Herd Chronicles dives deep into Buffalo baseball
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Brian Frank is on a mission that can be summarized in seven words: preserving the history of Buffalo Bisons baseball. When it comes to this storied franchise, there is a lot of history to preserve, arguably more than in any other current Minor League Baseball locale. Buffalo,
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Brian Frank is on a mission that can be summarized in seven words: preserving the history of Buffalo Bisons baseball.
When it comes to this storied franchise, there is a lot of history to preserve, arguably more than in any other current Minor League Baseball locale. Buffalo, New York’s second largest city, first hosted professional baseball in 1877. The 1879-1885 iteration of the Bisons were members of the National League, the first of three occasions in which Buffalo was home to a Major League team. And this doesn’t include the anomalous -- and certainly historic -- events of 2020 and ’21, in which Buffalo’s Sahlen Field served as the temporary home of the Bisons' parent club, the Toronto Blue Jays.
It’s a lot to make sense of, and properly contextualize, as each historical rabbit hole leads to innumerable others. For Frank, a native of nearby Springville, New York, it’s a labor of love. He runs The Herd Chronicles website and its corresponding Twitter account, which are filled with archival deep dives, modern-day player profiles and “This day in Bisons history” explorations and excavations. Frank is a credentialed member of the Bisons’ press corps, and his articles often run on the Triple-A International League team’s website as well.
#OTD in 1961, the #Bisons played their first game ever at The Rockpile, beating the San Juan Marlins 4-3. #Buffalo pic.twitter.com/sDFeKt2sy0— HERD Chronicles (@HERDchronicles) May 3, 2019
“I grew up a huge Bisons fan, going to games at War Memorial Stadium. Fans around here affectionately called it the Rockpile. That’s where ‘The Natural’ was filmed,” said Frank, speaking from the Sahlen Field press box prior to a September rainout. “In the Bisons programs they would always have sections by Joe Overfield, who was the historian for the team at that time.
“I specifically remember reading one that was about the National League Bisons and Dan Brouthers, who is in the Hall of Fame now and was a star on those teams. Just being amazed that, first of all, there’d been Major League Baseball in Buffalo and, secondly, that Hall of Famers played for the Bisons. That just blew my mind and got me interested in it.”
Years later, as a History major at Canisius College, Frank went to the Buffalo Library as part of a non-baseball research project. As he scrolled through old newspaper articles preserved on microfilm, he couldn’t help but notice all the baseball stories. A hobby was born, as Frank returned to the library again and again in search of contemporary accounts of long-ago Buffalo baseball happenings.
#OTD in 1878, #Buffalo, Syracuse, and Cleveland were admitted to the National League. Here’s a photo of the 1882 N.L. #Bisons, including Baseball Hall of Famers Pud Galvin, Dan Brouthers, Jim O’Rourke, and Deacon White. pic.twitter.com/altzWGyu7x— HERD Chronicles (@HERDchronicles) December 4, 2021
“I created [Herd Chronicles] and starting writing about all of Bisons history,” he said. “The team has been absolutely fantastic, accepting my stories and putting them on the website, talking about it during the radio broadcasts. It’s become bigger than I ever imagined at the start.”
In the Herd Chronicles content universe, lengthy articles are complemented by pithy tweets largely focused on Bisons game anniversaries and player birthdays.
“It’s been an interesting way to connect with fans and also former players,” said Frank. “It’s amazing the number of former Bisons that follow me on Twitter, and it’s always a thrill.”
#OTD in 1947, the New York Cubans beat the Cleveland Buckeyes 9-7 in a Negro League game at #Buffalo’s Offermann Stadium. Minnie Miñoso hit a three-run home run for New York and Sam Jethroe homered for Cleveland. pic.twitter.com/kcgcHDRg4w— HERD Chronicles (@HERDchronicles) September 4, 2021
One of Frank’s latest preoccupations is finding information related to Buffalo’s Negro League teams as well as the barnstorming Negro League teams that played at Offermann Stadium (the precursor to the Rockpile).
“The great teams, the Homestead Grays and Kansas City Monarchs and Pittsburgh Crawfords, they all traveled through here,” he said. “Josh Gibson homered here and Satchel Paige pitched here, but those stories are a lot harder to find in the newspaper…. It’s really rare and hard to find a box score. That’s kind of like the holy grail.”
Frank has also had the chance to cover Buffalo history as it is happening. COVID-19 restrictions forced the Blue Jays to spend parts of the 2020 and ’21 seasons at Sahlen Field, and he was there.
Welcome to Sahlen Field, home of the Toronto Blue Jays. pic.twitter.com/e31W1i3xNo— HERD Chronicles (@HERDchronicles) May 29, 2021
“In 2020 fans weren’t allowed in here, so I was one of the only people who actually got to see what was going on, with the cardboard fans and the batting cages in the tunnel outside. It was really surreal -- you couldn’t have dreamt something like that,” he said. “I’m actually taking the information I got from all the postgame and pregame [Zoom] interviews and working on a book about the Blue Jays playing in Buffalo.”
With nearly 150 years of baseball history to draw from, Frank is confident he’ll keep finding new things to research, write about and discuss.
“Buffalo goes back as far as any of the great baseball cities you can think of,” he said. “There’s always something.”
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.