Buffalo’s status as a sporting laughingstock is pretty well established. Our two most prominent teams are known for their follies and incompetence of unspeakable magnitude. The Bills I’ve already covered, and at this point it would not surprise me that other Buffalo people are just waiting for the team to leave they we can renounce them for good and quit paying for their stadium, a behemoth shell which, despite being able to hold an awesome tailgate party, costs millions in taxpayer revenue while being used on all of eight days every year. The Sabres are the city’s team now. They may not have won the Stanley Cup, but they’ve established themselves as a team that can beat you down in any given game.
Today, however, hope springs eternal, for it is Opening Day in Major League baseball. For Buffalo, that means we will soon be celebrating a full-time Buffalo team which was established long before the Bills and Sabres were even dreams on their owners’ minds. A very successful team that has won its league ten times dating all the way back to the 30’s. (1933, 1936, 1938, 1947, 1949, 1957, 1961, 1997, 1998, 2004.)
The Buffalo Bisons may be a mere Triple A team, but they provide one of the great bargains in all of professional sports. Their current stadium, Pilot Field (and no, in Buffalo we don’t give a shit what the sign says), was the very first of today’s retro ballpark craze in the majors; Camden Yards, the first of the retro major league fields, was based on Pilot Field’s design. Pilot Field was built back in 1987, when Buffalo was being seen as a serious candidate for a major league expansion franchise which eventually turned into the Florida Marlins. There are less than 20,000 seats in Pilot Field, but the field was built so an extra deck or two could be built in a real hurry if we won that major league team. But we didn’t, so our minor league affiliate to the New York Mets moved in, and their inhospitable old stadium, War Memorial Stadium, was torn down.
Pilot Field is known for its major league amenities, so this means that in Buffalo, you can afford major league quality baseball in the front row without taking out a second mortgage. The best seats in the place cost less than $15.
The Bisons’ current affiliation with the Mets is ironic since so many of the baseball fans in Buffalo are loyal to the Yankees. But during the 90’s, it was the Bisons’ association with the Cleveland Indians that was able to feed so many quality players to the team that won two American League Pennants. The two teams complimented each other perfectly, and Buffalo won three titles during their tenure with the Tribe. We may not have a major league team here, but that doesn’t mean Buffalo isn’t a damn fine baseball city. The Bisons frequently draw over 1,000,000 fans per year, which is phenomenal considering the minor leaguers play fewer games in a stadium with far fewer seats.
I’ve mentioned before that I have an incredible loyalty to the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox. But when I look at the prices I would have to pay to attend a game at Yankee Stadium or Comiskey Park (Chicago doesn’t care what its signs say either), I can’t help but think I’ve got the best game in town, right here in little Buffalo.
On another end of the spectrum, Buffalo also has a National Lacrosse League team called the Bandits. They began play in 1992 and have won four titles, along the way picking up an immense share of popularity among those who enjoy alternate sports. Lacrosse has a considerable following in the northeast and in Canada, so Buffalo people feel no shame in playing up the successes of the Bandits.