The Seasons of
An Update and Revision of the
100 Seasons of Buffalo Baseball
REFLECTIONS ON WRITING, EDITING, AND CREATING THE SEASONS OF BUFFALO BASEBALL
By Jim Overfield
Editor, Seasons of Buffalo Baseball, 1857-2019
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But like every history book, it began to be out of date the moment it appeared.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 Mike Harrington, Buffalo News baseball columnist, in the Sahlen Field press box during the 2019 season.
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 The 100 Seasons of Buffalo Baseball. Although skeptical at first, I decided to take on the challenge, and the result will be a book, Seasons of Buffalo Baseball 1857-2020, that we hope to have published by late June, 2020.
Part One 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 Two will have six chapters: Chapter One, “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 Two, “Players,” will contain profiles of prominent Bisons, including Jim Galvin, Jim White, Bill Milligan, Billy Kelly, Luke Easter, Jeff Manto and others. Chapter Three, “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 Four, “Owners and Executives,” chronicles the triumphs and tragedies of Bisons owners and general managers, including the era of community ownership in the 1950s, Chapter Five, “Buffalo and Baseball History,” describes the many surprising ways Buffalo has contributed to the game; and Chapter Six, “Memorable Games,” retells the story of four of them. Unlike The 100 Seasons of Buffalo Baseball, 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. John also wrote the foreward in The Seasons of Buffalo Baseball, 1857-2020. 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 Brad Bisbing, the club’s assistant general manager. 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 Seasons of Buffalo Baseball 1857-2020 will be much different from my father's orginal book, which was published in 1985. The book will be 8X10 inches and nearly 400 pages with more than 150 black and white and color photographs, cartoons, and images throughout. Our book designer, Daniel J. Middleton, creative director of Scribe Freelance Book Design (scribefreelance.com), 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.
Read MiLB's Feature Article on the Making of the Book Here:
Buffalo Baseball Lore Gets Modern Retelling
“The 100 Seasons of Buffalo Baseball by Joe Overfield is the Bible of Buffalo baseball and has stood the test of time for 35 years. This updated and revised edition will assure the great history of professional baseball in Buffalo lives on for decades to come!”
President, Rich Baseball Operations
“From Ferry and Michigan to Jefferson and Best and Washington and Swan, The Seasons of Buffalo Baseball takes you around the horn with the stories of our summers. With memories of Luke and Ollie to Manto and the Modern Era, this is an epic tribute to the spirit of Joe Overfield. He was one of the legends too and would be thrilled there are still keepers of the city's baseball history.”
Buffalo News baseball columnist
Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame, 2013 Induction
Sample Pages from The Seasons of Buffalo Baseball 1877-2020:
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.
Meeting with Bisons officials in fall 2019 to discuss sales and marketing of the book. Left to Right: Bisons Assistant General Manager Brad Bisbing, President Rich Baseball Operations Mike Buczkowski, Jim Overfield, and Mike Billoni.
Jim with Buffalo Bisons Booster Club founder and longtime president, Charlie Greene.
Jim in front of Schwabl's restaurant in West Seneca, NY, home of the famous beef on weck sandwich. The Bisons once played Sunday home games at Schwabl's Park in Cheektowaga, NY.
Jim at the sight of the Niagara-Rhode Island Grounds, home of Buffalo's first professional team in 1877.
Jim speaking to the Buffalo Bisons Booster Club at a December 2019 meeting.