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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Going, going, gone

   August 28, 1967 -- Minor league baseball is something of a good news/bad news proposition for fans. When a good player passes through on the way to the majors, it's a pleasure to see him perform. But when that player leaves, he is not coming back.

   On this date, Johnny Bench played his first major-league game as a member of the Cincinnati Reds. And he wasn't coming back to Buffalo.

   Bench was considered one of the great catching prospects in modern times. Ted Williams called him a sure Hall of Famer after Bench had played just one major-league seaosn.

   After signing with the Reds in 1965, Bench went from Class A ball in the Carolina League to the Bisons in 1966. But he broke his thumb in his first game here and was sidelined for the rest of the season.

   Then in 1967, Bench played full-time for the Bisons. He hit .259 with 21 homers and 68 RBIs. Bench was particularly dominant behind the plate, displaying a throwing arm that quickly became legendary.

   The catcher didn't need to finish the 1967 to rank as a great prospect. He was named the minor league player of the year for that season. Bench eventually won two Most Valuable Player trophies for the Reds and did indeed make it to Cooperstown after a spectacular 17-year career.

--- Budd Bailey

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