Coca-Cola Field (1988–present)
The Buffalo Bisons are a professional Minor League Baseball team based in Buffalo, New York. They play in the International League (IL) and are the Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Bisons play at Coca-Cola Field in downtown Buffalo.
The Bisons have existed in some form since 1877, most of that time playing in professional baseball's second tier; exceptions have included the 1879–85 Bisons, who played in the major leagues as a member of the National League, and the 1979–84 Bisons, who played at the third-tier Double-A level. The Bisons did not play from June 1970 through the 1978 season.
The 1927 Bisons were recognized as one of the 100 greatest minor league teams of all time. In 2016, Forbes listed the Bisons as the 15th-most valuable Minor League Baseball team with a value of $34 million.
Organized baseball in Buffalo had been around since at least 1859, when the Niagara baseball club of the National Association of Base Ball Players played its first season. The first professional team to play in Buffalo began in 1877; it was this team that was invited to become a major league club, the Buffalo Bisons of the National League, who played from 1879 to 1885. In 1886, the Bisons moved into minor league baseball as members of the original International League, then known as the Eastern League. (An "outlaw" team also known as the Buffalo Bisons also played in the Players' League, an upstart third major league, in 1890, but that team is not considered part of the Bisons history.) This team joined the Western League in 1899, and was within weeks of becoming a major league team when the Western League announced it was changing its name to the American League in 1900. However, by the start of the 1901 season, Buffalo had been bumped from the league in favor of the Boston Americans; the Bisons returned to the minors and the Eastern League that year.
This franchise continued in the Eastern/International League through June 1970, when it transferred to Winnipeg, Manitoba as the Winnipeg Whips, due to poor attendance, stadium woes, the Montreal Expos (then Canada's only MLB team) affiliating with the franchise, and an increasingly saturated Buffalo sports market that saw the Buffalo Sabres of the NHL and Buffalo Braves of the NBA established the same year. (The team had narrowly avoided relocation in 1956, but an intervention led by local broadcaster Stan Barron prevented the team from leaving; it nonetheless was forced to move into a football venue, Buffalo War Memorial Stadium, a few years later, after its existing ballpark closed.) In 1969, Héctor López became the first black manager at the Triple-A level while managing Buffalo Bisons—six years before Frank Robinson became the first black manager in Major League Baseball. After stops in Winnipeg and Hampton, Virginia, the team was suspended after the 1973 season to make way for the Memphis Blues, who were moving up from Double-A.
In 1979, by which point the Braves had left town, the Double-A Eastern League's Jersey City A's were forced to leave their city due to the decrepitude of that city's Roosevelt Stadium and opted to move to Waterbury, Connecticut, a city that already had an Eastern League team. Again with Barron leading the effort, the league awarded the extra franchise to Buffalo, and the Bisons (taking on the previous team's name and history) returned to the field.
After six seasons in the Eastern League, the Bisons rejoined the Triple-A ranks in 1985, joining the American Association when the Wichita Aeros' franchise rights were transferred to Buffalo. When, as part of a reorganization of Triple-A baseball, the American Association folded after the 1997 season, Buffalo joined the International League.
Since their return to Triple-A baseball in 1985, the Bisons have qualified for the playoffs several times. In 2004, although the Bisons were 10 games behind the first-place team in June, the Bisons won their division. Buffalo won its first-round playoff, against the Durham Bulls, and advanced to the Governors' Cup Finals, in which they had home field advantage over the Richmond Braves. The remnants of Hurricane Ivan caused major flooding problems in Richmond and the entire series was played in Buffalo. The Bisons defeated the Braves in four games and won the Governors' Cup for the second time since 1998. In 2005, Buffalo won the North Division and played the Indianapolis Indians in the first round, winning the first two games in Indianapolis, but losing all three remaining games. With many of its players shuffled to the Cleveland Indians throughout the final months of the season, the Bisons failed to qualify for the playoffs in 2006. In 2007, Buffalo again failed to clinch a playoff spot, marking the first time since Buffalo was parented with the Pittsburgh Pirates that the Bisons missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
After the 2008 season, Buffalo parted ways with Cleveland, as the Indians signed an affiliation agreement with the Columbus Clippers beginning in 2009. The Bisons then signed a two-year agreement to be the top home for New York Mets prospects.
On December 16, 2008, the Mets officially announced that Ken Oberkfell would be the Bisons new manager for 2009. At the same press conference, the Bisons also unveiled their new logo. The logo paid homage to baseball's history in the city of Buffalo with the city's skyline in the background. The logo, along with the new colors of blue and orange, closely resemble that of the team's new parent club, the Mets.
In late July 2010, the Bisons and Mets agreed on a two-year extension that carried their agreement through the 2012 season.
The 2010–2011 off-season saw changes to the Bisons coaching staff. Ken Oberkfell was replaced by Tim Teufel, who was a member of the 1986 Mets team. Teufel was introduced on Friday January 21, 2011, as the 16th manager in the Bisons' modern era.
The Bisons' agreement with the Mets ended after the 2012 season due to Bisons' management being dissatisfied with their drop in attendance and poor performance during the Mets era. The Bisons enjoyed only one winning season out of the four years that they were affiliated with the Mets. Consequently, the Bisons signed a player development contract with the Toronto Blue Jays on September 18, 2012. The Blue Jays are geographically the closest MLB team to Buffalo and such a partnership would build on other international fan base efforts in the region, such as the now-defunct Bills Toronto Series in football.
As part of the rebuilding efforts, the Bisons announced a new uniform (a throwback uniform using a modernized variant of their 1980s logo and colors) and the return of former Bisons manager Marty Brown in November 2012.
In 2016, the Bisons and Blue Jays agreed to again extend their player development contract, extending their relationship through the 2018 season.
|1979||Pirates||Eastern League||4th||72||67||.518||Steve Demeter||League didn't hold playoffs|
|1980||Pirates||Eastern League||North||1st (first half)
3rd (second half)
|67||70||.489||Steve Demeter||Lost in Semi-Finals, 0–2 (Millers)|
|1981||Pirates||Eastern League||North||4th (first half)
2nd (second half)
|56||81||.409||Johnny Lipon||Did not qualify|
|1982||Pirates||Eastern League||North||4th (first half)
4th (second half)
|55||84||.396||Tommy Sandt||Did not qualify|
|1983||Indians||Eastern League||3rd||74||65||.532||Al Gallagher||Lost in Semi-Finals, 0–2 (Sailors)|
|1984||Indians||Eastern League||5th||72||67||.518||Jack Aker||Did not qualify|
|1985||White Sox||American Association||East||3rd||66||76||.465||John Boles||Did not qualify|
|1986||White Sox||American Association||East||2nd||71||71||.500||Jim Marshall||Did not qualify|
|1987||Indians||American Association||5th||66||74||.471||Orlando Gomez
|Did not qualify|
|1988||Pirates||American Association||East||3rd||72||70||.507||Rocky Bridges||Did not qualify|
|1989||Pirates||American Association||East||2nd||80||62||.563||Terry Collins||Did not qualify|
|1990||Pirates||American Association||East||2nd||85||62||.578||Terry Collins||Lost one-game playoff, 3–4 (Sounds)|
|1991||Pirates||American Association||East||1st||81||62||.566||Terry Collins||Lost in Championship, 2–3 (Zephyrs)|
|1992||Pirates||American Association||East||1st||87||57||.604||Marc Bombard||Lost in Championship, 0–4 (89ers)|
|1993||Pirates||American Association||East||2nd||71||73||.493||Doc Edwards||Did not qualify|
|1994||Pirates||American Association||8th||55||89||.382||Doc Edwards||Did not qualify|
|1995||Indians||American Association||2nd||86||62||.569||Brian Graham||Won Semi-Finals, 3–1 (Royals)
Lost in Championship, 2–3 (Redbirds)
|1996||Indians||American Association||East||1st||84||60||.583||Brian Graham||Lost in Semi-Finals, 2–3 (Indians)|
|1997||Indians||American Association||East||1st||87||57||.604||Brian Graham||Won Semi-Finals, 3–2 (Indians)
Won Championship, 3–0 (Cubs)
|1998||Indians||International League||North||1st||81||62||.566||Jeff Datz||Won Semi-Finals, 3–0 (SkyChiefs)
Won Championship, 3–2 (Bulls)
Lost World Series, 1–3 (Zephyrs)
|1999||Indians||International League||North||4th||72||72||.500||Jeff Datz||Did not qualify|
|2000||Indians||International League||North||1st||86||59||.593||Joel Skinner||Won one-game playoff, 7–1 (Red Barons)
Lost in Semi-Finals, 1–3 (Red Barons)
|2001||Indians||International League||North||1st||91||51||.641||Eric Wedge||Lost in Semi-Finals, 2–3 (Red Barons)|
|2002||Indians||International League||North||2nd||84||54||.609||Eric Wedge||Won Semi-Finals, 3–0 (Red Barons)
Lost in Championship, 0–3 (Bulls)
|2003||Indians||International League||North||3rd||73||70||.510||Marty Brown||Did not qualify|
|2004||Indians||International League||North||1st||83||61||.576||Marty Brown||Won Semi-Finals, 3–2 (Bulls)
Won Championship, 3–1 (Braves)
|2005||Indians||International League||North||1st||82||62||.569||Marty Brown||Lost in Semi-Finals, 2–3 (Indians)|
|2006||Indians||International League||North||3rd||73||68||.518||Torey Lovullo||Did not qualify|
|2007||Indians||International League||North||3rd||75||67||.569||Torey Lovullo||Did not qualify|
|2008||Indians||International League||North||5th||66||77||.462||Torey Lovullo||Did not qualify|
|2009||Mets||International League||North||6th||56||87||.392||Ken Oberkfell||Did not qualify|
|2010||Mets||International League||North||3rd||76||68||.528||Ken Oberkfell||Did not qualify|
|2011||Mets||International League||North||5th||61||82||.427||Tim Teufel||Did not qualify|
|2012||Mets||International League||North||6th||67||76||.469||Wally Backman||Did not qualify|
|2013||Blue Jays||International League||North||3rd||74||70||.514||Marty Brown||Did not qualify|
|2014||Blue Jays||International League||North||3rd||77||66||.538||Gary Allenson||Did not qualify|
|2015||Blue Jays||International League||North||3rd||68||76||.472||Gary Allenson||Did not qualify|
|2016||Blue Jays||International League||North||5th||66||78||.458||Gary Allenson||Did not qualify|
|2017||Blue Jays||International League||North||5th||65||76||.461||Bob Meacham||Did not qualify|
The Bisons have won the Governors' Cup, the championship of the IL, 6 times, including the inaugural Cup, and played in the championship series 10 times.
Since 1998 the Bisons have won the IL North Division four times (1998, 2001, 2004, and 2005). They have also won the Thruway Cup, a regular-season competition between Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse, six times since its inception in 1998.
Buffalo Bisons roster
7-day disabled list
Players named to the Bisons' "All 25 Seasons Team" are indicated by a double dagger ()
|Player/Manager||Year Inducted||Years with the Bisons|
|Connie Mack||1937||1890 (played for the outlaw PL Bisons)|
|Joe Tinker||1946||1930 (Coach)|
|Gabby Hartnett||1955||1946 (Manager)|
|Ray Schalk||1955||1932–1937, 1950 (Manager)|
|John Montgomery Ward||1964||1877|
|Pud Galvin||1965||1878–1885, 1894|
|Bucky Harris||1975||1918–1919, 1944–1945 (Manager)|
|Jim Bunning||1996||1953, 1955|
|Deacon White||2013||1881–1885, 1890|
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The main mascots of the team have traditionally been Buster T. Bison along with his cousin Chip, but as of 2006, a new mascot named Belle the Ballpark Diva has appeared, along with flamboyant reporter Johnny Styles. Buster and Belle pursued a love interest, and were married following a game on August 26, 2007, against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.
Buster and Chip wear Bisons jerseys and caps. Buster's number was the last two numbers of the season up to 2009, however, as of the 2010 season his number is 83, signifying the year Buster first appeared as the team's mascot. Chip's number has always been 1⁄2. The Bisons have had a number of other mascots in the past. MicroChip, who was smaller and presumably "younger" than Buster and Chip, wore a Bisons jersey as well. His number was 1⁄4. Loudmouth, a mime played by actress Tracey B. Wilson, was another mascot for the team. The other official mascot of the Bisons was Howie the Ump. He wore a costume much like Buster and Chip, but it was a costume of a human umpire, with an umpire's uniform and mask. He was very short-lived, existing only during the 1995–1997 seasons, and was played by local improvisational comedian Randy Reese.
The Bisons also run their own version of the mascot races at each home game, with costume characters representing a plain chicken wing, an extra-spicy "atomic" wing, a tub of blue cheese and a stalk of celery. The celery mascot, a crowd favorite, lost his first 449 races and was often the victim of foul play from the other contestants; more often, when it would squander whatever lead it had secured by stopping and becoming distracted. In a spoof of major baseball stars' "farewell tours" in the 2010s (such as those by David Ortiz and Derek Jeter), Celery announced his retirement in 2016, a full year ahead of his last game at the end of the 2017 season. In Celery's final race, which was preceded with a mass media circus in the Buffalo area in the week leading up to the race, Celery broke out to an early lead, again became distracted, but regained his focus to pass his opponents before the finish line, winning his only race and finishing with a 1–449 record.
The beer and snack vendors that have worked the Bisons' ballparks often earned reputations as entertainers themselves. These include Conehead, a beer vendor who wears a rubber cone-head hat, and The Earl of Bud (entertainer Earl Howze, Jr., currently of Chattanooga, Tennessee), another beer vendor, who would climb on the dugout and dance at some point during the game. The Earl of Bud made an appearance at the 20th Anniversary game for Dunn Tire Park in August 2007. He also made appearances at the ballpark in July and August 2012.
The Bisons Baseball Network, consisting of flagship WWKB in Buffalo, WGGO in Salamanca, and WOEN in Olean, broadcasts all Buffalo Bisons games. Select games are broadcast on CJCL, the flagship station of the Toronto Blue Jays. Spectrum Sports provided telecasts of select games until the network's dissolution in 2017.
Ben Wagner served as play-by-play announcer from 2007 to 2017, and was teamed with color commentator Duke McGuire, who has been with the Bisons since 1979. Pat Malacaro worked with Wagner on select road games, and serves as radio play-by-play announcer when Wagner and McGuire worked the television broadcasts. On March 27, 2018, Wagner was hired by the Blue Jays to replace Jerry Howarth as their radio play-by-play announcer.
Jim Rosenhaus, a Bisons broadcaster for 11 years, is now a Cleveland Indians broadcaster. His predecessor Pete Weber, who was the Bisons play-by-play broadcaster for 13 years, currently serves in that role for the Nashville Predators. Stan Barron spent many years as the Bisons' broadcaster and was a major factor in preventing a proposed relocation in 1956 and returning the team to Buffalo in 1979.
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