Photograph Bob Gaver
The new
Cincinnati Reds Triple-A affiliation brought a "hot bed of talent" to Buffalo. They were hoping some excitement would return old Offerman Stadium's lost fans to the Rockpile. The Cincinnati Reds were a most interesting case in the fact that the Major League franchise played in the smallest stadium in the Major Leagues (Crosley Field) yet their Triple-A was most certainly one of the largest stadiums in the Minor Leagues. Imagine if you would... being a new Cincinnati Reds phenom and playing your final days in the "International League" just before being sent up to the Majors. Your final Minor League "tune-up" in Buffalo at the massive 46,500 seat "War Memorial Stadium" would be followed by a promotion to little 29,500 seat Crosley Field... an MLB stadium which was not only dwarfed by this Triple-A stadium but was 25 years older than that old Rockpile you had just been promoted from. The Reds instantly showed off their upcoming talents in future MLB All-star Lee May who hit 16 home runs, 78 RBIs and posted a .310 average. Then in late July an 18-year-old catching phenom named Johnny Bench, was moved up to Buffalo from the Carolina League. In the very first inning of the first game he played (July 31), he suffered a broken thumb and was out for the season. The injury was witnessed by a crowd of 20,965, announced as the largest International League crowd in Buffalo history. It was not Bench who attracted the big crowd. The park had been bought out by the Meat Cutters and Store Employees Union which then gave the tickets away. The next day the Bisons drew 598.... in this cavernous 46,500 seat stadium (crickets and hecklers filled the sound of the ballpark). Attendance recovered somewhat to 126,914, but 37 percent of that total came on just three dates (Opening Day - 7,336; Meat-cutters' Day - 20,965; Pony Night - 18,655)" *Buffalo Bisons. The Cincinnati Reds' new Triple-A home finished with a 72-74 (.493) record in their first season here. This was a "good season". Things were about to get downright ugly in 1967.