Roger Baker

       By Steve Cichon

Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 

One of the original superstars of Buffalo Radio in the 20s and 30s for the Buffalo Broadcasting Corporation’s WGR and WKBW, Roger Baker was the Queen City’s first definitive sportscaster. His 40-year announcing career started when he was a musician sitting in the orchestra waiting to go on the air, but no announcer showed up. He stepped up to the microphone and never stepped back.

A pioneer in the art of baseball play-by-play– before him, calling the action of a baseball game was assigned to which ever announcer was next on the schedule. He was Buffalo’s first regular baseball announcer, and gained recognition for his descriptions of Bisons games.

Roger Baker’s play-by-play abilities transcended language. In 1935, his endorsement of Old Gold Cigarettes was translated into Polish and appeared in Dziennik Dza Wszystkich, Buffalo’s Polish language daily newspaper.

Those who remember him in the sports booth remember the ultimate professional– no focus on personality, so much as the product on the air. His work from Offermann Stadium was straight and by the book.

After being tapped by Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis to call the 1933 World Series to a nationwide audience on CBS, Baker was called up to the big leagues in 1939, replacing Red Barber as the voice of the Cincinnati Reds when “the Ol’Red Head” moved onto critical acclaim as the voice of the Brooklyn Dodgers and then the New York Yankees.

Deco Restaurants were an early sponsor of sportscasts in Buffalo, including Roger Baker’s play-by-play broadcast of the Buffalo Hockey Bisons from the Peace Bridge Arena in Fort Erie in 1933.

In 1948, Baker returned to Buffalo as the news-reading General Manager on WKBW Radio. He eventually moved into the same news-reading General Manager spot at the short-lived Buffalo UHF pioneer WBES-TV Channel 59.

Along with Bill Mazer, Baker was also an original member of the WGR-TV sports team when the station signed-on in 1954.

“Years of experience covering sports events plus constant study of the sports picture account for the mature nature of Rog’s evening sports telecast. Master of play-by-play, his reporting of sports as they happen has set the pattern for imitators all over the country,” read a promo piece from the sign-on of Ch.2 in 1954.

This page is an excerpt from  100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon

The full text of the book is now online.

The original 436-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

©2020, 2021 Buffalo Stories LLC,, and Steve Cichon

Torn-Down Tuesday: Deco Refreshment Stands, 1924

       By Steve Cichon

For more than 60 years Deco was a name Buffalonians relied upon for quick inexpensive food and what they billed as “Buffalo’s best cup of coffee.”


Toward the close of World War I, Gregory Deck opened one of Buffalo’s first hot dog stands with $6.50 and an old kitchen table from his mother’s attic. By the close of World War II, there were 35 Deco Restaurants in Buffalo and the chain had become a relied-upon pit stop fueling Western New York’s “Rosie the Riveters” and other war production workers.

One early profile called Deck “the King of the hot dog fad.” When he opened that first dog parlor to help pay for college in 1918, hot dog stands were seen as a momentary trend, fueled by millions of people who—thanks to Henry Ford– now had cars for the first time and needed someplace cheap to go.

Deco had 7 locations in 1924.

Six years into the hot dog business, Deco had seven locations around Buffalo plus a central distribution warehouse and office. A 1924 profile in the Buffalo Times captured some of the excitement the city had over Deco.

“From a little soft drink and sandwich booth established by college boys has grown one of the most popular and most extensively patronized systems of refreshment stands to be found in any city in the country. Reference, of course, is made to the ‘Deco’ stands.”

Unlike many of Deco’s competitors, which crept up alongside the road with little concern for health or sanitation, Deco’s countermen wore bright white uniforms in sanitary porcelain-walled shacks, which also featured electric lights and modern refrigeration.

One of the early selling points of the Deco hot dog was that it was never touched by human hands. Neither through the cooking process or when being handed to a customer—which was always done on a white napkin.

“White, clean, unique, these ‘Deco’ stands are located in all parts of the city,” the Times read in 1924, “and their situation is known to practically every motorist in the community. It has been well said that you can always tell a ‘Deco’ stand because it is clean and because it is busy. ‘Deco’ stands cater especially to motorists, and a group of cars from Pierces and Rolls Royces down to Fords is always found clustered about any or all of the seven stands in Buffalo.”

After spending much of the 1920s buying out competitors and building new stores, there were nearly 50 Deco locations just before The Great Depression ate away – but didn’t shatter – the business.

When the sandwich and coffee trade picked up as World War II approached, the old stands began giving way to small counter and booth service Deco restaurants. There were 37 Deco locations when the family sold the business to SportService in 1961. The last Deco Restaurant closed in 1979.

WEBR’s “Today with Amanda” with tips from AM&A’s, 1951

By Steve Cichon

WEBR’s “Amanda” interviews an AM&A’s buyer on her midday shopping and fashion tips show at the WEBR-970 studios, 23 North Street, in 1951.

Buffalo Stories archives

“Amanda” was actually Dorothy Shank, president of the local chapter of American Women in Radio & Television. She later worked in marketing for AM&A’s, had a show on Channel 4, and was a host on WJJL in Niagara Falls through the 1980s. She was 81 when she died in 1989.
But my favorite part of this photo: in the middle, just to the left of the phone, Buffalo’s 1950’s equivalent of a Tim Horton’s cup– a glass “to go” coffee cup/milk bottle from Buffalo’s ubiquitous Deco Restaurants (there were more than 50 Deco locations around WNY when they were most popular.)

Buffalo in the 70s: Bidding farewell to Deco Restaurants

By Steve Cichon

With the last of the Deco restaurants set to close, News Reporter Robert J. Summers took a look back at the lunch counters that served up millions of hamburgers and cups of coffee to Buffalonians from 1918 to 1979.

The Deco at Main and Englewood, University Heights. (Buffalo Stories archives)

At the high point, there were 50 Decos. By 1976, there were only nine. The Deck family sold the chain to Sportservice in 1961. By the end of the 1970s, the chain was a greasy memory for hundreds of thousands of Western New Yorkers.

The last Deco– next door to the Hotel Lafayette. (Buffalo Stories archives)

July 29, 1979: “Hard times ate into Deco chain’s fortunes”

“Deco was the original fast food place. Back in the days before anyone heard of McDonalds or Burger King, before anyone dared make a ‘shake’ without milk or package hot cherry pie in a rectangle of cardboard, Buffalonians were getting their quick meals at some 50 Deco restaurants.”

Click to enlarge. (Buffalo Stories archives)