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.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bills' dysfunction mirrors Braves' demise

by Tim Wendel 

A team a few bricks shy of a load. Small in stature at positions where that matters most. Week after week unable to finish close games.
That sounds an awful lot like the current Buffalo Bills football squad. But not so long ago that scouting report also summed up the Buffalo Braves basketball team. And, unfortunately, such organizational faults helped speed the team’s departure from Western New York.

In following the Bills’ ineptitude in recent seasons, I’m reminded of conversations I had with Bob McAdoo while writing Buffalo, Home of the Braves. The Hall of Famer, now in his 15th year as an assistant with the Miami Heat, talked at length about being patient. Having a plan and believing in it.

“Several times the pieces we had the pieces in our hands for a championship team,” McAdoo says, “and we let them go.”

Of course, one of the pieces that the Braves gave away was McAdoo himself – peddled to the New York Knicks in a Judas deal for John Gianelli and $3 million.

But there are plenty of other examples:
  • Trading away a young Moses Malone.
  • Firing Hall of Fame coach Jack Ramsay
  • Drafting Tom McMillen when Ricky Sobers, Lloyd Free, Gus Williams and Kevin Grevey were available.
  • Showing Jim McMillian, Gar Heard and Jack Marin the door.
  • Allowing John Y. Brown to turn the franchise into “ABA North.”
“Good teams know when to stand pat,” McAdoo told me. “With bad ones, things get too fast, too crazy. Before you know it, you look up and see you’ve lost what’s really important.”

With the Bills going through such uncertain times, here’s hoping they’ve learned a lesson from the old Braves. The fans in Buffalo are among the most knowledgeable I’ve ever come across. They know when team ownership has a real plan and when it is just another shell game.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Update:"Buffalo, Home of the Braves

NBA Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo emailed today between exhibition games as Assistant Coach with the Miami Heat, giving his thumbs up for the book “Buffalo, Home of the Braves”. His friend and Buffalo resident Kenny Martin made the connection, and it’s great to have McAdoo’s blessing.
You’ll notice that the Buffalo Nation site has been reconfigured. We think the new look will be a good conduit to Braves and other Buffalo sports news. We are also redoing the Sun Bear Press web site, with some nice background graphics and a streamlined ordering process that should be completed this week.
Speaking of ordering, we’re finally up and listed on Look for another book signing with author Tim Wendel and perhaps a special guest Brave. We’re lining up a date for early December, likely again at the New Era Cap Company on Delaware in downtown Buffalo.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Retail Outlets: "Buffalo, Home fo the Braves"

The new book Buffalo, Home of the Braves is selling well, both online and at the following Buffalo area retail outlets:

. University of Buffalo Bookstore (North Campus)

. Talking Leaves Main Street, and Elmwood Ave. in Buffalo

. B is for Books (Orchard Park)

. The Book Corner (Niagara Falls)

. Dog Ear Books (Abbott Road, Buffalo)

.The Book Nook (Dunkirk)

Friday, June 05, 2009

Remembering Randy

by Tim Wendel

Some players only see the world through a prism of their own statistics and accomplishments. Others have no choice but to be a part of team – to be a spokesman for something larger than themselves.
That’s how it was with Randy Smith, who died unexpectedly last night of a heart attack. He was the spokesman for the old Buffalo Braves. He not only realized that but came to embrace that role.
“Sometimes I felt like I was the last of the Mohicans,” Smith told me during the writing of Buffalo, Home of the Braves.
“But I was the guy who was there pretty much from the beginning to the end. I guess you could say I became the institutional memory of that team.”
Nobody loved the Braves and nobody loved Buffalo more than Smith. After starring as a soccer player at Buffalo State, the basketball Braves drafted him in the seventh round of 1971 draft. After working on his jump shot and then thrilling fans with his two-handed slam dunks in the preseason, he surprisingly made the NBA team.
From there he continued to raise his game until he became an All-Star. Randy came off the bench to score 27 points in the 1978 NBA All-Star Game (the Braves’ last year in Buffalo) and took home the MVP award. He played 12 seasons in the NBA – a record 906 games – and never missed a game.
After his playing days were more, Randy eventually became the executive host at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. Sometimes when I’d call, trying to sort out something for the book, he couldn’t talk right away. “Got some big clients in town,” he’d say. “Try me back.”
But when the high-rollers had gone home, Randy liked nothing more than to talk about the Braves and the old days with Dr. Jack Ramsay, Ernie D. and his good friend Bob McAdoo.
“He was the one who remembered all of our stories,” McAdoo says. “He was the best of the Braves.”

Friday, May 22, 2009

Jerry Sullivan on new Braves book

Buffalo News sportswriter had a great column on the Braves’ anthology: “Buffalo, Home of the Braves” this morning. He spoke with Tim yesterday, and was it was nice to have the column published before next week’s book signing and Jerry’s well deserved Florida vacation.
We heard from a lot of Braves’ fans today, many transplanted to other parts of the country but still with a strong affinity to Western New York and the Buffalo Braves, just like us. At day’s end we’re ending up as the number two sports story, what’s #1? The west wall of the Aud that came crumbling down as its demolition winds down.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Book Release Set

Note: The book "Buffalo, Home of the Braves" is close to completion. On Saturday, May 30, 2009, a book release celebration will be held in downtown Buffalo.

From 11 AM - 1 PM that day, author Tim Wendel will be available for the signing of purchased copies of the book in the Connunity Room of the New Era Cap Company, located on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo.

Books can be purchased online, prior to the book signing date from SunBear Press.

Cuban's Antics stand in Snyder's Shadow

by Tim Wendel

ou can create a Final Four bracket smackdown out of anything these days. With that in mind, I wonder how current Dallas Mavs owner Mark Cuban and former Buffalo Braves owner Paul Snyder would have fared in such a competition.

Game Six of the 1974 playoffs against the Boston Celtics.

Braves fans will recall that heartbreaking game was decided when Jo Jo White sank a pair of free throws after a suspect foul against Buffalo’s Bob McAdoo. To add insult to injury, the clock was allowed to run out. The refs reaction? They headed for the exits. No time to huddle up and get the call right.

But Snyder didn’t stand for such treatment. As McAdoo and Coach Jack Ramsay later told us, the Braves’ owner shouted, “You can’t do this to me,” after being denied entrance to the referees’ dressing room.

Then, for good measure, Snyder pounded on the door a few times with his fists. The chaotic scene still brings a smile to McAdoo’s face.

“I did get a kick out of Paul Snyder pounding on the referees’ door after it was all over,” McAdoo told us. “There he was, still trying to get the call changed. I always loved that.”

Let’s see Mark Cuban top that.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Making of the Book, Part Four

There is solace in knowing that the files for the book “Buffalo, Home of the Braves” are now safely in the hands of our printer Village Press here in Michigan. They have given us a 3-4 week timeline before we have the now 216 page coffee table style book in hand, and copies are available to directly ship off to pre-orders.

We’re feeling solid about having an initial book release in May with a ceremony/book signing in Buffalo. There were obvious lessons learned through this process, but we also feel good that we refused to compromise quality and the vision of producing a high-quality once in a lifetime coffee table style book.

The numerous delays and postponed release dates have been a source of frustration. A month or so ago, I emailed those dedicated fans that had preordered the book, some more than a year ago. After explaining how much longer the process was taking, almost everyone responded that they could wait a bit longer.

Painstaking were the endless edits of the manuscripts that had to be shifted through for grammatical and historical corrections. Thanks to Mitch Gerber and Eric Brady for helping us out, pointing out obvious errors that were quickly corrected. I also had an eleventh hour conversation with long-time WKBW TV sports anchor, which provided additional information about the team’s early genesis.
So stay tuned in the few days for frequent updates and more importantly, an actual book.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Explaining the Deadline gone by

by Chris Wendel

The best laid plans can take longer than anticpated and we’re now looking at April for a release date. With that in mind, I sent the following message last night to those who have pre-ordered the book “Buffalo, Home of the Braves”. Extending past the publication date (again) was a tough but necessary choice. Here’s part of what I wrote to those who have pre-ordered the book:

“The entire effort of gathering photos, checking for historical correctness, and editing has taken more then three years, obviously much longer then anticipated. The book is still in editing mode before going to press. We’re now at the mercy of the graphic design person who is now finishing up the chapter on the final season. Then it’s four weeks working with the printer before we have books in hand.

With a long wait that extends past the advertised publication date of February 1, 2009, we’re offering a full refund to anyone who has pre-ordered. If you can hang in there a bit longer, it is now likely that book will be shipped out on early April. If neither if these alternatives work for you, please write or call with any questions or concerns. The book still promises to be the most comprehensive history of the Buffalo Braves ever compiled. Your support in getting over these last hurdles is greatly appreciated.”