Photograph Courtesy Tim Maloney
"LAST RITES Don Labbruzzo was, in fact, brought back, signed to a five-year contract at $25,000 a year and given carte blanche to operate the team. "Don will have a debt-free club," said the directors. Labbruzzo certainly had the credentials. He had been at Syracuse for several years and had put that near-bankrupt operation on a firm footing. Minor League Commissioner Phil Piton said he was "the best front office and promotion man in the minors over the past 10 years." The seven labors of Hercules were child's play compared to what Labbruzzo faced. Problem number one was the stadium. Deciding there was no future for Buffalo baseball at Hyde Park, he looked south to Lackawanna, where he found a willing ally in Mayor Mark L. Balon. The Mayor proposed a $500,000 renovation of Lackawanna Stadium, to bring it up to Triple-A standards. The Common Council rubber-stamped the idea, but it was later batted down by a taxpayers' referendum. Labbruzzo next tried to line up All-High Stadium, behind Bennett High School, and offered to spend $50,000 to improve the lights and other facilities. But there was too much opposition, and the School Board rejected the idea. So, it was back to "The Old Rockpile." The Bisons, armed with a Montreal Expo working agreement and with ex-Bison catching hero of 1940, Clyde McCullough, in charge, never had a chance. The opening day crowd was only 1,319, one of the smallest in memory. On June 2, and with the team at 9-27, the Bisons had played 13 games at home and drawn just 9,204 fans. League officials met in New York on June 4 to discuss the Buffalo situation. That afternoon the Buffalo franchise was forfeited and awarded to the Expos, who subsequently transferred it to Winnipeg, Manitoba" *Buffalo Bisons.