Sunday, September 21, 2008

Making of the Book, Part 3

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 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’m 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 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 in Michigan. 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.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Old School Weekend Warrior

By Tim Wendel

Autumn means colorful foliage to some, the start of the football season to others. But what I wax nostalgic about during this time of year is what we used to call our “Buffalo Sports Weekends.”

From 1974 to 1978, I was an undergraduate at Syracuse University. The football team was about as good as it is now. In other words, lousy. But that didn’t stop us from religiously cheering on the Orange Saturday afternoons. This was before the Carrier Dome went up, so we hunkered down in Archbold Stadium, which bore a striking resemblance to the old Rockpile.

Several times each fall, we’d go right from the SU game and drive to Buffalo in time to catch the Braves at the Aud. Of course, it was early in a new NBA season and, at least in 1974-75-76, the sky seemed the limit for a squad with Bob McAdoo (pictured above), Randy Smith, Ernie DiGregorio on the floor and Jack Ramsay calling the shots.

I’ll admit that early on the Braves were a way to flesh out Buffalo Sports Weekends. Usually we’d go to the Bills game Sunday afternoon and finish things off with the Sabres, back at the Aud, Sunday nights. Then we’d race back down the Thruway in time for class Monday morning. I didn’t take the best of notes those days, but I was there. I made it to class.

But during those years, the Braves won me over. I loved watching them play and was crestfallen when they left town.

When I tell people about those days, hitting the Braves, Bills and Sabres in 24-plus hours, they think I’m crazy. “How’d you pull that off?” they ask. Indeed, it seems hard to believe now. But sometimes that’s how the best of times roll out. You don’t realize how special things were until decades later.