6/12/2020 - Phillies Minor League History - The Buffalo Bisons
Time Period - 1959 to 1962
Venue : Offermann Stadium & War Memorial Park
City : Buffalo, NY
Franchise History :
The Buffalo Bisons are one of the most storied franchises in minor league baseball history. Originating in 1877 as a member of the League Alliance ( the first semi affiliated minor league ) the franchise briefly became a major league team in the National League from 1879 to 1885.
They moved back to minor league baseball status in 1886 as part of the original Eastern League, then onto the Western League in 1899 ( that league became the American League in 1900 - the second major league ). The Bisons were bumped from an American League affiliation in favor of a team from Boston and resumed play in the Eastern League which eventually became what’s known today as the International League, they remained a franchise in that league till 1970.
Buffalo didn’t have a team from 1971 to 1978 but reformed as a franchise in 1979 joining the AA level Eastern League ... they moved to the AAA level American Association in 1985 and once again to the International League in 1997 where they remain today.
The Phillies affiliated in Buffalo from 1959 to 1962 as part of the AAA level International League. The franchise has had numerous big league affiliations over the years ...
Cleveland Indians - 1939
Detroit Tigers - 1941 to 1949
Philadelphia Athletics - 1950
Detroit Tigers - 1952 to 1955
Kansas City Athletics - 1956 to 1958
Philadelphia Phillies - 1959 to 1962
New York Mets - 1963 to 1965
Cincinnati Reds - 1966 to 1967
Washington Senators - 1968 to 1969
Montreal Expos - 1970
Pittsburgh Pirates - 1979 to 1982
Cleveland Indians - 1983 to 1984
Chicago White Sox - 1985 to 1986
Cleveland Indians - 1987
Pittsburgh Pirates - 1988 to 1994
Cleveland Indians - 1995 to 2008
New York Mets - 2008 to 2012
Toronto Blue Jays - 2013 to present
The Stadiums the Phillies teams played in :
Offermann Stadium :
The stadium opened in 1924 with a seating capacity of 14,000 and was primarily used for baseball ... the home of the Bisons. Field dimensions were 321 ft to LF, 400 to CF and 297 to RF. The field was located at the corner of East Ferry and Michigan Avenue in the city of Buffalo. It was built to replace the original home of the Bisons, a stadium called Olympic Park ( built in 1889 ) and was constructed on the same site. It opened as Bison Stadium but was renamed to honor team owner Frank Offermann following his death in 1935.
“The ballpark had tight dimensions, caused in part by buildings to the east and west of the ballpark on the block. It was on a rectangular block, with the diamond tilted somewhat counterclockwise relative to the streets. Consequently, although the right field foul line was shorter than the left, the right field power alley was deeper than the left. Also, it was reportedly only 33 feet to the backstop.” - Montreal Gazzette
The stadium was demolished after the 1960 season and in 1962 Woodlawn Junior High School opened on the site’s grounds. In 2008 the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts claimed the site as home ... a historical plaque was dedicated in 2012 in remembrance of the 72 years of baseball played on the grounds.
The Phillies version of the Bisons played at Offermann Stadium for the 1959 and 1960 seasons.
War Memorial Stadium :
Nicknamed “the Rockpile” the all purpose stadium was built in 1937 at 285 Dodge Street on top of a large block that had once been Prospect Reservoir. It was built primarily for football so wedging a baseball diamond into it created some odd dimensions ... 290 ft to LF, 410 to CF and 324 to RF.
The nickname “Rockpile” some say is attributed to a large wall constructed of large stones that surrounded portions of the stadium and was once part of the boundary for the reservoir.
As a football stadium the seating capacity was 45,000 ... it served as home for the AFL/NFL Buffalo Bills from 1960 to 1972. It was also the park that the Robert Redford movie “The Natural” was filmed at in 1983.
The stadium was demolished in 1988 and a youth sports complex named the Johnie B Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion was constructed in its place. Two original stadium entrance gates were preserved on site as memorials.
The Phillies version of the Bisons played at War Memorial Stadium for the 1961 and 1962 seasons.
The Seasons :
International League (AAA ) ... Manager : Kerby Farrell ... 89-64, 1st place ... Attendance: 413,263. Lost in playoffs to Richmond Virginians 4 games to 1.
25 year old 1B Pancho Herrera won the league’s triple crown leading in home runs with 37, RBIs with 128 and batting average at .329 in 656 AB’s ... he also was tops in OBP (.410 ), slugging ( .608 ) and OPS ( 1.018 ) as well as Total Bases 346 😳 ... he was named the league MVP ... what a year!
The pitching staff included future big league standouts LHP Chris Short ( then 21 ), RHP Dallas Green ( then 24 ) and RHP Art Mahaffey ( then 21 ) ... 33 of the 38 players who donned the Bisons uniform would either go on to play Major League Baseball or had previously done so ... that’s impressive
International League (AAA ) ... Manager : Kerby Farrell ... 78-75, 4th place ... Attendance: 278,352. Lost in playoffs to Toronto Maple Leafs 4 games to 0.
24 year old outfielder Don Landrum led the league in doubles with 35 and was 9th in the loop in hitting posting a .292 BA in 610 AB’s ... hit stroked 18 homers and drove in 75 ... Landrum played parts of 8 big league seasons with the Phillies, Cardinals, Cubs and Giants.
International League (AAA ) ... Manager : Kerby Farrell ... 85-67, 3rd place ... Attendance: 259,724. League Champions ... defeated San Juan/Charleston Marlins 4 games to 0 and the Rochester Red Wings 4 games to 1 in league playoffs.
24 year old outfielder Ted Savage was named the league MVP as he led the league in OBP at .427 and stolen bases with 31 and was top five in BA ( .325 in 547 AB’s ), TB ( 287), HR ( 25 ), Doubles ( 29 ), SLG ( .525 ) and OPS ( .952 ) ... he would play in 9 big league seasons beginning in 1962 with the Phillies, Cardinals, Cubs, Reds, Dodgers, Brewers and Royals.
International League (AAA ) ... Manager : Kerby Farrell ... 73-80, 6th place ... Attendance: 214,134.
28 year old 1B Pancho Herrera was back in Buffalo and led the league in home runs ( 32 ) and RBIs ( 108 ) while hitting .295 in 509 AB’s
Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️