The success of the book “Buffalo, Home of the Braves” began long before it was published, with the establishment of a strong online presence. We started our internet work with A Bigger Voice, a community-building organization out of Colorado and continued drawing interest through the book’s writing, editing, and publishing phases, finding those who fondly remember the “Golden Era of Buffalo Sports” of the 1970’s, when Western New York had three viable professional sports franchises.
A few days ago we formed a Facebook Group Page that has quickly gained over 250 followers and has sparked more discussion about Buffalo’s sports history. Along the way we’ve sold quite a few books, and continue to find a loyal audience of folks who like us, grew up attending Sabres and Braves games at the Aud.
Through our blog site Buffalo Nation and other related sites we’ll continue the dialogue. Look for a new book related to that “Golden Era in Buffalo Sports” that will be released later this year. More on that soon.
A team a few bricks shy of a load. Small in stature at positions where that matters most. Week after week unable to finish close games.
That sounds an awful lot like the current Buffalo Bills football squad. But not so long ago that scouting report also summed up the Buffalo Braves basketball team. And, unfortunately, such organizational faults helped speed the team’s departure from Western New York.
In following the Bills’ ineptitude in recent seasons, I’m reminded of conversations I had with Bob McAdoo while writing Buffalo, Home of the Braves. The Hall of Famer, now in his 15th year as an assistant with the Miami Heat, talked at length about being patient. Having a plan and believing in it.
“Several times the pieces we had the pieces in our hands for a championship team,” McAdoo says, “and we let them go.”
Of course, one of the pieces that the Braves gave away was McAdoo himself – peddled to the New York Knicks in a Judas deal for John Gianelli and $3 million.
But there are plenty of other examples:
- Trading away a young Moses Malone.
- Firing Hall of Fame coach Jack Ramsay
- Drafting Tom McMillen when Ricky Sobers, Lloyd Free, Gus Williams and Kevin Grevey were available.
- Showing Jim McMillian, Gar Heard and Jack Marin the door.
- Allowing John Y. Brown to turn the franchise into “ABA North.”
“Good teams know when to stand pat,” McAdoo told me. “With bad ones, things get too fast, too crazy. Before you know it, you look up and see you’ve lost what’s really important.”
With the Bills going through such uncertain times, here’s hoping they’ve learned a lesson from the old Braves. The fans in Buffalo are among the most knowledgeable I’ve ever come across. They know when team ownership has a real plan and when it is just another shell game.
After yet another disappointing loss, the dismal performance of the Buffalo Bills persuaded me to question with friends how far loyalty goes with one’s hometown team. After Buffalo dropped to 3-6 with a 41-17 drubbing at the hands of Tennessee Titans, I threw out the idea of changing my allegiance (at least for the rest of this season).
After eliminating the teams that I’ve grown to despise (Jets, Patriots, Dolphins) the teams left to consider included the Bengals, Chargers, and Broncos.
Living now in Michigan after growing up in Western New York, there’s never been a reason to root for the Lions (with the exception of Barry Sanders). Spending ten years of my life in Colorado and as much fun as it was going to Denver Bronco games in the old Mile High Stadium, my heart still belongs with the Bills.
As I write this New England is beating up on Indianapolis, the same New England team the Bills seemed to have handled in the first game of the season, before giving away the game in the final minutes. That seems so long ago now, but that game has me wondering if the Bills season could have played out differently.
To temper my delusion, I’ll soon escape to the Buffalo and Western New York Historical Society to view the exhibit featuring 50 Years of Bills History. It will allow me to look back at happier days or suffer several decades of futility all in one afternoon.
P.S. The Patriots blew their lead and eventually lost to Indianapolis. It should be noted that there is a certain amount of satisfaction in seeing New England also squander a game that it had seemingly won.
Braves Book Update: Buffalo, Home of the Braves is now on sale at seven independent book stores in the Buffalo area including the Buffalo and Western New York Historical Society Museum Shop. Purchases can also be made online from SunBear Press.
by Chris Wendel
January ’08: The narrative is written and we have some decent material to work with. Tim has interviewed key players, Dr. Jack Ramsay, and Paul Snyder all of which have no problem with going back and talking about the Braves. In fact we have the sense that the players and Ramsay are excited to talk about the Braves brief success in the mid 70’s.
Even with a great narrative and memorabilia, the book is lacking the visual detail it deserves. Several devout Buffalo fans I have competed with on eBay want to know if they could let me use some items from their Braves collection. Another tells me the whereabouts of Robert L. Smith the former official photographer of the Bills and Braves.
After several emails and phone calls, I make the trek from Michigan to Orchard Park and sit down with Smith. We talk over morning coffee; we develop trust and a good comfort level. Two hours later we have an agreement to use photos I’ve yet to actually see.
I get to tour his basement which is the best photographic shrine to Buffalo sports I’ll ever see. There are a few Braves pictures and predictably the Bills are the focus (Smith was the Bills photographer from their 1960 inception to 2004). I’ve enamored with the shots from the AFL title teams that included Jack Kemp, Butch Byrd, and Billy Shaw. The best parts are Bob’s background stories on each photo he shows me
My 2-3 hours with Smith leave me appreciating his tremendous talent and longevity. Bob (as I now feel like I can call him) will take the next few days and see what he has to offer up from his Braves archives and send them to me in a few days to Michigan.
February ’08: I’m now home, after negotiating an equitable fee, the wide selection of photos arrives. They are better than advertised and the process of putting out a high quality book is now assured. It’s a painstaking and time consuming process but we’ve now turned a major corner.
Preview Chapter One of “Buffalo, Home of the Braves”