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Guest Book Review: Buffalo Braves From A to Z


Guest Review by Howard W. Henry Jr.


(Editor's note: Mr. Henry sent this review to us for publication. He is the author of "Saving Buffalo Baseball," on the 1956 Buffalo Bisons, and is a retired clinical social worker, addictions counselor, adjunct faculty member, and union leader.)


“The Braves are gone…” Wait a second! Not so fast. In their new book, Buffalo Braves From A to Z, Budd Bailey and Greg Tranter have Brazenly Brought the Braves Back to Buffalo.


“…and the NBA is never returning…” Yeah, that’s probably accurate.


[So] “We are left with celebrating their memory.” But what a memory to celebrate!


I know what it’s like to gloriously remember a team and a time when dreams are factual. I wrote a book like that about a different sport in a different decade, and my friends and readers who remember those days have thanked me enthusiastically for restoring those memories to them.


If you were in Buffalo and a Braves fan in the years from 1970 to 1978, you will enthuse over this walk down memory lane. Those of us who were not in the city at the time will learn about and be entertained by this see-saw adventure, the highs and lows and “what might have been” efforts by outstanding roundballers who took to the hardwood to give Buffalo a three-sport major league presence.


Budd Bailey and Greg Tranter have each written several books, and this is their second collaboration after putting out a volume on Buffalo Bills' history in late summer. And a good one this latest one is. Growing up in the Buffalo area, I had always followed basketball and had enjoyed the Little Three (Canisius-Niagara-St. Bonaventure) matchups and the professional Syracuse Nationals with Dolph Schayes pouring in buckets of points, so I am grateful to have a section on Buffalo’s early hoop days in the chapter on heritage.


The birth of the Braves almost didn’t happen until businessman Paul Snyder stepped in at the last minute and purchased the team from the original (out of town) struggling owners. An an expansion team, the Braves won their very first game (107-92) on October 14, 1970, in “the Aud” against the expansion Cleveland Cavaliers. Schayes was the Braves’ coach. From that beginning, you can relive a year by year synopsis of the team's activities, read highlights and lowlights, review additions and subtractions of personnel, find background on both players and coaches, as well as read recaps of the inevitable front office peddling and meddling.


A 22-60 record and a fourth-place finish in the Atlantic Division for the opening 1970-1971 campaign was followed by the identical record in 1971-72, but Randy Smith from Buffalo State (not expected to make the team) came on board. Dr. Jack Ramsay took over as coach for 1972-73 and was immediately gifted with Bob McAdoo in that year’s draft. Ernie DiGregorio was added in 1973-74 and suddenly the Braves had their first winning record, doubling their wins from the previous season and making their first playoff appearance (the first of the expansion clubs to do so). 1974-75 saw DiGregorio’s fateful knee injury and the team's highest win total, 49. Cracks started to appear in the 1975-76 season between owner and coach, but a 46-36 record put the Braves in a second-place tie with Philadelphia and led to Buffalo's only postseason series victory.


Ramsey was not rehired for 1976-77 and the team slumped to 30-52 and fourth place, adding a new 50 percent owner in John Y. Brown, a Hall of Famer in Moses Malone (for six minutes), a Hall of Famer in Adrian Dantley (for one season), and millions of dollars received . It also traded away a Hall of Famer in Bob McAdoo. 1977-78 was worse (27-55), and fans watched Dantley and DiGregorio depart and Hall of Famer Nate Archibald blow out his Achilles - all before the season started. Brown eventually worked out a freakish franchise swap following the season that gave him ownership of the Boston Celtics and sent the Braves far, far away to become the San Diego Clippers. Fascinating drama and shenanigans. Whew!


Player biographies are broken into two sections: Stars and Starters (extensively presented): Marvin Barnes, Adrian Dantley, Ernie DiGregorio, Dick Garrett, Gar Heard, Bob Kauffman, Moses Malone, Bob McAdoo, Jim McMillian, John Schumate, Elmore Smith, Randy Smith (remember those guys!); and, The Supporting Cast (decent sized thumbnail descriptions of 59 other men who wore the Braves uniform). The book is graced by the memories of Milt Northrup (retired Buffalo News sportswriter) for each player. Front office bios are to be found as well, and the book is enhanced by anecdotal Stories too good to wind up on the cutting room floor. There’s even a section for “the Aud”—where the action took place.


A Buffalo Braves Timeline, Statistics, and lists of Draft Choices and All-Time Transactions round out the effort. Photos from the team media guides, Courier-Express, Buffalo Fan Magazine and Author’s Collection enhance our appreciation of the book which is extensively researched and offers an index of Braves’ personnel.


Buy this book. Enjoy it for yourself and give it as a gift to someone who is bound to appreciate it.


(Learn more about the book here.)

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