What it looked like Wednesday: Getting beers at Pilot Field, late ’80s

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Regardless of what the temperature is or how much snow is in the forecast, the Bisons’ first home game is as sure a starting point for Buffalo’s spring as any other measure.

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Part of what makes a trip to the ballpark so enjoyable is the communal nature of thousands of baseball fans getting beers from the same vendors for decades.

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Conehead:

One of Buffalo’s all-time most popular sports personalities, Conehead — known as Tom Girot when deconed — has been wandering the stands of Buffalo sporting events with ice cold beer since the early ’70s. His all-time record sales day came at a Bisons exhibition game at the Rockpile. Fans tossed back 59 cases, all served up with the Conehead guarantee, as the Bisons played the World Series Champion Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979.

 

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The Earl of Bud:

Though he’s been gone from the stands for almost two decades, Earl “The Earl of Bud” Howze is still a household name and a testament to how much Buffalo loves its beer and beer vendors.

He started hawking beer to Bisons fans in 1979, the same year the team returned to the field after a decadelong hiatus. For almost two decades, it was his style as much as his product which endeared him to a generation of thirsty sports fans. His white tuxedo tails with his nickname emblazoned in red were sponsored by Heidie’s Tuxedo.

Even my unflappable, no-nonsense grandfather — a longtime season ticket holder for the Bills and the Sabres, a man who was rarely impressed with any notion of pageantry or exhibition beyond what the game on the field or the ice, was really impressed with The Earl of Bud.

“They should get rid of that Pee-Wee Herman,” grumbled Gramps, “This guy is 10 times the dancer.”

Of course, as little as Grandpa Coyle liked nonsense, he loved ice-cold beer — which likely explains it all.

 

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There have always been beers on the concourse, too. In fact, that’s where most of Buffalo knows they can find Conehead at the arena these days. In 1989, choices on the concourse were limited to only a few bottled varieties not carried around the park by roving vendors.

Today, the selections include a dozen or more local craft brews if that Blue or Blue Light — even served by the Conehead — doesn’t get the job done for you.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. writing about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and is the News Director at WECK Radio. A 25 year Buffalo media veteran, Steve's contributed more than 1400 Buffalo History stories to The Buffalo News, worked at WIVB-TV, Empire Sports Network, and spent ten years as a newsman and News Director at WBEN Radio. He's also put his communication skills to work as an adjunct professor, a producer of PBS documentaries, and even run for Erie County Clerk. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.