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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Atlantic Cities: They Built It, But the MLB Never Came

On Wednesday, the AAA All-Star Game will be held at Buffalo’s Coca-Cola Field. It will hardly register a blip on what is annually America’s least interesting half-week of sports. It is, however, a celebration of sorts for the ballpark as well as the event, with the host stadium and AAA All-Star Game both celebrating 25 years. It’s also a time for the city, and even the sport itself, to look back at how things have changed.

In 1988, then-named Pilot Field debuted with the pomp and circumstance more often seen with a major league stadium. That’s because the major leagues was what Buffalo had on its mind all along, not just for baseball but for its national image…

Ownership and the city did everything it was supposed to do. It built spectacular facilities and filled it up each game those first three and a half seasons, even outdrawing two Major League teams. So when June of 1991 came and Denver and Miami were given the two expansion franchises, the city’s pursuit of big time baseball ended as deflating heartbreak to a population just months into coping with ‘Wide Right.’

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Well if Sacramento doesn’t work out for the A’s….

On Wednesday, the AAA All-Star Game will be held at Buffalo’s Coca-Cola Field. It will hardly register a blip on what is annually America’s least interesting half-week of sports. It is, however, a celebration of sorts for the ballpark as well as the event, with the host stadium and AAA All-Star Game both celebrating 25 years. It’s also a time for the city, and even the sport itself, to look back at how things have changed.

In 1988, then-named Pilot Field debuted with the pomp and circumstance more often seen with a major league stadium. That’s because the major leagues was what Buffalo had on its mind all along, not just for baseball but for its national image…

Ownership and the city did everything it was supposed to do. It built spectacular facilities and filled it up each game those first three and a half seasons, even outdrawing two Major League teams. So when June of 1991 came and Denver and Miami were given the two expansion franchises, the city’s pursuit of big time baseball ended as deflating heartbreak to a population just months into coping with ‘Wide Right.’

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 10, 2012 at 11:42 AM | 8 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: buffalo, expansion

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   1. Gamingboy Posted: July 10, 2012 at 12:59 PM (#4178514)
Buffalo's best chance at a MLB franchise probably came in the 60s. Seem to remember reading somewhere they would have gotten a team if things fell through with Montreal.
   2. Der-K: Hipster doofus Posted: July 10, 2012 at 01:05 PM (#4178523)
They were a Continental League target, weren't they?
   3. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 10, 2012 at 01:07 PM (#4178526)
Buffalo's best chance at a MLB franchise probably came in the 60s. Seem to remember reading somewhere they would have gotten a team if things fell through with Montreal.


Maury Brown: The Team That Nearly Wasn’t: The Montreal Expos


On top of this the clock was ticking on the financing. By early August of 1968, the initial $1.2 million payment to the league had not yet been made. When the award was made, the arrangement had been that the initial payment, as well as a completed lease agreement, would be delivered no later than August 15. In the meantime, the Chicago Tribune reported on August 7 that, “Major League Baseball’s first international experiment is going to flop, and Montreal’s National League expansion franchise will be forfeited." The collapse seemed certain at the time, as a baseball official reported to Tribune, “The Montreal franchise apparently is headed for Buffalo because that group stands by its previous pledge and is even willing to start immediately with McHale.”
   4. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: July 10, 2012 at 01:14 PM (#4178538)
They were a Continental League target, weren't they?

Branch Rickey's proposed 1961 Continental League: Denver, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Atlanta, Buffalo, Toronto, New York, Minneapolis/St. Paul

Then in the 1980s the AAA American Association had teams in Denver, Indianapolis, Buffalo, Louisville, and Nashville and made noises about expanding into some other places with large stadiums (New Orleans?), under the surely just as impressive leadership of Branch Rickey III.
   5. RMc's desperate, often sordid world Posted: July 10, 2012 at 02:39 PM (#4178695)
"The" MLB never came? No wonder.
   6. winnipegwhip Posted: July 10, 2012 at 02:54 PM (#4178724)
Buffalo's best chance at a MLB franchise probably came in the 60s. Seem to remember reading somewhere they would have gotten a team if things fell through with Montreal.


And by the middle of 1970 the Expos moved the Buffalo franchise to Winnipeg and brought AAA to the prairies. My first game was Bat Day and I got a Dave McDonald bat and I could not figure why the Buffalo Bisons was stamped under his name.

Doing research on this I discovered things had gotten so bad in Buffalo that people were breaking into the players locker rooms at War Memorial Stadium and stealing from the players while the game was on.

   7. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 10, 2012 at 03:07 PM (#4178746)
I do remember when expansion talk came in the 80s it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Buffalo would be one of the teams, it was just a matter of who would get the second - Miami, Denver or Washington. Buffalo was setting minor league attendance records, the Bills were really good, probably heady times to be alive in Buffalo.
   8. RMc's desperate, often sordid world Posted: July 10, 2012 at 05:32 PM (#4178906)
Fun fact: Buffalo was once the eighth largest city in America. Now it's 72nd, behind a number of towns that didn't even exist back when Buffalo was eighth.

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