Saturday, October 23, 2010

New Locations for Braves' World

We've recently moved our outlets for updates and information to the following web sites:
1. For Buffalo Braves' related news go to: Buffalo, Home of the Braves
2. For newsworthy items on Buffalo and Western New York Sports: Buffalo Nation
3. To order the book Buffalo, Home of the Braves

This site still includes archived articles and photos, but the new sites enable us to broaden our audience and related discussions about Buffalo sports. Please contact us with any questions or comments.

Chris Wendel
SunBear Press

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Today’s NBA reflects the speed and athleticism of Randy Smith

By Tim Wendel

Of course, height is often paramount in basketball. As the NBA Finals get ready to tip, much of the discussion has been about the front lines. Andrew Bynum’s knee. Kendrick Perkins’ technical fouls. Phil Jackson calling out Kevin Garnett.

But the series could turn on another crucial element that Buffalo Braves fans know all so well – speed.

Today is the one-year anniversary of Randy Smith’s death. He was the local star who often transformed the game on the fly.

“Randy Smith was the perfect physical specimen,” Van Miller, the team’s legendary play-by-play man, told us during the writing of Buffalo, Home of the Braves. “There wasn’t an ounce of fat on the guy. … Randy was so quick that he could guard anybody.”

Or beat anybody else down the court, even when dribbling the ball.

NBA insiders know how valuable speed can be. Rajon Rondo was only a pup when the Celtics won the championship in 1998. Now he has matured into the team’s court leader due, in large part, to his ability to fly down the floor.

In a few weeks, the NBA draft will be held and Kentucky’s John Wall is expected to be the top choice overall. He’s not a big man, either. But Wall also has the ability to run the floor, too.

Both of them are following in Randy Smith’s footsteps.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Interest in Braves' legacy continues to build

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 watching the Sabres and Braves.

Through our blog sites 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.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Buffalo Celebrity Smackdown

Interesting results and comments from a weekend ‘Buffalo News’ article that attempted to define, classify, and define what celebrity status means in Western New York.

“Star power: What it means to be a WNY celebrity” included an “A” List and “B” List along with list of celebs that have lived in the Buffalo area and famous and pseudo-famous people on to the “Celebs who have passed on” list.

After reviewing the multiple lists, I decided that even from my jaded perspective of someone who has not lived in the region for years, that the “Buffalo News” staff missed some obvious WNY celebrities of local and even national significance.

I was moved enough to write in (along with many others) omissions to the lists, in fact the accumulated omission list from the reader’s comments section has star power compared to the roster put together by the seemingly young “News” staff. If one is under the ago 40 Tim Horton may be more associated with the doughnut franchise than his Hall of Fame hockey career. Horton made the list, whoch begs the question: Do people know what the people listed actually acomplished?

Here are the names the “Buffalo News” missed, compiled into one list. See how many you many you recognized or would have missed:

  • Jack Kemp: former Bills quarterback. U.S. Congressman, Vice Presidential candidate
  • Grover Washington, Jr.: soul-jazz saxiphonist, pioneer of the smooth jazz music genre
  • Rick Azar: longtime WKBW sports anchor
  • Bob McAdoo: Buffalo Brave, NBA Hall of Fame member, NBA scoring leader and MVP
  • Randy Smith: Three sport All-American at Buffalo State, NBA All-Star MVP, still Braves/Clippers franchise leader is every major category
  • Foster Brooks: entertainer, actor
  • Van Miller: longtime voice of the Bills and Braves, sport anchor WBEN for decades
  • Danny Neaverth: morning radio host, public address announcer during glory days of Bills and Braves
  • Ed Kilgore: local sports anchor since the early 70’s
  • Freddie Smerlas: former Bills great and radio personality
  • Sal Maglie: major league all-star pitcher
  • Stephanie Miller: sundicated radio talk-show host
  • Seth Godin: nationally acclaimed business writer, marketing expert, entrepreneur
  • Kim Alexis; super model in the 70’s and 80’s, television host and fitness expert
  • William Fichtner: character actor
  • Rick Jeanneret: voice of the Buffalo Sabres
Please feel free to add to the list.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Buffalo State celebrates Randy Smith’s place in history

The long overdue tribute to Randy Smith from his alma mater Buffalo State was held last Friday night at the school’s Sports Arena. During the half-time presentation, Smith was celebrated for his gentle caring demeanor, as well as his phenomenal sports career.
   The ceremony included a short speech from the Buff State Athletic Director Jerry Boyes, a proclamation from Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown (noticeably absence was the key to the city), and touching remembrance from Smith’s wife Anjela. After the presentations, a huge banner in Smith’s honor was raised before the surprisingly sparse crowd, and his number was finally retired.
    Before he became a NBA All-star with the Buffalo Braves , Smith was a three sport All-American at Buff State from 1967-71, excelling in soccer, track, and of course basketball. His soccer coach at Buff State talked of the immense talent Smith was blessed with as a soccer player, mentioning that the Bengals during that era were ranked as high as 7th nationally (there were no divisional categories at that time). Smith scored a record 40 goals in his three year soccer career which remains a school record
   In 1970 Smith led the Buff State to the NCAA College Division Final Four in 1970, and was a 1969 track All-American in the triple jump, setting a NCAA triple jump record at the time at 52 feet, 1 ¼ inches. It was mentioned last night that there is likely no other school that has celebrated a three sport All-American. Upon further review, apparently the only other person to claim the three sport honor is Jim Carrington of Navy who excelled in football, swimming, and lacrosse in the 1940’s. Ironically Carrington passed away on June 1, 2009 four days before Smith.
   All of this is remarkable in the context of Buff State, a small school that is many times confused by the outside world with the University of Buffalo. The night’s presentation put things into historical perspective, making it clear that Randy Smith represented the greatest era in Buffalo State athletic history, perhaps forever.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Arenas has nothing on Buffalo Braves' "Bad News" Barnes

By Tim Wendel
Gilbert Arenas bringing at least three guns into the Washington Wizards’ locker room has made headlines nationwide.That the All-Star guard tried to pass off the incident as a practical joke is quite a reach. Still, any Braves fan knows that Agent Zero has a long way to go before surpassing the antics of one Marvin “Bad News” Barnes.

Old Marvin not only stowed guns in his locker, but he snorted cocaine during games and traveled with hookers on the team plane. He was better suited to be a member of Led Zeppelin or Rick James’ backup band than a professional athlete.

After starring at Providence, where he once sank a record 10 for 10 from the field in the NCAA playoffs, Barnes won rookie of the year honors in the American Basketball Association with the Spirits of St. Louis. Even though his wild lifestyle made him a shadow of his former self, Braves owner John Y. Brown brought him over from the Detroit Pistons (in exchange for John Shumate, Gus Gerard and a high draft pick) for the 1977-1978 season. Of course, this would prove to be the Braves’ last time around the block in Buffalo, and Barnes did his part to push the team over the edge.

More than 15,000 packed Memorial Auditorium for Barnes’ debut with the Braves. Posters of Bad News with the caption, “Buffalo is Marvin’s Gardens” were handed out.

Despite such a promising start, Barnes soon wore out his welcome in Western New York, too. But that didn’t mean there weren’t some tales to tell along the way. One of my favorites comes from Van Miller, the Braves’ play-by-play announcer.

“Marvin Barnes was past his prime by the time he got to the Braves,” Miller once told me. “But that didn’t stop him from still going around in style. Marvin was late pretty much for everything, so one day the team is practicing at a high school in Buffalo and Marvin comes in a half-hour late. But that doesn’t bother him one iota. He walked into that practice with a beautiful woman on each arm. He sat them in the bleachers at this school gym and they waited patiently until practice was over. Afterward Marvin cleaned himself up and then walked out of the joint with one on each arm.”

Last March, Providence College retired Barnes’ jersey, along with the numbers of Jimmy Walker and Ernie DiGregorio, another ex-Brave.

At the ceremony, Barnes joked that while it may take a village to raise a child, in his case it had taken “a whole state, State police, DEA, everyone.”

Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Banner Request for the New Year

by Tim Wendel
It was downright heartening to see the Sabres come back against Pittsburgh the other night. Not only did they take down "Sid the Kid" and those annoying Penguins, but they rolled back the clock, so to speak. The victory reminded me of an era when Buffalo teams were offensive juggernauts. When the Braves were a contender in the mid-1979s, the rap against them was their often-lackluster defense.

In fact, that’s the major lesson coach Jack Ramsay took away from his stint in Western New York.
“Sometimes you have to be able to stop the other team,” he told me decades later when I was putting together Buffalo, Home of the Braves.

To that end, Doctor Jack went looking for a new team with tall timber underneath and he found it in Portland, where he and Bill Walton won a title together.

That’s all well and good, but there’s also something to be said for being able to score. In watching the Bill stumble to the end of another dismal season I grew nostalgic for the old days when they could put up points almost as quickly as the old Braves. One could argue that the Bills of the 1970's played defense about as well as the Braves did, too. Still, they had playmakers on offense and continued to rack up points pretty much until this current crop came along, which barely put up three points against Atlanta.

When I think about the Braves in their heyday, it’s difficult to differentiate them from the Bills and the Sabres because every team in town could score, seeming at will. You could see Bob McAdoo & Co. put up a bushel load one night and come back to witness the French Connection & Co. do pretty much the same thing the next at that grand old barn of a building called the Aud. OK, the Braves, Bill and Sabres didn’t bring home any titles during those epic runs. But, all in all, it sure was a lot more fun to watch.

Happy New Year, everyone. Thanks for helping make Buffalo, Home of the Braves a reality. Now let’s get a banner to that team raised at HSBC.