Buffalo Bisons History
Buffalo Bisons History
by Malcolm MacMillan
- Buffalo's baseball history dates to 1870s
- Current incarnation of team established in 1979
Few franchises in professional baseball (or in any sport, for that matter) have histories comparable to that of the Buffalo Bisons. In fact, for a city that may not be known as a hub of baseball, Buffalo has a hugely impressive baseball historical resume.
Today's Bisons were born in 1979, when the then-Eastern League AA team was formed in the city after a brief baseball hiatus. An affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates at the time, the team played at War Memorial Stadium in the downtown area. In the following years, the Bisons were bounced from MLB parent club to MLB parent club like few others in history. After being with the Pirates until the end of the 1982 campaign, the Bisons were picked up by the Cleveland Indians for the 1983 and 1984 seasons. After that, the Chicago White Sox ran the show in '85 and '86, Cleveland took over again in '87 and Pittsburgh stepped back in between 1988 and 1994. Confused yet? Pittsburgh, not wanting to be outdone, took charge of the Bisons in a run from 1995 to 2008. Since the 2009 season, the Bisons have been the affiliate of the New York Mets. That agreement is good through the 2012 season.
Professional baseball in Buffalo, however, dates back to 1879. Then a National League team, the Bisons spent time on the senior circuit until 1885. The team moved to the earliest incarnation of the International League in 1886, which had been established a couple seasons earlier, in 1884. By 1899, the Bisons changed leagues again, this time to the Western League. A year later, the Western League became the American League, and the Bisons were dropped from having a second shot at the Big Leagues when the Boston Americans took their spot.
The Bisons saw more stability, but also more struggles, in the years that followed. They stuck with the International League until 1970, when attendance and stadium problems prompted a move to Winnipeg, Canada. Known as the Whips, the franchise won just 96 out of 280 games in their stop north of the border, had dismal attendance numbers, then moved to Virginia. The Virginia experiment also proved a failure, and with the franchise continuing to struggle, it was pulled from the International League and replaced by the Memphis Blues, who moved up from AA ball.
But since relaunching as a member of the Eastern League in 1979 (they moved back up to AAA for good in 1985), the Bisons have enjoyed 23 seasons of .500 ball or better in 32 years. Throughout their storied history, the Bisons won league titles in 1933, 1936, 1957, 1961, 1998 and 2004.
Eighteen members of the Buffalo franchise (at one time or another) are members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.