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Seasons of Buffalo Baseball Front Cover

The Seasons of 

BUFFALO BASEBALL

An Update and Revision of the

100 Seasons of Buffalo Baseball

Coming Soon...

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REFLECTIONS ON WRITING, EDITING AND CREATING THE SEASONS OF BUFFALO BASEBALL 

By Jim Overfield

Editor, Seasons of Buffalo Baseball, 1857-2019

 

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My dad, Joe Overfield, who in his spare time became a nationally recognized authority on Buffalo’s rich baseball history, wrote many dozens of articles and reviews, but his masterpiece, the publication of which he was most proud, was The 100 Seasons of Buffalo Baseball. Published in 1985, this 300-page book included capsule summaries of each and every Bisons season from 1877 to 1984, profiles of several all-time great Buffalo players, and a number of short pieces on Buffalo’s place in baseball history.  It concluded with statistical summaries (games played, batting averages, home runs, won-lost records for pitchers) for every player who wore the Buffalo uniform.  It was the product of endless hours of gathering information from old baseball guides and newspapers. It was published locally and sold well. 

           

But like every history book, it began to be out of date the moment it appeared.  Until he passed away in 2000, he was frequently asked if he planned to bring out an updated, new edition. Although he continued his research and writing, he never returned to the project. After he died, I began receiving calls and emails from folks asking if I had any copies I wished to sell.  The best I could do was direct them to Amazon or some other book-selling website, warning them, however, that if they found a copy for sale and made the purchase, they likely would be disappointed to find that the book would be in pieces because of its aged and brittle binding. 

           

I also had contacts from several individuals who were interested in preparing a new edition and wanted to make sure it was ok with me.  I encouraged them to take up the project, but in the end nothing happened. After I retired from a career of teaching history at the University of Vermont in 2007, a few relatives, one cousin in particular, began asking, “Why don’t you take on the project?”  Until two years ago, my answer was no.

           

In the fall of 2016, however, I discovered a box, in the corner of my basement, that contained  copies of the Bisongram, a Bisons publication that appeared four times a year from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. My dad was a regular contributor to the Bisongram, with a series of articles—“BisonsTales”-- on different aspects of Buffalo-area baseball history. They incorporated material from research he carried out after 1985 and gave him an opportunity to write about personalities and events that were part of Buffalo’s remarkable baseball renaissance in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. 

Jim with Buffalo News writer Mike Harrington in the Sahlen Field Press Box.

Jim Overfield visited the site of Offermann Stadium, where he and his dad shared so many memories.

Joe, right, with Mindy and Bob Rich at a Bisons event in Winter, 1990.

I was impressed by the breadth and quality of his Bisongram articles but was disappointed to discover that copies of the publication were rare, bordering on extinction. None of the local libraries had copies. The ball club found a few, and the Baseball Hall of Fame had an incomplete set. So my thought was to collect and edit an anthology of the Bisongram pieces as a tribute to my dad and as a way to preserve and showcase his work.

           

When Paul Langendorfer, the author of an excellent book, Baseball in Buffalo (2014) got word that I was working on such a project, he asked, why not try something more ambitious, an update of 100 Seasons. Although skeptical at first, I decided to take on the challenge, and the result will be a book, Seasons of Buffalo Baseball 1857-2018, that we hope to have published by late June, 2019.

           

Part I will consist of year-by-year summaries of each season of professional baseball in Buffalo, along with an introductory chapter on the pre-professional era.  Part II will have six chapters: Chapter 1, “The Ballparks”, will contain information about all fourteen ball parks at which the Bisons have played, with extensive treatment of Olympic Park, Offermann Stadium, War Memorial Stadium, and the downtown ballpark now known as Sahlen Field; Chapter 2, “Players,” will contain profiles of prominent  Bisons, including Jim Galvin, Jim White, Bill Milligan, Billy Kelly, Luke Easter, Jeff Manto and others. Chapter 3, “Managers,” begins with an essay on the evolution of “managing,” and continues with profiles of George Stallings, Billy Clymer, Ray Schalk and Terry Collins. Chapter 4, “Owners and Executives,” chronicles the triumphs and tragedies of Bisons owners and general managers, including the era of community ownership in the 1950s, Chapter 5, “Buffalo and Baseball History,” describes the many surprising ways Buffalo has contributed to the game; and Chapter 6, “Memorable Games,” retells the story of four of them. Unlike 100 Seasons, the book will not have a statistical section.  Today, that information is easily accessible online.  

Joe Overfield's Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame plaque.

Jim Overfield and Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame Archivist and Curator John Boutet point to Overfield's plaque.

Many people have helped with the project: John Boutet, the Bisons curator of the Bisons’ Hall of Fame Room and whose collection of Buffalo-related sports memorabilia is remarkable; Paul Langendorfer, the author of  Baseball in Buffalo; Brian Frank, who maintains the high quality website “The Herd Chronicles;” the staff of the Buffalo History Museum; Mike Buczkowski, president of Rich Baseball Operations and Bisons general manager and Brad Bisbing, the club’s director of marketing and public relations. Last, but not least, Mike Billoni, the club’s former Vice President/General Manager and a member of its Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame.  He has devoted many, many hours to the project.

           

Frank, Langendorfer and Billoni have all written stories for the book, as have Sal Maiorana of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle; Mike Harrington, the premier baseball writer for the Buffalo News; Budd Bailey, former Buffalo News sportswriter; and former WGRZ Channel 2 sports reporter, Jonah Javad.

           

The book should run about 320 pages; will have a full color and black and white version and about 150 photos.  Our book designer, Daniel J. Middleton, creative director of Scribe Freelance Book Design, has done an excellent job.

           

My dad, a member of the Buffalo Baseball and Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fames, truly loved baseball.  He enjoyed going to Bison games downtown in what is now Sahlen Field and his last eighteen years were filled with pride over the new ballpark and the success of the team.  He so much enjoyed being part of the big crowds and having a chance to discuss baseball with Cy Williams and his other baseball friends. We truly believe dad will be proud of the sequel of his book, as we continue to chronicle the amazing history of baseball in the Queen City of the Great Lakes.

Jim Overfield at James D. Griffin Plaza.

Early 2018 meeting to discuss book project. Left to right: John Davis, designer; Mike Billoni; Jim Overfield; Scott Thomas, editor.

Brian Frank of The Herd Chronicles and Mike Billoni discussing strategy for the book at a Bisons game.

Budd Bailey interviews Mike Buczkowski, President Rich Baseball Operations/General Manager Buffalo Bisons, for the book.

Mike Billoni and Jim at Overfield's Vermont home office working on book details in Fall 2018.

Daniel Middleton Jr., Creative Director of Scribe Design Co. (scribefreelance.com) is doing

an outstanding job creating the cover and inside pages of the book.

Two close pals who were always seen in section 100 at Bisons games. Joe Overfield and Cy Williams talking baseball.

The former Voice of the Bisons, Pete Weber and Mike Billoni with an original copy of The 100 Seasons of Buffalo Baseball.

Paul Offermann, son of former Bisons owner Frank Offermann, with an early draft of the new book.

Check out The Herd Chronicles on the Bisons Pregame Show. 

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