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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Five million and counting

     August 9, 1998 -- The Buffalo Bisons played and won on this day, but that wasn't the big story in terms of the International League.

     The long-time baseball circuit reached a milestone by hitting 5 million fans in a single season. The IL became the first minor league to reach that number. The Bisons pitched in with a crowd of 10,665 for a Sunday afternoon game during a win over Pawtucket.

     The minor leagues had realigned that season, and the American Association passed away with its teams going to the IL and the Pacific Coast League. Three weeks later, the International League hit another milestone by going over six million in attendance, and finished at 6,481,906. The Bisons chipped in with 768,749 fans for the season, which set an International League record.

     James Betzsold put on a show for the Bisons' fans that day. He hit two home runs and came within a few feet of adding a third.

     "All I can do is go out, work hard and hope good things happen," Betzsold said to The News' Mike Harrington. "My attitude is the same every time -- just try to hit the ball hard. You can't go to try to hit a home run because it's not going to happen."

     The Bisons went 81-62 and won the International League North title, and then took the IL playoff title before losing to New Orleans in the Triple-A World Series.

--- Budd Bailey

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