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Display a worthy look at Buffalo's old ballyards

This corner is big on old ballparks and arenas, especially ones that are no longer with us. I've got pictures of the old ticket office that still stands from League Park in Cleveland as well as the old Chief Wahoo statue from Municipal Stadium. Same for the fence and home plate from Forbes Field in Pittsburgh and the parking lot markers of the Vet in Philly and Shea Stadium in Queens. During a Sabres road trip two years ago, I stood in the rain behind a fence checking out what was left of the diamond at Tiger Stadium in Detroit.

John Boutet is the same way. Boutet, the collector who was featured in The News two years ago as the curator of the Buffalo Sports Museum (, has become the site chairman of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame and a member of the hall's board of directors.

You want ballpark artifacts? Boutet is coming through again. Under the auspices of the Hall, he has put together a terrific display of Buffalo baseball history featuring items from Offermann Stadium and War Memorial Stadium. It's in the Buffalo Visitors Center, 617 Main St., through Sept. 3.

And he's also working on another pet project: A plaque to mark the spot of Offermann on the block bounded by East Ferry, Masten, Woodlawn and Michigan. Formerly the home of Buffalo Traditional School, it's currently the home of the City's Performing Arts Academy.

The plaque may be ready for Boutet to have a ceremony for it on Sept. 17. That would be the 51st anniversary of the ballpark's final game, a 5-3 loss to Toronto in 1960.

"A good share of people sent $5 and $10 to get it going," Boutet said. "I went to the Erie County Historical Society, wrote up a history of the plot of land dating to 1889, submitted it and they approved it. I think of League Park and Forbes Field and we're Buffalo, so why can't we do it? You have people who care about it."

Offermann, of course, is a beloved facility in the city's baseball history. And the downtown display is a terrific ode to the old park. Boutet used late Bisons historian Joe Overfield's terrific 1985 book, "The 100 Years of Buffalo Baseball" as a guide.

"I started in 1877 and Joe Overfield's book is the Bible of Bisons baseball," he said. "I ended it at the Rockpile."

The stuff is simply awesome: A 1931 schedule calendar with a picture from spring training in Fort Lauderdale; a poster that says ladies are admitted free on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; a 1933 IL champs poster featuring legendary Ollie Carnegie; A 1949 clip from the Courier-Express that trumpets "40,000 Fans Welcome Champion Bisons."

There's terrific photos from the '50s, including extremely rare color images of Luke Easter, and shots of the scoreboard featuring ads from the likes of Sattler's and Tinney Cadillac.

As things move on to the Rockpile seasons, there's an article and box score from the first game there on May 3, 1961, as 20,619 saw a 4-3 win over San Juan, whose catcher "McCarver" was 0 for 3. Yes, that McCarver. There are items from the Double-A years, cutouts from "The Natural" and items from the Rockpile finale in 1987 against Nashville.

Boutet does his usual fine job of presentation, which has also been shown in the way he's renovated the Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame display in HSBC Arena with the assistance of former Bills executive Denny Lynch.

"Being on the board of directors the last two years has been great and [Hall President] Brian Cavanaugh has given me full control over the exhibit down at the arena," Boutet said. "I love old stuff, the stuff from years gone by. I put class photos up and put it in order down there. I wanted to make it like a story from when we started in 1991."

The Bisons exhibit is the kind of thing Boutet can easily put together on a grand scale. What's his hope for the Hall and his vast collection? How about a joint effort at Canalside on a Buffalo museum with the local music and broadcasters halls? That would be a winner. And Boutet says there's folks working toward that end.

"All kinds of cities have exhibits of their history," he said. "Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Cincinnati. Why don't we have it? I'm willing to do what I can do and use all my stuff it belongs to the people here. It would be great."


Sappelt to The Show

Dave Sappelt, the former Lackawanna Little Leaguer who moved to North Carolina when he was 13, was in town with the Louisville Bats in May but didn't play against the Bisons due to an oblique strain.

But he's played very well for the Bats, batting .313 for the season, and got his first big-league call-up to Cincinnati last Sunday.

Sappelt left Scranton on a 9:30 a.m. flight, got to Wrigley Field at 11 and batted leadoff for the Reds against the Cubs two hours later. He went 1 for 5, collecting a single for his first hit, and made two solid catches in left field.

"I thought at some point I would [get my chance]," Sappelt said. "You never know what can happen. I felt like I had to be somewhere in line. I just did my part in Louisville."


Bucs sinking again

Forget about winning the NL Central. The Pirates are simply back to trying to finish above .500 for the first time since 1992 after yet another epic losing streak.

The 10-game losing streak that ended Monday in San Francisco was, in fact, the first time in history a team had plunged from first place in a division to 10 games back in a 13-day span. They were 0-7 on a homestand for the first time in franchise history, getting bruised by the Cubs and Padres.

They enter the weekend 3-12 since their controversial 19-inning loss July 26 at Atlanta. And this weekend is another challenge: A series at Milwaukee, where the Pirates were 0-5 this season and 3-33 since 2007.

Not nearly enough offense, even after trading for Ryan Ludwick and Derrek Lee, and not enough starting pitching, has doomed the Pirates. And manager Clint Hurdle was taking plenty of heat for not using closer Joel Hanrahan, since the Bucs rarely had late leads.


Hanley is clueless

Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez is completely delusional. He got into a war of words recently with former Florida star and current club special assistant Jeff Conine after Conine ripped him on a Miami radio show by saying he gets frustrated with Ramirez "on a nightly basis."

"I think he wants to be Mr. Marlin forever," Ramirez said of Conine, who was given that moniker during his eight seasons with the team. "It won't happen. I'm coming, baby. I think I'm going to be Mr. Marlin. That's my goal now."

Ramirez went further.

"I'm going to make it to the Hall of Fame being in a Marlins uniform," he said. "This number (No. 2), nobody's going to wear it. I'm still playing. I'm in the game. Where is he? I'm just happy to be in the game. I don't care what other people say."

Memo to Hanley: You're a petulant, spoiled brat. You're struggling to hit .250. At this rate, you'll see Cooperstown someday when you buy a ticket to get in.


Around the horn

*The Yankees are scrapping their six-man rotation to go with five and that means either Phil Hughes or A.J. Burnett is coming out. CC Sabathia is the obvious ace but you have to wonder if Ivan Nova has pushed into the No. 2 role in a potential postseason rotation.

*Mets outfielder Mike Baxter, the lifelong Mets fan acquired on waivers from the Padres and called up from the Bisons last week, became just the fifth Queens native to play for the team when he made his debut. Baxter is staying, at least for the time being, in the same three-bedroom, one-bath house in which he grew up in Whitestone, about 10 minutes from Citi Field.

*David Ortiz, on why the Red Sox have been so good on the road: "Because we're the Sox. Not Apple Sox. We ain't Barbecue Sox. We're the Red Sox." Whatever that means.

*Indians pitcher Justin Germano, who pitched a perfect game last month for Columbus at Syracuse, left the organization for a $210,000 deal with a team in Korea.


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