During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when we were mandated to stay indoors while the former President of the United States, Dr. Fauci, the former Governor of New York, the Erie County Executive and the Buffalo Mayor created their own reality television shows called “COVID-19 UPDATES!!!” the most common question we asked was: “What will the new normal look like?”
Since the Delta Variant has arrived it’s still too early to determine what the new normal will be since we are still in Covid-19 protocol and masks are mandatory in schools (unless that is going to be their new normal).
For us at Billoni Associates Publishing, the “new normal” has become FREE virtual livestream “Talking Baseball” events. Christina Abt, our Executive Producer, created one in December when it became apparent, we could not have the normal book launch and signing for The Seasons of Buffalo Baseball 1857-2020. Our third “Talking Baseball” one-hour event will be held Tuesday at 6 p.m. and features legendary sportscaster Bob Costas. Registration is required for the free event at www.seasonsofbuffalobaseball.com.
We were planning a big book release event for the media, baseball executives and friends at the Buffalo History Museum, in front of its library where the Joseph M. Overfield Collection is stored. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to cancel that event and go virtual. Mr. Overfield was the former historian of the Buffalo Bisons. When I was General Manager of the club in 1985 under Bob Rich Jr., we commissioned Joe to write The 100 Seasons of Buffalo Baseball as part of our 100th Season of Professional Baseball in Buffalo celebration.
Joe, who died in 2000, had always wanted to update the book but could never find the time. Four years ago, his son, Jim, Professor Emeritus in the University of Vermont’s History Department, called and asked if I would assist in revising and updating his dad’s book. I jumped at the opportunity as I used to visit Joe in his Town of Tonawanda home to assist with the original book.
Jim and I worked tirelessly, with others, on the book project and the reviews have been overwhelming for the 400-page, hardcover, 8×10-inch book with more than 150 black and white and color photos dating back to the mid-1800s.
Pete Weber, the former Voice of the Bisons, a member of the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame and now the award-winning Voice of the Nashville Predators, hosted the initial virtual book launch in December with his former color analyst Greg Brown, now the Voice of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bob Costas, the legendary and 29-time Emmy award-winning sportscaster, headlined that broadcast to strong reviews.
We held a second virtual livestream earlier this year in recognition of Black History Month with John Murphy, Voice of the Buffalo Bills, serving as host. Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro League Museum in Kansas City was an outstanding guest along with former Bisons Dorn Taylor and Morris Madden.
During that show, we also introduced Willie “Hutch” Jones, founder of the 37-year Willie “Hutch” Jones Educational and Sports Program in Buffalo and Western New York and Cedric Holloway, founder of Omega Mentoring, housed in the Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Sports Pavilion of which he is the executive director. A portion of the proceeds from our book sales go to a baseball, softball, soccer and mentoring program and it recently completed its first summer of free instruction classes and it was a great success. One of Hutch’s team members, Charles Wilson, esq., was successful in attracting attention from Major League Baseball and MLB awarded Hutch with an RBI (Reviving Baseball in the Inner City) franchise.
The first MLB RBI Pitch Hit & Run Buffalo competition, presented by the Willie “Hutch” Jones Education and Athletic Program will be held on Saturday, September 18 at the Wiley Pavilion with registration at 9:30 and competition beginning at 10. The top three in each category will qualify for the afternoon finals. Each participant will receive a voucher for a free ticket to the Bisons game on Sept. 25. It will be open for boys and girls 7-14 from throughout WNY and for more information, visit whjsc.org.
The Seasons of Buffalo Baseball 1857-2020’s third livestream event will be held Tuesday, Sept. 7 at 6 p.m. with an all-star roster. Weber and former WGRZ-TV Channel 2 sportscaster Stu Boyar will serve as hosts with Costas making a return appearance as the lead off guest. He will share details about the launch of his HBO Series, “Back on the Record” and the exciting news that he is returning to the play-by-play booth to call the National League Championship Series in October on TBS. Joining him on the one-hour show will be two outstanding national journalists, Harry Smith and Bob Nightengale.
Smith, an accomplished American television journalist who tells his wonderful stories on the NBC TODAY show, will talk about his dream-come-true reporting this summer from the sites of his two favorite baseball movies “The Natural” (Buffalo) and “Field of Dreams” (Dyersville, Iowa).
Nightengale, a highly respected USA TODAY Sports MLB columnist, a baseball insider for Audacy Radio and the MLB Network. He will update us on the 2020 Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony (cancelled last year due to COVID-19) which takes place the following day in Cooperstown. He is missing the ceremony for the first time in 14 years because Covid precautions do not allow media access to players.
Tuesday’s “Talking Baseball” Livestream event is free but registration is required and can be obtain by visiting www.seasonsofbuffalobaseball.com.
Retail Outlets: Dave & Adam’s Card World, 8075 Sheridan Dr., Williamsville, NY 14221; Made In America Stores, 1000 West Maple Ct., Elma, 6041 Transit Road, Depew, 3701 McKinley Mall, Hamburg; The BFLO Stores, 130 Main St (in the Explore & More Ralph C. Wilson Children’s Museum lobby); Eastern Hills, McKinley, Galleria and Boulevard Mall locations. The Buffalo History Museum, One Museum Ct., Buffalo; The Bookworm & BW Gifts, 34 Elm St., East Aurora; Bases Loaded Sports Collectables, 794 French Road, Cheektowaga; Riverside Men’s Shop and S&E Jewelers, 6470 Transit Road, Depew; Olde Editions Bookshop & Gallery, 954 Oliver St., North Tonawanda; Dog Ears Bookstore & Café, 688 Abbott Road, Buffalo; Ilio DiPaolo’s Restaurant, 3785 South Park Avenue, Blasdell; Talking Leaves Book Store, 951 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo; Thin Ice, 719 Elmwood Ave, Buffalo; Niagara Frontier Publications 1859 Whitehaven Road, Grand Island; Sahlen Field Gift Shop, 1 James D. Griffin Plaza, Buffalo (on the first base side of ballpark near entrance to the elevator.)
Wholesale pricing for orders of 10 or more books earn a great savings at $40 plus tax per book and can be personal. Call 716.578.8948 for more information.
Lead image (L-R): Mike Billoni, Bob Rich Jr., Bob Costas, Mindy Rich