Buffalo Bisons

Last updated
Buffalo Bisons
Founded in 1979
Buffalo, New York
BuffaloBisons13.PNG BuffaloBisons13cap.PNG
Team logoCap insignia
Minor league affiliations
Class Triple-A (1985–present)
Previous classesDouble-A (1979–1984)
League International League (1912–1970, 1998–present)
DivisionNorth Division
Previous leagues
Major league affiliations
Team Toronto Blue Jays (2013–present)
Previous teams
Minor league titles
League titles (7)
  • 1933
  • 1936
  • 1957
  • 1961
  • 1997
  • 1998
  • 2004
Division titles (4)
  • 1998
  • 2001
  • 2004
  • 2005
Wild card berths (1)
  • 2002
Team data
NicknameBuffalo Bisons (1877–1970, 1979–present)
ColorsScarlet red, reflex blue, white [1]
            
Ballpark
Sahlen Field (2019–present)
  • Coca-Cola Field (2009–2018)
  • Dunn Tire Park (1998–2008)
  • North AmeriCare Park (1995–1998)
  • Pilot Field (1988–1994)
Previous parks
Owner(s)/
Operator(s)
Bob Rich Jr.
Manager Ken Huckaby
General ManagerAnthony Sprague [2]
Media WNLO-TV
WWKB
Bisons Radio Network
CJCL (select games only)

The Buffalo Bisons are a professional Minor League Baseball team based in Buffalo, New York. The Bisons play in the International League (IL) and are the Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. The club plays its home games at Sahlen Field in downtown Buffalo.

Contents

The Bisons have existed in some form since 1877, most of that time playing in professional baseball's second tier; exceptions have included the 1879–85 Bisons, who played in the major leagues as a member of the National League, and the 1979–84 Bisons, who played at the third-tier Double-A level. The Bisons did not play from June 1970 through the 1978 season.

The 1927 Bisons were recognized as one of the 100 greatest minor league teams of all time. [3] In 2016, Forbes listed the Bisons as the 15th-most valuable Minor League Baseball team with a value of $34 million. [4]

History

Previous Buffalo Bisons teams

T206 Baseball Card for Buffalo Bisons Pitcher Dummy Taylor, ca. 1909-11 Dummy Taylor, pitcher, Buffalo Bisons, ca. 1910.jpg
T206 Baseball Card for Buffalo Bisons Pitcher Dummy Taylor, ca. 1909-11

Organized baseball in Buffalo had existed since at least 1859, when the Niagara baseball club of the National Association of Base Ball Players played its first season. The first professional team to play in Buffalo began in 1877 as a member of the League Alliance; [5] this team was invited to become a major league club, the Buffalo Bisons of the National League, and played from 1879 to 1885. In 1886, the Bisons moved into minor league baseball as members of the original International League, then known as the Eastern League. (An "outlaw" team also known as the Buffalo Bisons played in the Players' League, an upstart third major league, in 1890, but that team is not considered part of the Bisons history.) This team joined the Western League in 1899, and was within weeks of becoming a major league team when the Western League announced it was becoming a major league and changing its name to the American League in 1900. However, by the start of the 1901 season, Buffalo had been bumped from the league in favor of the Boston Americans; the Bisons returned to the minors and the Eastern League that year.

This franchise continued in the Eastern/International League through June 1970, when it transferred to Winnipeg, Manitoba as the Winnipeg Whips, due to poor attendance, stadium woes, the Montreal Expos affiliating with the franchise, and an increasingly saturated-Buffalo sports market that saw the Buffalo Sabres of the NHL and Buffalo Braves of the NBA established the same year. (The team had narrowly avoided relocation in 1955, but an idea of selling common stock in the team by John Stiglmeir prevented the team from leaving; it nonetheless was forced to move into a football venue, Buffalo War Memorial Stadium, a few years later, after its existing ballpark closed.) In 1969, Héctor López became the first black manager at the Triple-A level while managing Buffalo—six years before Frank Robinson became the first black manager in Major League Baseball. [6] After stops in Winnipeg and Hampton, Virginia, the team was suspended after the 1973 season to make way for the Memphis Blues, who were moving up from Double-A.

In 1979, by which point the Braves had left town, the Double-A Eastern League's Jersey City A's were forced to leave their city due to the decrepitude of that city's Roosevelt Stadium and opted to move to Waterbury, Connecticut, a city that already had an Eastern League team. With Mayor Jimmy Griffin, Canisius College baseball coach Don Colpoys, broadcaster Stan Barron [7] and WNY umpire Peter Calieri leading the effort, the league awarded the extra franchise to Buffalo, and the Bisons (taking on the previous team's name and history) returned to the field.

After six seasons in the Eastern League, the Bisons rejoined the Triple-A ranks in 1985, joining the American Association when the Wichita Aeros' franchise rights were transferred to Buffalo. When, as part of a reorganization of Triple-A baseball, the American Association folded after the 1997 season, Buffalo joined the International League.

Since their return to Triple-A baseball in 1985, the Bisons have qualified for the playoffs several times. In 2004, although the Bisons were 10 games behind the first-place team in June, the Bisons won their division. Buffalo won its first-round playoff, against the Durham Bulls, and advanced to the Governors' Cup Finals, in which they had home field advantage over the Richmond Braves. The remnants of Hurricane Ivan caused major flooding problems in Richmond and the entire series was played in Buffalo. The Bisons defeated the Braves in four games and won the Governors' Cup for the second time since 1998. In 2005, Buffalo won the North Division and played the Indianapolis Indians in the first round, winning the first two games in Indianapolis, but losing all three remaining games. With many of its players shuffled to the Cleveland Indians throughout the final months of the season, the Bisons failed to qualify for the playoffs in 2006. In 2007, Buffalo again failed to clinch a playoff spot, marking the first time since Buffalo was parented with the Pittsburgh Pirates that the Bisons missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. The team has not reached the playoffs since then.

Mets era

After the 2008 season, Buffalo parted ways with Cleveland, as the Indians signed an affiliation agreement with the Columbus Clippers beginning in 2009. The Bisons then signed a two-year agreement to be the top home for New York Mets prospects. [8]

On December 16, 2008, the Mets officially announced that Ken Oberkfell would be the Bisons new manager for 2009. At the same press conference, the Bisons also unveiled their new logo. The logo paid homage to baseball's history in the city of Buffalo with the city's skyline in the background. The logo, along with the new colors of blue and orange, closely resemble that of the team's new parent club, the Mets. [9]

In the 2009–2010 off-season, the Bisons were chosen to host the 2012 Triple-A All-Star Game to celebrate 25 years at Coca-Cola Field. The game was played on Wednesday, July 11, 2012.

In late July 2010, the Bisons and Mets agreed on a two-year extension that carried their agreement through the 2012 season. [10]

The 2010–2011 off-season saw changes to the Bisons coaching staff. Ken Oberkfell was replaced by Tim Teufel, who was a member of the 1986 Mets team. Teufel was introduced on Friday January 21, 2011, as the 16th manager in the Bisons' modern era. [11]

The 2011–2012 off-season once again saw coaching changes. Tim Teufel was replaced by Wally Backman. [12] He was introduced on November 17, 2011.

Blue Jays era

The Bisons' agreement with the Mets ended after the 2012 season due to Bisons' management being dissatisfied with their drop in attendance and poor performance during the Mets era. The Bisons enjoyed only one winning season out of the four years that they were affiliated with the Mets. [13] Consequently, the Bisons signed a player development contract with the Toronto Blue Jays on September 18, 2012. [14] [15] The Blue Jays are geographically the closest MLB team to Buffalo and such a partnership would build on other international fan base efforts in the region, such as the now-defunct Bills Toronto Series in football.

As part of the rebuilding efforts, the Bisons announced a new uniform (a throwback uniform using a modernized variant of their 1980s logo and colors) and the return of former Bisons manager Marty Brown in November 2012.

On April 18, 2013 the Bisons scored 27 runs on 29 hits against the Syracuse Chiefs, setting records for the most runs and hits in an International League game since 1973. [16] [17]

In 2016, the Bisons and Blue Jays agreed to again extend their player development contract, extending their relationship through the 2018 season. [18] On May 4, 2018, the Bisons and Blue Jays agreed to another two-year extension of their player development contract, extending their partnership through the 2020 season. [19]

The start of the 2020 season was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic before ultimately being cancelled on June 30. [20] [21]

Year-by-year records

YearAff.LeagueDiv.FinishWLW%ManagerPlayoffs
1979 Pirates Eastern League 4th7267.518 Steve Demeter League didn't hold playoffs
1980PiratesEastern LeagueNorth1st (first half)
3rd (second half)

5th (overall)
6770.489Steve DemeterLost in Semi-Finals, 0–2 (Millers)
1981PiratesEastern LeagueNorth4th (first half)
2nd (second half)

7th (overall)
5681.409 Johnny Lipon Did not qualify
1982PiratesEastern LeagueNorth4th (first half)
4th (second half)

8th (overall)
5584.396 Tommy Sandt Did not qualify
1983 Indians Eastern League3rd7465.532 Al Gallagher Lost in Semi-Finals, 0–2 (Sailors)
1984IndiansEastern League5th7267.518 Jack Aker Did not qualify
1985 White Sox American Association East3rd6676.465 John Boles Did not qualify
1986White SoxAmerican AssociationEast2nd7171.500 Jim Marshall Did not qualify
1987IndiansAmerican Association5th6674.471 Orlando Gómez
Steve Swisher
Did not qualify
1988PiratesAmerican AssociationEast3rd7270.507 Rocky Bridges Did not qualify
1989PiratesAmerican AssociationEast2nd8062.563 Terry Collins Did not qualify
1990PiratesAmerican AssociationEast2nd8562.578Terry CollinsLost one-game playoff, 3–4 (Sounds)
1991PiratesAmerican AssociationEast1st8162.566Terry CollinsLost in Championship, 2–3 (Zephyrs)
1992PiratesAmerican AssociationEast1st8757.604 Marc Bombard Lost in Championship, 0–4 (89ers)
1993PiratesAmerican AssociationEast2nd7173.493 Doc Edwards Did not qualify
1994PiratesAmerican Association8th5589.382Doc EdwardsDid not qualify
1995IndiansAmerican Association2nd8662.569 Brian Graham Won Semi-Finals, 3–1 (Royals)
Lost in Championship, 2–3 (Redbirds)
1996IndiansAmerican AssociationEast1st8460.583Brian GrahamLost in Semi-Finals, 2–3 (Indians)
1997IndiansAmerican AssociationEast1st8757.604Brian GrahamWon Semi-Finals, 3–2 (Indians)
Won Championship, 3–0 (Cubs)
1998Indians International League North1st8162.566 Jeff Datz Won Semi-Finals, 3–0 (SkyChiefs)
Won Championship, 3–2 (Bulls)
Lost World Series, 1–3 (Zephyrs)
1999IndiansInternational LeagueNorth4th7272.500Jeff DatzDid not qualify
2000IndiansInternational LeagueNorth1st8659.593 Joel Skinner Won one-game playoff, 7–1 (Red Barons)
Lost in Semi-Finals, 1–3 (Red Barons)
2001IndiansInternational LeagueNorth1st9151.641 Eric Wedge Lost in Semi-Finals, 2–3 (Red Barons)
2002IndiansInternational LeagueNorth2nd8454.609Eric WedgeWon Semi-Finals, 3–0 (Red Barons)
Lost in Championship, 0–3 (Bulls)
2003IndiansInternational LeagueNorth3rd7370.510 Marty Brown Did not qualify
2004IndiansInternational LeagueNorth1st8361.576Marty BrownWon Semi-Finals, 3–2 (Bulls)
Won Championship, 3–1 (Braves)
2005IndiansInternational LeagueNorth1st8262.569Marty BrownLost in Semi-Finals, 2–3 (Indians)
2006IndiansInternational LeagueNorth3rd7368.518 Torey Lovullo Did not qualify
2007IndiansInternational LeagueNorth3rd7567.569Torey LovulloDid not qualify
2008IndiansInternational LeagueNorth5th6677.462Torey LovulloDid not qualify
2009 Mets International LeagueNorth6th5687.392 Ken Oberkfell Did not qualify
2010MetsInternational LeagueNorth3rd7668.528Ken OberkfellDid not qualify
2011MetsInternational LeagueNorth5th6182.427 Tim Teufel Did not qualify
2012MetsInternational LeagueNorth6th6776.469 Wally Backman Did not qualify
2013 Blue Jays International LeagueNorth3rd7470.514 Marty Brown Did not qualify
2014Blue JaysInternational LeagueNorth3rd7766.538 Gary Allenson Did not qualify
2015Blue JaysInternational LeagueNorth3rd6876.472Gary AllensonDid not qualify
2016Blue JaysInternational LeagueNorth5th6678.458Gary AllensonDid not qualify
2017Blue JaysInternational LeagueNorth5th6576.461 Bobby Meacham Did not qualify
2018Blue JaysInternational LeagueNorth6th6177.442Bobby MeachamDid not qualify
2019Blue JaysInternational LeagueNorth3rd7169.507Bobby MeachamDid not qualify
2020Blue JaysInternational LeagueNorthN/A Ken Huckaby Season cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic

Titles

The Bisons have won the Governors' Cup, the championship of the IL, 6 times, including the inaugural Cup, and played in the championship series 10 times.

Since 1998, the Bisons have won the IL North Division four times (1998, 2001, 2004, and 2005). They have also won the Thruway Cup, a regular-season competition between Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse, eight times since its inception in 1998.

Roster

Buffalo Bisons roster
PlayersCoaches/Other

Pitchers

Catchers

Infielders

Outfielders

Manager

Coaches

  • 20 Corey Hart (hitting)
  • -- David Howell (development)
  • -- Jake McGuiggan (development)
  • -- Bob Tarpey (development)
  • -- Jeff Ware (pitching)
  • 22 Devon White (position)


Injury icon 2.svg 7-day injured list
* On Toronto Blue Jays 40-man roster
# Rehab assignment
∞ Reserve list
‡ Restricted list
§ Suspended list
† Temporary inactive list
Roster updated June 21, 2020
Transactions
→ More rosters: MiLB    International League
Toronto Blue Jays minor league players

Alumni

Retired numbers

Notable former Bisons

Players named to the Bisons' "All 25 Seasons Team" are indicated by a double dagger (Double-dagger-14-plain.png)

Buffalo Bisons in the National Baseball Hall of Fame

Player/Manager [23] Year InductedYears with the Bisons
Connie Mack 19371890 (played for the outlaw PL Bisons)
Charles Radbourn 19391880
Jimmy Collins 19451893–1894
Jim O'Rourke 19451881–1884
Dan Brouthers 19451881–1885
Joe Tinker 19461930 (Coach)
Herb Pennock 19481916
Bill Dickey 19541928
Gabby Hartnett 19551946 (Manager)
Ray Schalk 19551932–1937, 1950 (Manager)
Joe McCarthy 19571914–1915
John Montgomery Ward 19641877
Pud Galvin 19651878–1885, 1894
Lou Boudreau 19701939
Bucky Harris 19751918–1919, 1944–1945 (Manager)
Johnny Bench 19891966–1967
Ferguson Jenkins 19911962
Jim Bunning 19961953, 1955
Frank Grant 20061886–1888
Deacon White 20131881–1885, 1890
Jim Thome 20181998

Sahlen Field

Sahlen Field, recently renamed "Coca-Cola Field." CocaColaFieldSummer2018.jpg
Sahlen Field, recently renamed "Coca-Cola Field."

As previously stated, the Buffalo Bisons play at Sahlen Field. This field has gone through many different name changes, but it was most recently Coca-Cola Field. The capacity of the stadium is 16,600 people. [24]

Mascots


The main mascots of the team have traditionally been Buster T. Bison along with his cousin Chip, but as of 2006, a new mascot named Belle the Ballpark Diva has appeared, along with flamboyant reporter Johnny Styles. Buster and Belle pursued a love interest, and were married following a game on August 26, 2007, against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.

Buster and Chip wear Bisons jerseys and caps. Buster's number was the last two numbers of the season up to 2009, however, as of the 2010 season his number is 83, signifying the year Buster first appeared as the team's mascot. Chip's number has always been 12. The Bisons have had a number of other mascots in the past. MicroChip, who was smaller and presumably "younger" than Buster and Chip, wore a Bisons jersey as well. His number was 14. Loudmouth, a mime played by actress Tracey B. Wilson, was another mascot for the team. The other official mascot of the Bisons was Howie the Ump. He wore a costume much like Buster and Chip, but it was a costume of a human umpire, with an umpire's uniform and mask. He was very short-lived, existing only during the 1995–1997 seasons, and was played by local improvisational comedian Randy Reese.

The Bisons also run their own version of the mascot races at each home game, with costume characters representing a plain chicken wing, an extra-spicy "atomic" wing, a tub of blue cheese and a stalk of celery. The celery mascot, a crowd favorite, lost his first 449 races and was often the victim of foul play from the other contestants; more often, when it would squander whatever lead it had secured by stopping and becoming distracted. In a spoof of major baseball stars' "farewell tours" in the 2010s (such as those by David Ortiz and Derek Jeter), Celery announced his retirement in 2016, a full year ahead of his last game at the end of the 2017 season. [25] [26] In Celery's final race, which was preceded with a mass media circus in the Buffalo area in the week leading up to the race, Celery broke out to an early lead, again became distracted, but regained his focus to pass his opponents before the finish line, winning his only race and finishing with a 1–449 record. In 2018, Celery was replaced with a carrot and a beef on weck sandwich. [27]

The beer and snack vendors that have worked the Bisons' ballparks often earned reputations as entertainers themselves. These include Conehead (Tom Girot), a beer vendor who wears a rubber cone-head hat and has been selling beer at various Buffalo sporting events since 1971, [28] and The Earl of Bud (entertainer Earl Howze, Jr., currently of Chattanooga, Tennessee), another beer vendor, who would climb on the dugout and dance at some point during the game. [29] The Earl of Bud made an appearance at the 20th Anniversary game for Dunn Tire Park in August 2007. He also made appearances at the ballpark in July and August 2012.

The team celebrates its past in their Hall of Fame Room which is located in the main concourse near the Swan St. gate. The room opened in 2013 and was one of the very first of its kind in minor league baseball. It is curated by John Boutet of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.

Media/game broadcasts

The Bisons Baseball Network broadcasts all Buffalo Bisons games. The flagship station is WWKB, a clear-channel station in Buffalo. Select games are broadcast on CJCL, the flagship station of the Toronto Blue Jays. Pat Malacaro serves as the team's play-by-play announcer, having taken over the position full-time in 2018 [30] after serving as a fill-in in the years prior; he is teamed with color commentator Duke McGuire, who has been with the Bisons since 1979. [31] Until the 2016 season, a network of Western New York stations including WSPQ in Springville, WGGO in Salamanca and WOEN in Olean carried Bisons games, all of which have since ceased independent operations.

Jim Rosenhaus, a Bisons broadcaster for 11 years, is now a Cleveland Indians broadcaster. His predecessor Pete Weber, who was the Bisons play-by-play broadcaster for 13 years, currently serves in that role for the Nashville Predators. Stan Barron spent many years as the Bisons' broadcaster and was a major factor in preventing a proposed relocation in 1956 and returning the team to Buffalo in 1979.

Ben Wagner served as play-by-play announcer from 2007 to 2017. On March 27, 2018, Wagner was hired by the Blue Jays to replace Jerry Howarth as their radio play-by-play announcer. [32] [33]

The Bisons broadcast select television games on WNLO, mostly games on Saturday nights. [34]

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References

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  10. Archived July 25, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
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