Don't Get Me Started

Art Wander

DON’T GET ME STARTED had no problem letting the brain remember those who have properly earned the distinction of being legends and icons in the City of Good Neighbors.

Naturally, you can add to these glorious names who have made so many contributions to our city…….a city that all of a sudden is gaining national prominence and attention. Certainly in a few years, others will join the growing cast of legends. Fortunately, Buffalo has the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame to honor them.

First, so many around the country, and even internationally, are sending their prayers and best wishes to a pair of greats who are battling the cancer. Jim Kelly is without a doubt, the greatest quarterback in the history of Buffalo Bills football, and recognized nationally as well as evidenced by his deserved place in the Hall of Fame. His toughness is legendary. Coming from the American Football League where he terrorized the opponents, Kelly continued in Buffalo to terrorize the NFL rivals with the no-huddle approach that vaulted the Bills to four straight Super Bowls. Jimbo, as many refer to him, carried a greatness in the way he has handled life after football. Off the field, Kelly embraced a “friend-next-door” attitude with a big smile and a bigger hello to everyone who greeted him and his public service efforts. If anyone represented Buffalo any better than Jim, it be a job. And there’s undoubtedly the greatest hockey play-by-play voice ever to grace a mic, Rick Jeanerette. If there ever was a more entertaining broadcaster than RJ, it’s difficult to find one. When the great Ted Darling handed the mic to Rick, that move provided fans a broadcast talent, blessed with great knowledge of the game and painting the game in the minds of radio listeners and making it a habit to turning down the TV sound and listening to RJ on the radio broadcast. No question about it, Jeanerette is a true legend and his calls have been played around the hockey world every season. Kelly and RJ are legends… on the field and the other on the air. It’s heart-warming to read, and hear, from colleagues who are echoing the thoughts of Western New Yorkers that they will battle their current situations and continue to enjoy many, many years accepting the compliments they deserve.

Then one can go back in time to give credit to others who are, (or approaching) legendary greatness. While focusing on broadcasting, one certainly has to appreciate the greatness achieved by a pair of television icons – Foster Brooks who toiled locally before hitting it big on TV. And the legendary Bob Smith, “Buffalo Bob” on the Howdy Doody Show. He too worked in local radio. In fact, as a pre-teener, I skipped school to watch both of them do a show from a downtown Buffalo store (Grants) in the early 40s. Both are gone but they were so great. Others who are considered legends in Buffalo radio and TV are Danny Neaverth, Joey Reynolds, Stan Baron, Rick Azar, Irv Weinstein, “Uncle Tom J”, Van Miller, Ralph Hubbell, Bill Mazer, Casey Kasem. Of course you can write a column or two about other radio and TV legends.

Dominik Hasek, top NHL goaltender of the Buffalo Sabres added “legend” before his name with his uncanny play. He’s going into the NHL Hall of Fame in a few days. Once again Buffalo will be prominently mentioned throughout the hockey world. Let’s not forget Pat LaFontaine. He continues to embrace Buffalo where he provided not only legendary performances, but embraced the children of Western New York with his visits to Children’s Hospital and his dedication to the less fortunate through his charity endeavors.

Though not much is being mentioned these days, but there is also another hockey legend who makes Buffalo his home. That’s Scotty Bowman who can always be referred to as “champion.” You cannot mention legends without naming the French Connection of Perreault, Martin and Robert. What a line.

In football – once again volumes can be written about those Buffalo Bills who generated so much excitement in the early 90s. Kelly – Thomas – Smith – Reed – Hall – Tasker – Levy. They all were legendary people during Buffalo’s great era together with other stars on that team. Two others who were legendary in Buffalo were Cookie Gilchrest and Lou Saban, the coach who led the Bills to a pair of championships in the American Football League in the 60s. Buffalo presented the nation with a top politician in QB Jack Kemp = and as a player, O.J. Simpson kept Buffalo on the sports map with his play on the field. Off the field – well everyone knows the story. Earlier, in the All American Football Conference in the 40s, Buffalo had some nationally known players like George Ratterman, Chet Mutryn.

Hockey and Football are the major sports in Buffalo…..but let’s not ignore another true legend in his sport of Lacrosse. That’s John Tavares, a fine human being and the league’s great scorer.

As I said, many people will ask how I ignored so many others who have contributed to Buffalo being such a great sports town and my apologies are there. Perhaps somebody can write a book. But the bottom line is that many are taking notice that Buffalo is a City of Legends on Don’t Get Me Started.


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