than Dan Carnevale. After all, he spent all of his adult life connected to the sport.

Carnevale merely earned nine letters at St. Joe’s, and played baseball at Canisius College. There he signed to play professionally, and started his odyssey. In 1937, Carnevale hit .354 and reportedly drove in 100 runs in 101 games for Cornwall

He went on to play for 15 years through 1953, including with the Bisons. Carnevale’s lifetime batting average was .284, and he played in 14 different cities. But by then he’d already done some minor-league managing, starting in 1947.

Carnevale’s managing days ended its first run in 1955, when he was the skipper of the Bisons. In the next two seasons, Carnevale served as the Herd’s general manager. The team won the playoff championship in 1957 and drew almost a half-million fans.

He became a scout in 1962, although he did serve as a first-base coach for the Athletics in 1970. Carnevale joined the Indians’ organization in 1972 as a special assignment scout. He died in 2005.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Paul Owens

(Born on February 7, 1924) -- Baseball fans of Philadelphia will always be grateful to the Southern Tier of Western New York. One of that area’s native sons played a huge role in some of the greatest moments in Phillies history.

Paul Owens was born in Salamanca, and he went to St. Bonaventure. Oddly, Owens played his first year of professional ball in 1951 at the age of 27 - in Olean, no less. He came back to that city in 1955 as a player-manager.

Owens eventually became a scout for the Phillies, and worked his way up to the job of general manager in 1972. There he started to put together a run that was unmatched in the team’s history. The Phils won their division in three straight years, from 1976 to 1978, but couldn’t quite get over the top.

Then in 1980, Philadelphia finally reached the promised land of World Series champion. The Phillies defeated Kansas City under manager Dallas Green, with relief pitcher Tug McGraw playing a key role. In 1983, Owens took over as manager and helped the Phils reach another series, but they lost to Baltimore.

Owens lost both the general manager’s and manager’s jobs after the 1984 season. He stayed a scout and consultant with the team until his death in 2003.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Jonny Flynn

(Born on February 6, 1989) -- Jonny Flynn’s basketball career has been closely watched by Western New Yorkers for many years. It’s taken a variety of twists during that time.

Flynn was part of a Niagara Falls high school team that was almost legendary. He teamed up with Paul Harris on a squad that was too good for local competition; it had to play a more national schedule to find its level. Flynn was part of a state champion in 2005, and was the state’s Mr. Basketball in 2007.

That earned him a scholarship to play at Syracuse University as one of the nation’s most coveted recruits at guard. He scored 28 points in his first game there. His best moment at SU came in 2009, when Flynn led the Orange to a fabled six-overtime win over Connecticut in the Big East Tournament.

He entered the draft after that season, and Flynn was taken sixth overall in the first round. In a curious move, the Minnesota Timberwolves also took another point guard, Ricky Rubio, in the first round. Rubio didn’t arrive for a year, and Flynn made the second All-Rookie team.

After that, his production dropped off. Flynn bounced to several teams in the next two years, and was unable to find regular playing time. When he was cut by the Pistons in October, he headed to Australia to play pro ball there.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Jennifer Suhr

(Born on February 5, 1982) -- The past year has been a gold-medal one for Jennifer Suhr. Not too many Western New Yorkers have been able to say the same.

Jennifer Stuczynski was the daughter of two grocery store owners in Fredonia. In high school, she took part in just about every sport possible, from basketball to track. In fact, she was the state pentathlon champion in 2000. From there it was on to Roberts Wesleyan.

In 2004, Stuczynski was took up pole vaulting. In merely 10 months, she was good enough to win the United States indoor title. By 2006 she was the second-best vaulter in American history. Stuczynski reached the Olympics in 2008, finishing with the silver medal.

In two years later, she married her coach, Rick Suhr. The championships kept piling up, but her eyes were set on London in 2012. She overcame an injury to qualify for the American team, and then eventually took the gold medal.

Considering that Suhr is now the American indoor record-holder, the American outdoor record-holder, and a gold medalist, you’d have to say she’s in a class by herself.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Chris Coste

(Born on February 4, 1973) -- Not many baseball players come out of the great state of North Dakota. Not many baseball players reach the major leagues after the age of 30. Chris Coste is a member of both small clubs.

Coste went to high school in Fargo and attended college in Minnesota. He turned up on an independent league team in 1995. It took until 2000 for a pro team to notice him, as the Cleveland Indians signed him.

Coste worked his way up to the Indians’ AAA affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons, in that first year. He played parts of three seasons there, willing to take almost any position to help out.

Coste bounced through several minor-league stops through 2006. Then the Phillies called. They needed him on their major league roster, at the age of 33. He hit .328 in 65 games for Philadelphia. That prompted Coste to write a well-received book on the experience. He won a Series in 2008, and stayed in the majors until 2009.

Coste was picked up by the Nationals on waivers in 2010, but suffered a severe arm injury and decided to retire. Yet he wasn’t done with baseball yet. Coste moved on to a job with the Phillies’ broadcast team.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Walt Patulski

(Born February 3, 1950) -- The Buffalo Bills hit home runs when they took O.J. Simpson and Bruce Smith with the first overall pick in the NFL draft. They were less successful when they took Walt Patulski.

The pick was a natural one. Patulski was a star athlete in three sports in Syracuse, and went on to be a star at Notre Dame. In fact, he was recently named to that university’s All-Century team.

The Bills needed a defensive lineman, and grabbed Patulski. He started right away, and led Buffalo with five sacks as a rookie. But then injuries caught up to him, as well as the doubts of his own coaches. Lou Saban once said about Patulski that he “just went through the motions.”

Patulski spent four years with the Bills, and then was sent to the Cardinals in a trade in 1976. There he suffered a bad knee injury that ended his career.

Patulski returned to Syracuse and became a success there by any definition. He received the key to the city for his community work. However, the ex-pro will never be able to get out of bed without stretching his back for 10 minutes, and he’ll never be able to run. Those are the constant reminders of his football days.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Jabari Greer

(Born February 2, 1981) -- It seems as if the Bills have gone through a variety of cornerbacks over the past several years. Jabari Greer was someone who established in Buffalo that he could play in the sport’s highest level.

Greer was an all-state athlete in football and track while in high school in Tennessee. In fact, he won seven different state track titles - a one-man team. As you’d expect, Greer competed in both sports at Tennessee, where he was a three-year starter at the corner.

Still, he didn’t earn a mention in the 2004 NFL draft. The Bills, though, thought enough of him to sign him as a free agent. Greer mostly worked as a fifth or sixth defensive back for the first few years of his career.

Then in 2008 he finally earned a starting job with the team, and acquitted himself nicely. Greer stayed there for 10 games before suffering an injury.

In 2009, the defensive back signed with the New Orleans Saints. There he was a part of a Super Bowl champion. Jackson, Tennessee, held a day in his honor, and gave him the key to the city.

-- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Tyler Myers

(Born February 1, 1990) -- When the Buffalo Sabres went up against such big defensemen as Zdeno Chara, Sabres fans were known to mumble something along the lines of “why can’t we get someone like that?”

And then the Sabres did exactly that.

Myers grew up in Calgary and played junior hockey in Kelowna of the Western Hockey League. His size and mobility attracted the attention of pro scouts, including those from the Sabres. Buffalo gave up a third-round pick to move up to 12th in the first round to grab the 6-foot-8 Myers.

After one more year in junior hockey, Myers joined the Sabres. He wasted little time to prove he belonged in the NHL, scoring his first NHL goal against former Sabre goalie Dwayne Roloson. By the end of the 2009-10 season, Myers had 48 points and went on to be named the Calder Trophy winner as the league’s best rookie.

Myers had another good season in 2010-11, with 37 points. The Sabres were convinced that he was part of the team’s long-term future, and signed him to a seven-year, $38.5-million contract.

The defenseman was only able to play in 55 games last season due to injury. When the lockout came this season, Myers headed to Austria to stay in game shape.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Rick Dudley

(Born on January 31, 1949) -- Rick Dudley and the Buffalo Sabres have been together a couple of times over the years. He’s always brought intensity to his work, making him a fan favorite.

Dudley grew up in Port Credit, Ont., and worked his way up to the Buffalo Sabres roster in 1972. The winger was good for three seasons here, as he had an aggressive style mixed with a scoring touch.

Dudley was a big part of the Sabres’ team that played the Flyers in the 1975 Stanley Cup finals.
Then Dudley opted to jump to the World Hockey Association. The Cincinnati Stingers kept him until 1979, when the Sabres acquired his rights. Buffalo lost him on waivers to Winnipeg a year later, and he wore #99 for the Jets.

After retirement, Dudley turned to coaching. He worked at a variety of levels in the minor leagues. Then he took over the Sabres’ head-coaching position in 1989, and led Buffalo to a fine season in 1989-90 (98 points). But a first-round playoff loss didn’t go over well, and the next season ended no better. Dudley was let go in the middle of the 1991-92 campaign.

He moved to the front office of NHL teams, working as the general manager of the Senators, Lightning, Panthers and Thrashers. From there he joined Montreal’s organization in 2011.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Larry Carriere

(Born January 30, 1952) -- The Buffalo Sabres needed defense in the summer of 1972 if they wanted to improve on the ice. Larry Carriere turned out to be part of the solution.

Carriere had played in Quebec junior hockey for a while, and then moved on to play and study at Loyola University in Montreal. It was an unusual move at the time, but Carriere did catch the attention of the Sabres there. They made him a second-round draft choice.

Carriere and Jim Schoenfeld, the team’s top draft choice, surprised a few people by making the NHL roster right away. Helped by the guidance of Tim Horton, both players provided a boost to the Sabres as they made the playoffs for the first time. He stayed through 1975 and helped Buffalo reach the Stanley Cup finals.

Carriere was traded to the Flames in 1975 in a deal involving Jacques Richard, one of the bigger disappointments in Buffalo hockey history. Carriere finished his career in a Toronto uniform in 1980, as Punch Imlach talked him out of retirement into a brief comeback.

Carriere joined the Sabres as a scout, and worked his way up the front office ladder there over the years. After leaving Buffalo, Carriere landed with the Montreal Canadiens’ organization.

--- Budd Bailey

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