A photo from Bob’s basement this week reveals another great moment with the men who operate Bison Baseball, President Jon Dandes and VP/GM Mike Buczkowski. The photo was taken at an Empire Sports Network golf tournament around 1996 when Mike was the Bisons PR Director and Jon was GM. The pair have been fixtures in the organization since the 1980’s and are now considered family by Bob and Mindy Rich.

My relationship with the pair has always been one of friendship and humor, especially humor. If you looked up “chop buster” (that’s a nice way of phrasing the term) in the dictionary you would see Jon Dandes picture. Of course he would say the same about me.

To this day Jon introduces me like this: “Do you remember Bob from Ch 7, he used to be big in this town.” It’s been 23 years since I left Ch 7, but Jon loves that line so much he continues to use it like it happened last month.

When Jon first joined the Bob Rich Jr. organization in the 80’s his expertise was in bringing new culinary delights to the ballpark. The video I posted on the “Opening Pilot Field” page shows a young Jon explaining how the new stadium was “Major League” in it’s presentation of ballpark food. It was a Spring ritual of mine every year to do a story on what was new at the ballpark, interviewing Jon Dandes as he stood at a grill cooking hotdogs and hamburgers. We both knew it was the only time all year that he actually cooked anything in one of the concession stands, but it was part of the charm.

Jon’s position within the organization has grown to the point where he is now President of Bison Baseball. Those duties include overseeing the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, the Jamestown Jammers, National Baseball Congress and Palm Beach National Golf & Country Club in Lake Worth Florida. Jon of course also holds seats on several major Boards in the region and is the longest serving member on the UB Council.

Mike or “Booch” as Jon calls him has literally grown up in the Bison organization. Mike was the PR man during the drive for a Major League franchise in the 1980’s and eventually was promoted to the position of Vice President and General Manager. Mike has seen it all with the Bisons and has always been a great guy to work with, no matter the project.

Mike Buczkowski came up in the organization under Mike Billoni who was renown for his promotional gimmicks and showmanship. Buczkowski still has a great eye for the promotional hook to an event or occasion, but his organizational skills have also helped make the Bisons a thriving Triple A franchise.

The pair give the impression they are brothers, not co-workers and been there for each other in tough times as well as good. They both do a tremendous job of representing the Rich family and a baseball team that has become a piece of the fabric of living in Western New York.

Now having written all of that complimentary stuff about Jon and Mike, which is 100% true, let me also relate some of my own personal experiences with this “odd couple”.

Mike likes to remind me of the time I was screaming at a Ch 7 producer over my microphone to hurry up and get to our live satellite shot of then Governor Mario Cuomo addressing the media in regards to the Bisons presentation to Major League Expansion panel. A week later Mike mailed me photos of myself on camera with little word balloons taped to the photo filled with expletives.

Mike has also been instrumental in me receiving both the “Bison Polish Man of the Year” in the 90’s and last season “Italian Man of the Year”. I can proudly say that I am the only guy to hold “both” distinctions.

Jon and I have exchanged practical jokes over the years and while I think I’m far ahead in the battle, he has had his moments. Like the time he invited me and then Sabres VP Ron Bertovich to a holiday lunch at the Buffalo Club. Ron had been VP/GM at Empire Sports before going over to the Sabres when Adelphia bought the team. Ron was known for buying great holiday sponsorship gifts like director chairs or desk clocks. My first year as VP/GM at Empire we bought plastic pen and pencil holders in the shape of a drinking glass to put on ones desktop. A more frugal approach yes, but Dandes couldn’t resist having fun with them. When the waiter delivered our drink order the beverages were served in three shiny new Empire Sports Network pen and pencil holders.

On my side of the ledger there was the time Jon had a local serviceman sing the National Anthem. The poor guy struggled so bad that he forgot the words and the players along the baselines were whispering to him to just read them off the scoreboard video screen. The next day I secured a tape of the incident and produced several unique CD’s complete with a professional cover cases that touted great National Anthem performances and had them all delivered to Bison management.

It has been a great ride with Jon and Mike over the years and the community is so fortunate to have the pair still doing their thing at now Coca Cola Field. I’m glad I have many more photos of our friendship in my collection down in Bob’s basement.



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