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It is the type of headline that you would expect to find in Bob Rich Jr.'s dreams.
"Buffalo Gets Big League Baseball," says the banner across the top of The Buffalo News.
But it is more than a dream. It is a headline that actually appeared in the Jan. 28, 1960, issue of The Evening News, triggering excitement and anticipation throughout Western New York.
Buffalo finally had been accepted by the majors. It would be playing only with the big boys from now on.
The announcement, unfortunately, was premature. A byzantine series of events deprived Buffalo of its new team before it played a game. The results were the same in 1968, when the city took another shot at the majors. Again it came tantalizingly close; again it came up empty.
These distant flirtations have long since been overshadowed by Rich's resuscitation of Buffalo baseball and his 1991 bid for a National League expansion team. But there still are a few who remember the heady days of the 1960s.
Among them is Robert Swados, vice chairman of the Buffalo Sabres and counsel with Buffalo law firm Cohen, Swados, Wright, Hanifin, Bradford & Brett. He was at the center of both baseball expansion efforts in the 1960s, serving as an adviser and legal counsel.
"It was a wonderful experience for me, for all of us," he says. "We did everything we could to get in. We had the money; we had the experience, but it wasn't enough. Still, we came so close."
How close? Put it this way: If Buffalo had received just one more vote at the crucial moment, you might be heading to the ballpark on opening day to see the Bisons play the Chicago Cubs, not the Omaha Royals.
1960: Thinking big
Walter O'Malley awakened major league dreams all across America in 1957.
O'Malley, the crusty owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, was tired of playing in an old stadium in an old city. He stunned the nation at the end of the 1957 season when he moved the Dodgers to Los Angeles.
Major League Baseball, which had confined itself to 16 Northeastern and Mid-western teams since the turn of the century, suddenly stretched from coast to coast. Anything seemed possible.
"There should be a team in Mexico City. Caracas is big enough, and Havana and Canada should have two teams," said Vice President Richard Nixon, caught up in the enthusiasm that winter. "And do you realize that Wichita today has the population that Cincinnati had when it got a major league team?"
Nowhere was the desire for a new franchise stronger than in New York City, which had lost not only the Dodgers, but also the Giants, newly off to San Francisco. The American League's Yankees had the city all to themselves.
This, in the mind of Mayor Robert Wagner, was a vacuum that demanded immediate attention. He summoned a dynamic, well-known lawyer, William Shea, and …