Landmark Buffalo baseball book to be updated by late author's son

Aug 21, 2020

It's a highly-regarded but out-of-print book detailing a century of professional baseball in Buffalo. Its author, longtime Buffalo baseball historian Joseph Overfield, died 20 years ago but his book, The 100 Seasons of Buffalo Baseball, is about to be expanded in a new edition released by his son.

James Overfield and his project partners revealed an image of the cover for what will be titled The Seasons of Buffalo Baseball 1857-2020. The book includes the information written by Joseph Overfield and then picks up from where the original book left off in 1985.

"I'm a listed as the editor, the author of the book, which really isn't that accurate. The book is really a collaborative effort, which draws on the knowledge and skills of many other individuals connected with the City of Buffalo," said James Overfield, who now resides in Vermont but expresses a continued love of Buffalo. "It's been a great joy for me to collaborate with a number of Buffalonians, without whose help this project would never have occurred."

Those contributors are many, including but not limited to the Buffalo Bisons organization, sports historian and collector John Boutet, and former Bisons general manager Michael Billoni. The former two sources provided access to images and archives while the latter is serving as the project's assistant editor and publisher.

Billoni announced that proceeds from book sales will benefit a mentorship program to be named in memory of Joseph Overfield.

"We are so honored today to announce the formation of the Joseph M Overfield Memorial baseball, softball and mentoring program," he said. "It's a collaboration, and a work in progress, but it's a collaboration with Omega Mentoring.

Joseph Overfield, during his lifetime, wrote hundreds of articles and was inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 2004. His 1985 book remains a go-to reference for many involved in Buffalo baseball. Brad Bisbing, assistant general manager for the Bisons, says he still pulls out his copy when in need of historic information.

"Even in this world where there's information at your fingertips on the internet, my first pull, my first direction I always go to is the Hundred Seasons of Buffalo Baseball," he said. "Truly a Bible of our organization. And I take it off the shelf, I carefully take the rubber bands off, and hope I can find what I'm looking forward without the glue cracking on one more page."

Overfield and his associates announced the forthcoming book release on the baseball diamond at the Johnny Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion, where War Memorial Stadium once stood. It was known as the "Rockpile" because rocks from the reservoir that previously existed on the spot were used to help shape the sports stadium that would be erected there. It was home to decades of Buffalo Bisons teams.

It was also the primary location for filming of the 1984 movie The Natural, starring Robert Redford. Two men associated with the Bisons, broadcaster Duke McGuire and official scorer Kevin Lester, appeared in that film as teammates of Redford's character Roy Hobbs on the fictional New York Knights. Lester brought one of the copies of Hobbs' bat, Wonderboy, to show at Friday's book announcement.

Also present was Tom Girot, better known to Bisons fans as Conehead, the popular beer vendor. He was serving free boxes of Cracker Jack, rather than his usual offerings of cold beer.

He was teased about whether the Cracker Jacks came with the same guarantee as his beer, that if it was warm the next one was free.

"They're all warm," he joked.

Preorders are already being accepted by the Buffalo Bisons. Billoni stated it would be released by the World Series, then suggested it might come out in early November, so that Overfield could include one more chapter in his three-year project, Buffalo's temporary role this year as a Major League Baseball town.

"I know the Toronto Blue Jays... I'm sorry, the Buffalo Blue Jays playing under the auspices of Toronto, will be in the World Series," he said.