Minor League Team, Big Time Memories

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Before being called up to the Nationals, Stephen Strasburg pitched against the Buffalo Bisons in an AAA International league baseball game in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP/ David Duprey)
Before being called up to the Nationals, Stephen Strasburg pitched against the Buffalo Bisons in an AAA International league baseball game in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP/ David Duprey)

I'm a Buffalo sports fan. I've seen four consecutive Super Bowl losses and two doomed Stanley Cup finals, including one in which Brett Hull was allowed to kick in the cup-winning goal. Major League Baseball has not yet located Buffalo on the map, so I follow the minor league Buffalo Bisons. I listened to one of their games as a boy, and it's stuck with me like none other, not just for the incredible game, but for the way it all unfolded on the radio.

Game four of the 1991 American Association Championship series pitted my Buffalo Bisons against the Denver Zephyrs. The man behind the microphone that night was Pete Weber.

Well sure, he's an NHL announcer now, but back then, he was the voice of the Buffalo Bisons.

"I'd have to say that I can't think of too many things I've called, no matter what the sport, that got to me more than that did," Weber says.

The division-winning 1991 team was “dope,” as we used to say; finishing 81 and 62, and winning their division.

I was a passionate 11-year-old Bisons fan, and Pete Weber's description of the games kept me that way throughout the season.

Buffalo faced Denver in the first round, best-of-five American Association playoffs. Buffalo won the first two games at home, and the teams headed to Denver with Buffalo needing just one of the next three to move on. The Zephyrs won game three, setting up the drama of game four.

Going into the ninth inning, I was glued to this game.  The Bisons were losing nine nothing with no hits. Buffalo's Jeff Banister was up first, and he was first pitch swinging.

Before that hit, Greg Mathews, the Denver starting pitcher had retired 19 Bisons in a row. The next batter was Jeff Richardson.  His at-bat placed runners at first and third, with no one out—but who cares, because they're down nine nothing.

Batting next, Greg Tubbs. Then Armando Moreno.

Four hits in a row to start the ninth, and Greg Mathews’ night was done. Denver called in reliever Chris George, who promptly got one out and looked like he may put out the fire. The Bison's power-hitting catcher Brian Dorsett was up next with two on base.

"I didn't think there was a shot until Dorset hit the three run homer," Weber remembered.

Dorsett hit a three-run homer, bringing the score to 9-5 and placing the Bisons in full-blown comeback mode. I was 11 years old, pacing around my kitchen, and I couldn't believe what I was hearing. The Bisons batted around the lineup and then some more. With two outs and the bases loaded, the speedy Greg Edge came up next, for the first of two controversial plays.

A gift from the ump called Edge safe on first, and the Bisons were within three. All of a sudden, losing felt out of the question. With the bases loaded, and Greg Edge's speed at first, Greg Tubbs could tie the game with a double.

A second controversial play called Tubbs out, and the Zephyrs won 9-8.

"The picture of my mind is still of that call coming with Greg Edge's foot on the plate and the tag coming up high on his chest," Weber told me recently.  "The throw was not in time.  But the ball was there, Scott Potter called him out, and then the hullabaloo ensued."

The game, and the Bison comeback, ended on a play at the plate. This loss stung. In fact, there’s a gouge in the wall at my mom’s house to prove it. But the lasting memory for me will always be of the even-handed Pete Weber, turning into a flaming ball of outrage.

"I'll tell you this much too, Sterling," Weber admits now.  "Never in--how many years have I been on the air now, since 1973--have I been as indignant as I was that night."

By the way, the final score of game five: Zephyrs 12, Bisons 3. Conspiracy theories danced in my 11-year-old head, and sometimes they still do. Add the Bison's 1991 loss to a long string of Buffalo sports humiliations? Sure. But I like to think I made a lifelong friend that day.

Thanks, Pete Weber.

This segment aired on October 6, 2012.


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