Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Baseball Is Still Boffo in Buffalo

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Baseball Is Still Boffo in Buffalo

Article excerpt

ANYONE tempted to think Buffalo, N.Y., lost interest in baseball after being passed over for a major-league expansion team should think again. The city's support of its minor-league team, the Bisons, is exemplary. Their attendance is far and away the best in the minors, at about 14,500 a game.

Two key factors in the strong attendance figures are Pilot Field, a first-class ballpark built five years ago in hopes of getting a big-league club, and an aggressive promotions department.

There are attendance incentives almost every game: Batting helmets, kites, collector's cards, and coloring books are among the giveaways. Added attractions have included a picnic-tent party, a Beach Boys concert, and carnival rides in the parking lot.

And, oh yes, the team, a farm club of the Pittsburgh Pirates, plays some pretty good ball. Buffalo is the two-time defending champion of the American Association's Eastern Division, where its rivals are the Nashville Sounds, the Indianapolis Indians, and the Louisville Redbirds. The Bisons got off to a slow start this season, and have been hovering near .500.

Since moving to Pilot Field from War Memorial Stadium (where the movie "The Natural" was filmed), the Bisons have had a higher single-season average attendance than 14 major-league clubs and have sold out 59 games in the 21,000-seat park. What makes these figures easily expandable more impressive is that Buffalo is only a short trip from one of the biggest attractions in baseball, the world-champion Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays topped the majors last year with more than 4 million spectators - many, presumably, from the Buffalo area. Missed opportunity for some double Magic

While most sports news out of Orlando, Fla., recently has centered on whom the National Basketball Association's Orlando Magic chose in the draft of college players (Memphis State's Anfernee Hardaway, via a trade of draft picks), little attention was given the team's coaching change. Assistant coach Brian Hill replaced Matt Goukas, who became the team's vice president of basketball development. Hill was called a "logical" choice, because he is considered one of the NBA's top assistants, says a team executive. …

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