Bob Curran and the guy who named the Buffalo Bills

By Steve Cichon

The first football team ever to be named the Buffalo Bills got their name from an essay contest in 1947, and in a move that seems to echo the sports of today more than the sports of four generations ago, Jimmy Dyson won the contest by appealing to the sponsors.

Dyson, who lived on Norwood Avenue while working for the Pennsylvania Railroad, made the connection between Buffalo Bill, the Wild West, football and — most importantly, perhaps — the contest’s sponsor, Frontier Oil.

The Buffalo Bills played in the All-America Football Conference for three seasons. When Ralph Wilson brought an American Football League team to Buffalo in 1960, another contest was held, and “Buffalo Bills” was the most popular entry. As Ralph Wilson told Bob Curran in this piece, “I could not see any reason why we should change the name.”

So the next time you say “Go Bills,” thank James F. Dyson. And in Bob Curran’s memory, say a prayer for the guys Over There.


Buffalo’s original QB controversy– Kemp vs Lamonica

By Steve Cichon

It’s the Buffalo battle that pitted brother against brother, father against son, bartender against guy on the third stool to the left.

In a manner that seems to echo in our own day, longtime friends were becoming estranged over the question, who should be the Bills starting quarterback?

The back and forth over the wise old sage Kemp and the young gunslinger Lamonica was really a win-win — both were talented and capable leaders and all-league passers.

The 1965 Buffalo Bills used both quarterbacks though the season on the way to winning the team’s second-straight American Football League title.

The Bills are the only undefeated team in professional football because of a young Notre Dame quarterback named Daryle Lamonica.

Whether the Bills are great or terrible, nothing seems to excite Western New York football fans more than being able to argue about which of the team’s quarterbacks is better — or at least less terrible. It’s played out over and over, especially when an understudy steps into the starring role.

Think of all of the time spent on gin mill barstools fighting over Ferguson or Marangi, Ferragamo or Mathison, Kelly or Reich, Collins or Van Pelt, Flutie or Johnson, Edwards or Losman, or Fitzpatrick or Edwards through the decades. And then remember Buffalo’s first real quarterback controversy, one that pitted brother against brother over cans of Genesee beer in the stands at the Rockpile.

While many of these arguments seem futile, silly or mismatched in retrospect, the Jack Kemp/Daryle Lamonica discussion of the mid-1960s set two championship level quarterbacks against one another in the hearts of Bills fans.

Kemp was the senior statesman in the Bills backfield long before he held that title in Washington. Having spent 1957-59 as a backup on NFL rosters, he led the AFL Chargers to the championship game in 1960. He was an AFL All-Star for Buffalo in 1962. Kemp was under center as the Bills won AFL Titles in 1964 and 1965. His last season with the Bills was in 1969, when injury limited him to three appearances.

Lamonica was drafted by the Bills in 1963 out of Notre Dame. He was Kemp’s backup, and when he came in to relieve Kemp, he usually made the most of it with dazzling long passes that always ignited the imaginations of Bills fans. Vexing many to this day, Lamonica was traded to the Raiders in 1967 and was named the league MVP that year. He led Oakland to a losing effort in Super Bowl II.

This article, written as the Bills were the only undefeated team in football, does some measure of introducing Lamonica to Bills fans, many of whom are still arguing his case 50 years later.


Buffalo in the 60s: Van Miller calls first sports contest at ‘War Memorial’

By Steve Cichon

The Bills’ first and second home games were played in the same stadium — the Rockpile — but that stadium changed names in between.

It was 55 years ago tonight– Aug. 24, 1960– as the brand-new Buffalo Bills played in their second-ever preseason game, that the athletic field known by most as “The Rockpile” was rededicated in “tribute to living veterans and the dead of all U.S. wars” as War Memorial Stadium. Previously, the Rockpile had officially been known as Civic Stadium.

A Congressional Medal of Honor winner from World War I was on hand to speak on behalf of all veterans.

Van Miller was behind the mic as the Bills and Oakland Raiders became the first team to play on the newly christened field. Both teams were only a few preseason contests into existence in the new American Football League.

As appeared in the Buffalo Evening News, Elbert Dubenion, Rob Barrett, Richie Lucas, and Tommy O’Connell standing on the Bulls sideline at the newly named War Memorial Stadium– forever known as The Rock Pile. (Buffalo Stories archives)

As seen in this photo, the Bills’ uniforms during the team’s first two seasons are nothing like future Bills uniforms. Among the Bills’ early equipment were cast aways from the Detroit Lions– blue and silver with jersey numbers– but no Buffalo insignia– on the helmets.

Van Miller died July 17, 2015, at age 87.

Buffalo in the ’90s: Bills’ future in Orchard Park in jeopardy?

By Steve Cichon

While renovations at Rich Stadium continued, Erie County Executive Dennis Gorski was looking toward the end of the Bills’ 25-year lease in Orchard Park.

The Bills would go on to sign a 15-year lease to remain in the stadium in December 1998. The deal, which included renaming the facility Ralph Wilson Stadium, called for $125 million from New York State and Erie County public funding.

More recently, a 10-year lease extension was signed in December 2012. That deal involved a total of $130 million being spent — $35 million of it from the Bills — on stadium upgrades.

April 24, 1994: Erie County, Bills have not met about lease

“County Executive Gorski and Bills owner Ralph Wilson agreed last Oct. 4 to do $23 million in renovations at Rich Stadium this spring. That work has begun. It also was announced then that the agreement committed the Bills to begin negotiations on a new lease in January.

“That was 4 1/2 years before its expiration date in August 1998. But both sides confirmed this week that this has not happened.”

Buffalo in the ’60s: Bills All-Pro is also a top car salesman

By Steve Cichon

With football as big business in 2014, it’s tough to imagine any Buffalo Bill — let alone an All-Pro — having to work in the offseason as a car salesman. But Bills safety George Saimes spent at least three offseasons selling Chevys for Glen Campbell at a site now occupied by the Walker Center and Tim Hortons at the junction of the 290 and Main Street in Williamsville.

This ad was on the sports page of the April 24, 1969, edition of The Buffalo Evening News:

Buffalo in the 00’s: DiCesare warns the Bills: Don’t take a quarterback

By Steve Cichon

The News’ Bob DiCesare warned the Bills not to take a quarterback with the 13th pick in the 2004 NFL draft. The Bills listened — but took one instead at No. 22. Wide Receiver Lee Evans was taken 13th and, against the wishes of DiCesare, J.P. Losman was taken with the 22nd overall pick. Since Losman was drafted, the Bills have had nine starting quarterbacks, including Losman.

April 22, 2004: 13th pick wrong spot to find QB

“The Bills will get a shot at nothing better than the third quarterback in Saturday’s draft, with Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger or Philip Rivers, if not all of them, sure to be gone. One quarterback — one — in the last 17 years has met expectations after being, at best, the third quarterback picked in the first round. That was in ’99, when Minnesota struck gold at No. 11 with Daunte Culpepper, one pick before Chicago fanned on Cade McNown.”

Buffalo in the 80s: Bills fans with playoff fever ready for trip to Cleveland

By Steve Cichon

Hopes were high for the Bills playoff chances in Cleveland as some Buffalonians spent part of the last week of the 1980s lined up for a chance to make the tripn down Lake Erie.

Many Bills fans will look at the smiling faces in the photo below with some measure of pain, remembering Ronnie Harmon’s dropped end zone pass as the end of the Bills’ hopes for that season.

The best, as they say, was yet to come.

from The Buffalo News (Buffalo Stories archives)
from The Buffalo News (Buffalo Stories archives)

Bills fans brave cold for tickets

When 25,000 tickets to the Bills-Browns playoff game in Cleveland went on sale Saturday, Bills fans were lined up to grab seats.

But officials of Ticketron, which is sole distributor for the tickets besides the Browns, said the clash next Saturday in the 80,080-seat Municipal Stadium is not a sellout yet.

As of today, all the $32 and $21 seats, which include the infamous “Dawg Pound” section behind the end zone at the open end of the stadium, have been sold. Some tickets in the $25 and $29 range still are available.

20 Years Ago Today: The Houston Comeback Game

By Steve Cichon

Van Miller, the Voice of the Bills (Buffalo Stories archives)

BUFFALO, NY – Bills games were big doings in the late 80s and early 90s, but they were always big doing in my house. Among my earliest memories of listening to the radio is sitting in our 1977 Mercury Monarch with mustard colored nugahyde seats, listening to Van Miller describe Joe Cribbs run with the ball. It was only a 5 minute drive from our South Buffalo home to Grandma Coyle’s South Buffalo home, where watching my grandfather watch the game was more fun for me, hearing him curse about Joe Ferguson.

Fast forward a few years, when the Bills actually started winning, and my dad would have his 5 brothers over to watch the game. Football for me became an endless walk to the fridge for another beer for someone.

I remember the excitment, I remember the cheering, I remember getting Bills clothes for Christmas every year, and being able to wear them to school on the “Bills Spirit Fridays” before games days and weeks later.

But the actual games themselves all blend together for me before I started working in sports radio. That’s true with only one exception: The Houston Comeback Game. I remember that I was alone in the living room listening to the game on the awful stereo my dad got for free somewhere. No screaming uncles looking for beers. No one swearing when the team was getting killed. Just me… a high school sophomore, Van Miller, and that cruddy stereo.

I was already taping most of the things I listened to on the radio, but I didn’t tape the game for some reason… Maybe because they were losing early, and then I got caught up in the comeback… I don’t know. But I did tape it the next day, when they played back the second half and OT. And here it is, 20 years later.

In Part One, WGR’s Art Wander introduces a collage of highlights, and then the second half of action with Van Miller, Marc Stout, and Greg Brown at the score 28-3 Oilers. (The audio is low quality so that Bills fans reliving the glory days don’t shut down my website.)

In Part two, the second half continues with Van Miller, Marc Stout, and Greg Brown… After overtime and the comeback complete, Paula Green does the news, and then briefly hear John Otto gush about the Bills. Its my favorite part! (The audio is low quality so that Bills fans reliving the glory days don’t shut down my website.)

I’ve been listening to this and thinking a loy about it, and realizing that a few months after taping this, I started working at WBEN. Then soon producing the Bills games on the radio, and covering media day at the stadium. The starting at WBEN in someways seems like only yesterday. That memory of sitting in my living room listening to this game seems like a a book I’ve read, but not something I actually lived.

WBEN: 75 Years in Sound!

By Steve Cichon

UPDATED: February 28, 2005

More information on the audio snippets follow…

  • Lou Douglas News May 1973.
  • Bill Masters commercial, Jimmy Thompson, Vic Baker reporting.
  • Weatherfax Jingle. TM Productions, 1979
  • Tim Wenger on Ed Little’s Retirement, 1991.
  • Mark Leitner & Susan Rose News promo early 90s
  • Promo Bed Jingle. TM Productions, 1979
  • 1964 AFL Championship Game, Van Miller & Ralph Hubbell
  • Ed Tucholka closes out a show. WBEN-FM 1974
  • Early 80’s Sales Presentation for Bills Football. Van Miller, John Murphy, Jimmy Griffin, Ed Rutkowski
  • A Sabres Presentation from the same era. Ted Darling, Rick Jeanneret
  • Three segments of the Jeff Kaye Show from the Blizzard of ’77
    • Lou Douglas, news January 28, 1977
    • Jeff gets angry that an event is NOT cancelled.
    • Lou Douglas, news January 28, 1977
  • Two unidentified WBEN Announcers close out a Childrens Choir Show.1943
  • Elgin Watch 2 Hours of Stars Show Unidentified WBEN announcer gives a station break. 1943
  • Bob Wood and Dave May open the Larry King Show 1980
  • Former WBEN Staff Announcer Lou Adler with memories from the 60th anniversary of the station 1990
  • Tom Jolls remembers his days at WBEN in the mid-50’s. 1990
  • Audio from a WBEN-TV broadcast announcing the death of WBEN President Mrs. Edward Butler. Alan Costantini, Chuck Healy, Mark Estren August 3, 1974
  • Raw production from promos for the Fred Smerlas & Jim Haslett Show.
Reformatted & Updated pages from finding a new home at
Reformatted & Updated pages from finding a new home at