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A big Bisons anniversary

Old logo It was 12 years ago today that the Bisons won their first championship in 36 years with a 5-4, 10-inning win at Iowa that completed a sweep of the 1997 American Association finals ('97 logo at left).

I was fortunate to be on hand for that one and a flood of memories about it came back to me as I read Budd Bailey's This Day in Buffalo Sports History post at the Sports, Ink blog (a blog that should get a daily perusal). Here's some of those images that will never leave my mind:

---The team flew commercial through Chicago and I was on the flight. It was an early one in the 7 a.m. range after the Game Two win at home the night before. People were trying to sleep but the flight attendant had a slew of Concourse B arrival gates to read for connections heading into O'Hare. Finally, after six or seven of them, utility man and team cutup Casey Candaele roared at the top of his lungs, "Hey, B quiet!"

---Maybe the air gods struck back at Candaele because the landing in Des Moines was a hard double bounce. In all my flights for The News the last 18 years, I have never had one that rough. Not even close.

---Everything was in control with the Bisons leading, 4-2, in the bottom of the ninth. I left the press box and went down the hall into Jim Rosenhaus' radio booth to hear the call of the final out (and to use his words in the paper). No Internet broadcasts back then of course. When Iowa tied the game, Rosenhaus shook his head and pointed at the door. My cue to leave. Yep, I was the jinx.

---I was trying to pull together my story for the morning paper and never saw Sean Casey actually swing at his game-winning homer in the 10th. Heard the crack, looked up and the ball was going over the CF fence. No replays in the press box either. Didn't see it until the next day.

---When the Bisons actually got the final out, it was time to head into the clubhouse mayhem (I stayed out of Rosenhaus' booth because I was writing). But the clubhouse was all the way behind the LF fence. It was a loooooong walk without much time on deadline. But the champagne was everywhere and I'll never forget Torey Lovullo standing on a box in the middle of the room and screaming for quiet. He held up the baseball from the last out and presented it to Bob Rich as the room erupted.

---Association president Branch Rickey III came into clubhouse to present the trophy but got drubbed by champagne too. Cracked manager Brian Graham: "Branch, you can get new clothes with all my fine money." The look on his face said Rickey wasn't amused. Graham then told the team to hand the trophy around the room and said, "this is heart and this is pride." Great moment.

---My interviews complete, I started to run back to the press box. (From left field, remember). But I was horrified to notice my watch said 12:30 a.m. I thought I had completely blown a 1 a.m. deadline on a huge story because that meant it was 1:30 a.m. in Buffalo. I breathlessly called the office just about begging and they told me to calm down. They didn't know what the problem was. It was still 12:30 in Buffalo, 11:30 p.m. in Des Moines. I had never put the watch on Central time. Was still on Eastern. No deadline problem after all. To this day, the watch always stays on Eastern when I'm out of town so there's never any confusion.

---Mike Harrington


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