SRO IN BUFFALO
Buffalo Bison president Bob Rich Jr. says that each of his Triple A team's home games is a "happening." Bison fans are treated to fireworks, ethnic nights, giveaways, concerts, a costumed mascot (Buster Bison) and terrific ballpark food (everything from manicotti to Buffalo chicken wings). On Broadway Night, 400 fans were given top hats and tuxedo T-shirts and were brought onto the field to set an unofficial world record for the longest Rockette-style kick line. On Kentucky Derby day, local personalities raced around the field on hobbyhorses.
All of which helps explain why Rich's club, which plays in the American Association, has outdrawn the White Sox and Braves this season and is about to pass the million mark in attendance for the second year in a row. In 1988 the Bisons drew a minor league record 1,186,651 fans for 72 home games. Only one other minor league team, the 1983 Louisville Redbirds, has ever brought in a million spectators in a season.
Remarkably, two-year-old Pilot Field, at which the Bisons play, seats only 19,500, and the team isn't even in first place. "Buffalo is just a great sports town," says Rich. Some might say it's a Rich sports town: Bob Jr. is also vice-chairman of the NHL Sabres, and his family—owners of Rich Products, the nation's largest privately held frozen food manufacturer—contributed to the building of Rich Stadium, in which the NFL Bills play.
Rich is angling for a major league baseball franchise. He points out that Pilot Field could be expanded to accommodate 40,000, and he estimates that a big league team would attract two million fans a year. "Sure it snows in Buffalo, but not during baseball season," says Rich. "During the season we get more sunshine than any other city in the American League East. Buffalo summers are delightful."
DYNAMIC DUO DIVORCE
The most successful doubles partnership in tennis history has ended not with a bang but a whimper. "We've kind of grown apart," a despondent-sounding Pam Shriver said in announcing that she would no longer team with Martina Navratilova.
Shriver said that she and Navratilova had been having more and more scheduling conflicts and that by Wimbledon last month, playing together "wasn't fun.... It had lost its lightness." Navratilova and Shriver lost at Wimbledon, just as they had at two of the previous three Grand Slam events. The edge had come off their once dominant game, and Navratilova apparently thought the time had come to find a new partner. She will play with Hana Mandlikova at the U.S. Open later this month; Shriver is still looking for a partner.
Since teaming up in 1981, Navratilova and Shriver had won a record 74 doubles championships, including 20 Grand Slam titles, also a record. Between April 1983 and July 1985 they ran off a 109-match winning streak, the longest of any doubles team in history. In 1984 they swept all four Grand Slam events. Until Shriver and Navratilova came along, the most accomplished doubles team—men or women—had been the American duo of Louise Brough and Margaret Osborne duPont, who won 19 majors between 1942 and 1957. Shriver and Navratilova won more Grand Slam doubles titles in eight years than Brough and duPont did in 15.
Three years ago, at a restaurant in England, Shriver wrote PARTNERS FOR LIFE on a napkin, and both she and Navratilova giddily signed it. But times change. Said Shriver, "It will be interesting to play against her at the U.S. Open."