05 Aug

buffalo hunting

Buffalo, N.Y., where the Toronto Blue Jays plan to play home games at Sahlen Field this season, has a rich baseball history, and a native Mississippian occupies a prominent place in it. The city actually hosted a major league club, the Bisons, from 1879-85 and has had a minor league team of the same name practically ever since. It has been Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate since 2013. From 1924-60, the Bisons played at Offermann Stadium, which was torn down in 1962. At the site now is a commemorative plaque that makes particular mention of a home run hit at the ballpark by Luke Easter, the Jonestown native and onetime big leaguer. “Luke Easter … did on July 14, 1957, what no other player, major, minor, semipro or Negro League, had been able to do. He hit a low, outside pitch delivered by Bob Kuzava of the Columbus Jets 550 feet over the scoreboard in center field,” wrote Joseph Overfield in a SABR article. Easter, who became in 1949 the first black Mississippian to play in the major leagues, was in his 40s when he played in Buffalo from 1956-58. A fan favorite, he hit 113 home runs during those three seasons. Overfield writes that Easter’s scoreboard-clearing homer wasn’t even the longest one he hit at Offermann: “That blow came during the same 1957 season when he caught a high, inside fast ball from Jerry Lane of the Havana Sugar Kings and pulled it directly to rightfield, across Woodlawn Avenue, over the houses and into the alley of a house on Emerson Place, the next street south.” Easter is one of only three former Bisons to have his number – 25 – retired.

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