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Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame Museum @ Coca Cola Field

John Boutet has always been enamored by collecting all types of sports memorabilia and, in particular, his collection of Buffalo baseball history is extensive.  Since the passing of Joe Overfield, an author of a book detailing Buffalo’s 100 years in baseball and a member of the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame, Boutet has become the team historian and, since 2013, the curator of its Hall of Fame museum.

John Boutet in front of a section of the Bison Baseball history display

The room is located on the main concourse inside Coca Cola Field, to the left of the Swan Street gate and adjacent to Section 107.  A walk inside is a journey through the history of more than 100 years of Buffalo baseball. The room’s only permanent display are the plaques of the members of the team’s Hall of Fame.  The remainder of the room, which is open until the fourth inning of each game, is left to Boutet’s imagination.

When the Herd returns home Monday evening to begin its final homestand of the season, fans will be treated to a tribute of the ballpark’s 30 year history, including many items from its inaugural 1988 season in what was then Pilot Field, including rare, unseen photos.   Earlier this season, the first non-baseball display was exhibited when Boutet brought his collection of Memorial Auditorium items to the downtown ballpark.

John in front of a section of the War Memorial Stadium display

“Everyone who walked through that exhibit had a story or a memory of The Aud,” Boutet recalls of the WPA project that was built at the foot of Main Street in 1940 and demolished in 2009.

During its five years the room has seen displays about the history of professional baseball in Buffalo, The Natural, baseball cards, Bison jerseys through the years, Offermann Stadium and War Memorial Stadium and the earliest days of baseball and the history of mascots.

“I knew this room would be a success because so many of our best memories from childhood are attached to sports.  Everyone from here has some Buffalo sports story or memory they love to share,” Boutet says as he looks at photos from the ballpark’s opening in April of 1988.

John and the late Van Miller, left, the former Voice of the Buffalo Bills and Braves and Ch. 4 sports caster.

“It is wonderful to see people walk into the room, look around and say, ‘Wow, this is so cool,’” he adds.  “It is so gratifying to hear fans or visitors comment on what they just learned about Bison baseball just by stepping into the room.”

Boutet is a member of the planning committee of The Buffalo Experience, which is working on finding a permanent home for the Greater Buffalo Sports, Buffalo Music and Buffalo Broadcasters Halls of Fame and all of its memorabilia.

“Just like the Explore & More Kids Museum at Canalside, a similar space to capture the important history of sports, music and broadcasting in our city is just as important,” he says.

For information about tickets for the final four home games of the Bisons’ 30th season downtown, visit www.bisons.comThe final homestand includes an elaborate tribute to the stadium’s 30 years on Wednesday, Aug. 30, incliuding  Celery’s last race.  Fan Appreciation Night will be held on Thursday with a huge fireworks show to follow.

Joe Overfield, left, being inducted into the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame from HOF Chairman Vince McNamara

 

Lead image: This author, the former Vice President/General Manager of Bisons when the ballpark opened admires a photo of the thousands who witnessed former Governor Mario Cuomo and former Mayor Jimmy Griffin, cut the ribbon to open Pilot Field.

Written by Michael J. Billoni

Michael J. Billoni

Former sports reporter for the now defunct Courier-Express. Former vice president/general manager of the Buffalo Bisons. Handled the promotions and publicity for Buffalo’s undefeated heavyweight boxer, “Baby Joe” Mesi. Founder and principal of Billoni Associates. Authored and managed the publication of “Robert E. Rich—Memoirs of an Innovator,” the biography of the founder of Rich Products Corp.

Mike and is wife Debbie love Western New York and always try to help others and encourage positive thoughts

View All Articles by Michael J. Billoni
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