Buffalo Baseball Briefly
We at MUD.com seem to hit the topic of Buffalo baseball quite often. While there is probably not too much interest out there on the IL Bisons there is a rich baseball history in Buffalo.
Buffalo has had three entries in the Major Leagues. The first being the Buffalo Bisons on the National League. In 1879 the Bisons entered the NL and finished in third, 10 games out. They were typically a middle of the pack club in the NL. They were led by Hall of Famers Pud Galvin on the mound and Jim Brouthers as the slugger. The Buffalo franchise bowed out of the National League after 1885 after 7 years in the NL.
Buffalo returned to the Major Leagues in 1890 when the rebel Players League became a third ML. The team was terrible. They finished in 8th place during the PL only season. The team known also as the Bisons had some very notable baseball personelle. The diminished outfielder, Dummy Hoy, patrolled right field. Deacon White, at 42, held down first base and Connie Mack backstopped Buffalo to one of the worst seasons in ML history.
Major League baseball returned to Buffalo in 1914 as the Federal League (founded in 1913 as a MiL). the team was officially known as the Bisons but the club was better known as the Buffalo Blues or Buffalo Buf-feds.
The Federal League’s existence was fairly turbulent and was crippled by lawsuits from the established leagues. The Buf-feds finished both seasons well back but managed to eke out a winning season in Buffalo’s last season as a Major League city.
THe ballparks the early Buffalo clubs played in were typically small wooden temporary and hastily built that often burned down. Olympic Park, was the only park that did not curve around the bases. The Players League park was played on a huge lot
where only a grandstand was present.
In 1889 Buffalo had its first incarnation in the high minor leagues. The IL Bisons were created and with them came stability for Buffalo fans who met a team playing in a different league every year.
Buffalo built its first truly permanent stadium in 1924. Offerman Stadium became one of the cornerstones of the IL along with MacArthur Stadium, Silver Stadium, Maple Leaf Stadium and Delormier Downs.
Offerman Stadium was immensly intimate. With 345ft power alleys and a 20ft backstop, this was definetly a hitters park. These dimensions brought the fans closer to the play than probably any other professional ballpark in history (any competitors out there?). Buffalo favourite Luke Easter took full advantage and was one of the greatest stars in Buffalo baseball history during this the 50s.
In 1937 a make work project built Memorial Stadium in the Buffalo suburbs. Primarly built as a football park the Bisons started playing here when Offerman was demolished in 1961. The park was not ideal for baseball due to the tight, full corners.
The layout is similar to the Dodgers layout at Memorial Coliseum. The Buffalo Bills played here for 10 years before moving to Rich Stadium. So in 1971 Buffalo had two football stadiums and the Bisons were struggling at Memorial Stadium.
Buffalo suffered the fate of many northern US industrial cities with its urban decay after WW2. For a time it even lost its AAA team which was a staple in the IL for so many years. The Bisons moved down to the AA Eastern League during the 80’s.
In 1988 Buffalo opened Pilot Field. Which, contrary to popular belief is the first “Vintage” ballpark, 4 years before Camden Yards. Pilot Filed was big for the minor leagues seating 20,000 and being double decked. Pilot Field was built to be easily expandable for a Major League club to move in. In the late 1980s several teams were on the block to move San Francisco, Chicago White Sox and Cleveland. Also, the NL was pending to expand.
With the opening of Pilot Field baseball in Buffalo became immediatley viable. The AAA American Association put a team in Western New York and the Bisons consistently drew 1,000,000. Commonly outdrawing several major league clubs in the late 1980s and into the 1990s. Pilot Field did bring baseball fans out to the stadium but it failed to draw the dream of a major league return to Western New York.
Today Pilot Field is known as Dunn Tire Park and still outdraws most minor league clubs. The dream of Major League ball to return to Buffalo is very slight. Buffalo sports clubs have struggled. The NBA Braves moved out in the late 1970’s. The NHL Sabres have had competitive teams but have had funding problems for decades. The NFL Bills have always seemed to be the leagues weak link and are typically the team that is destined to move to Los Angeles, Mexico City or Toronto. Buffalo is still a small market blue-collar city and funding from large corporations would be hard to come by. The fan base is split between Cleveland, Mets and Yankees and the cities location in proximity to the Canadian border (Toronto is only 2hrs away) cuts the city’s area of influence down considerably.
Anyways, Buffalo has a rich history in Baseball, both Minor and Major Leauge and the Bisons are one of the most senior teams in baseball history.