Coronavirus be damned: At Long Last, Buffalo Is Big League

It took 135 years, but Buffalo, N.Y. is finally back in the major leagues.

Bo Bichette greets a teammate while wearing the Buffalo Bisons' "Blue Jays Weekend" jersey at Sahlen Park in July 2019.
(James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

Justin Trudeau, Tom Wolf, Mark Shapiro, Mike Buczkowski, and a host of other important people somehow revived a dream that died in 1991.

Okay, okay, we’ll reel it in a bit now. It’s not permanent. The Blue Jays will go back to Canada just as soon as their government allows. But for 28 glorious summer days and nights, Buffalo will be one of the most important places in the sports world.

For the countless people in this town who have bled Bisons baseball since their first time at Offerman War Memorial Pilot Dunn Tire Coca-Cola Sahlen Field, this is a big, big deal. I wasn’t born in the stadium’s heyday, in the midst of the city’s push for a National League expansion team, but the reminders of those glory days are still very much felt 30 years later.

We all know the stories of Jimmy Griffin and Bob Rich making Buffalo feel like it could have competed in the majors. Hell, the fans here were more than SIX MILLION strong for a stretch in those days. That remains a minor league record, and also remains one of the biggest remaining arguments about why the Queen City should have been chosen over Miami (are those crickets I hear?).

Things have changed since then. The numbers at the ballpark have dwindled, save for special events like July 3 or Star Wars nights. It’s pretty apparent Buffalo can no longer support a major league club permanently. We just don’t have the corporate money needed to land something that massive.

Since Ban Johnson spurned Buffalo for Boston in 1901, our people have been on the outside looking in. There was brief hope with the Federal League in 1914. Another chance passed by in 1969, which sunk the city into its only baseball-less stretch since 1877. 1991 stings the most, but maybe that’s just recency bias.

It’s not like we don’t love baseball here. Go to a Bisons game any day of the week and you’re guaranteed to see hats and jerseys from the Yankees, Pirates, Indians, Blue Jays, Mets, Expos (usually me), Red Sox, and so on. TV ratings in the for the 2019 World Series between Washington and Houston hovered around 6.6, but with a series that featured two markets that don’t have much fandom here, that’s still pretty strong. When big names are rehabbing (Jose Bautista) or get called up (Steven Strasburg, Aroldis Chapman), the people recognize the importance of something like that, and they pack the park to see them play.

For the next two months, this city will embrace the Jays as our own. Several of the team’s top players (Vlad, Bo, Cavan, just to name the obvious ones) have worked their way up the ladder and made Buffalo their last stop before reaching The Show. The logo updates have already circulated on social media. It’s only a matter of time before shirts and hats and god-knows-what-else will be sold lovingly calling them the "Buffalo Blue Jays."
reddit: u/NYC54

Even though we can’t sit in the stands and enjoy it, it goes without saying that we’re going to puff our chests out a bit with this news.

And think of the young kids whose fandom is still being internalized and nurtured. This can expose them to a team of their own, one they can grow up watching and cheering for well after they return to Ontario.

Ultimately, this news was long overdue. Buffalo should have been named the choice weeks ago. But regardless of how long it took, how many wrong stories made it out, how many cities the Blue Jays would have preferred, all we can say is

welcome home.

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