While Buffalo is better known for its cold weather sports like hockey and football, baseball also has a healthy fanbase in the city — as well as plenty of history.
Buffalo has been home to baseball teams since the 1800s, including teams in the early history of baseball’s major leagues. Today, the Buffalo Bisons are the city’s professional baseball team, competing in the International League of Minor League Baseball.
The Bisons are the Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, the closest Major League Baseball team to Buffalo in terms of distance. They play at the recently renamed Sahlen Field, formerly Coca-Cola Field, in downtown Buffalo.
History of Baseball In Buffalo
According to Wikipedia, organized baseball in Buffalo had been around since at least 1859, when the Niagara baseball club of the National Association of Base Ball Players played its first season. The Buffalo Bisons were the first professional team in the city, forming in 1877 and entering the National League in 1879. They were followed by a different Bisons team in 1890, but were relegated to the minors in 1901. The Buffalo Blues were also established in 1913 and were considered a major league team until 1915. They were the last major league baseball team to be based in the city of Buffalo.
The Buffalo Bisons continued to play at the minor league level throughout most of the 1900s. It wasn’t until 1988 that Buffalo seemed poised to host major league baseball again, when the major-league ready Pilot Field (now Sahlen Field) opened in downtown Buffalo to host the Bisons. The city believed that by building a top-of-the-line baseball stadium in their downtown center accessible via a new light rail system and filling the stands every night with fans of their minor league team, they could attract a major league team to Buffalo.
According to CityLab, Pilot Field included a plethora of amenities that were unheard of at a minor league ballpark, and at the time, rarely found in the majors, including a full-scale restaurant, team store, specialty concessions and what was then a massive, state-of-the-art scoreboard. The team had record attendance in the ballpark, drawing over a million visitors per year.
But despite the posh new digs and popularity, that major league team never came. In 1991, two new major league franchises were established in Denver and Miami, and Buffalo essentially abandoned its quest for a major league team. But their tradition of quality minor league baseball lives on.
5 Reasons To Go To A Bisons Game This Year
While Buffalo never got its major league team, the Buffalo Bisons remain a popular draw in Buffalo, especially on a nice summer day. Here are five reasons to check out a Buffalo Bisons game this spring or summer.
1. Enjoy extremely affordable entertainment.
For a cheap night out, you can’t beat a Bisons game. Tickets start at just $13.50 for adults, and you can save $2.50 by purchasing in advance of game day. There are also ticket specials for certain games throughout the season and plenty of food and beer deals, including $1 ice cream and popcorn on Mondays, 2 for 1 tickets on Tuesdays and $3 craft beer for Friday happy hours. You won’t find many places offering better deals than that.
2. See players before they get big and watch current stars rehab from injuries.
Because Triple-A is the highest level of Minor League Baseball before players reach the majors, you have the opportunity to watch the stars of tomorrow right before they play in the big leagues. Many talented players have played in Buffalo in the past and become MLB superstars, including Matt Harvey, Bartolo Colón, Magglio Ordóñez and Manny Ramirez. The Bisons currently have the top prospect in all of baseball, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., on their roster — but the Blue Jays could call him up to play for the major league team at any moment, so see him while you can. Last season, in four different levels of minor-league ball, Guerrero batted .381/.437/.636 with 20 home runs and 78 RBI in 95 games.
In addition to watching top prospects, you have the opportunity to watch current MLB stars who are coming back from injuries. Many teams have their MLB players play games in the minor leagues when they are rehabbing, so you never know when you’ll have the chance to see a superstar for a super low price.
3. Check out the upgraded facilities.
Sahlen Field upgraded its facilities this offseason and added a host of new amenities, according to The Buffalo News. From specialty hot dogs to plant-based Beyond Burgers to chocolate cheesecake pierogi from Ru’s Pierogi, foodies will have plenty of options to choose from that go beyond the typical ballpark snacks. In addition, the stadium restaurant will feature promotions like ethnic festival nights and food choices based on the opponent and items their cities are known for, as well as players’ favorite recipes. The Bisons have also added 2,000 more wide green seats on the ballpark’s main level, providing better views and a more comfortable experience while watching the game.
4. Watch the Friday night fireworks.
One of the best parts of summer is hanging out outside and watching fireworks. If you attend a Bisons home game on a Friday night, you’ll have the opportunity to watch a spectacular fireworks show in the stadium after the game. It’s always a popular event and provides an additional dose of entertainment, all included in your ticket price.
5. Take part in fun promotions.
Minor league teams are known for their unique promotions, and the Bisons are no exception. May 16 and June 19 are Dog Day, when fans can bring their pup to the ballpark, participate in a dog parade and receive a chew toy to take home. June 8 is the popular Star Wars Night, featuring character appearances, laser sword sales sales and jersey auctions. For fans of Game of Thrones, June 22 is the day to come to the ballpark. Many promotions will be based around the show, and each competitor in the popular in-game race between the Wing, Blue Cheese and Carrot characters will represent different houses from Game of Thrones.
July 3 is also must-visit for the KeyBank Independence Eve Celebration, featuring a postgame concert from the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the largest fireworks show of the season. Another popular event is Superhero Night on August 17 — superhero characters will be on hand throughout the ballpark for meeting and taking photos, followed by an on-field battle between the superheroes and evil villains and a fireworks show.
Whether you’re a fan of baseball or not, attending a Bisons game is always a fun experience. Stay tuned for our Facebook giveaway for the chance to win tickets to a game this season!