Only tangential to the main focus of this website, but of general interest to many baseball fans and of particular interest to the Western New Yorkers who operate this thing, two sections on this page address a bit of the history of Negro League baseball in Buffalo. The first section contains the entirety of an article by one of the very few readable writers in the local fishwrap, interviewing former Negro League star Jimmie Wilkes. The second section is a cornea-shrivelling scrapbook of clippings from 1950s issues of the Buffalo Criterion. If you're very understandably having difficulty reading those, you might want to click on the date of each item, which will open a new page containing a 200% enlargement of each piece.
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- Updated April 2011 -
The Buffalo News. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 September 2004
CLASS CLOWNS The Indianapolis Clowns have a rich place in Buffalo baseball history; for example, Hank Aaron was "discovered" at Offermann Stadium By TIM GRAHAM News Sports Reporter James Wilkes doesn't remember Buffalo much. He can't recollect the restaurants where he ate, the taverns where he drank or the hotels where he slept. The early stages of Alzheimer's disease have clouded his memory banks, sometimes leading him amiss while he tries to withdraw one of the many tales from his glory days playing in the Negro Leagues. One August afternoon, in the kitchen of his modest condominium in Brantford, Ontario, the 78-year-old Wilkes reminisced with a visitor about his baseball career. His memories were aided by a dog-eared scrapbook and gentle reminders from his proud wife. He had trouble recognizing a few photos, even of himself, without looking at the names written on the back. Yet upon one memory in particular, his head cleared. He laid down the yellowed newspaper clippings and leaned back from the table. He stopped his wife in her tracks when she tried to elaborate for him. Wilkes was a center fielder for the celebrated Indianapolis Clowns, who -- strange but true -- called Buffalo home in the 1950s. He was in the Offermann Stadium locker room May 25, 1952. Milwaukee Braves scout Dewey Griggs approached him. The player and the bird dog knew each other. Wilkes was back in the Negro Leagues after a short run in the Brooklyn Dodgers chain, unable to supplant a budding star named Duke Snider. Griggs was looking for the next Jackie Robinson or Larry Doby. "He was in the dressing room, looks around and says 'Hey, Wilkes, is there anybody in here you think can go to the major leagues?'" Wilkes recalled. "I pointed and said 'You see that fellow sitting over there? Hank Aaron... If he don't go to the major leagues, then my name ain't Jimmy Wilkes.' I guess you know how that turned out." The Braves signed Aaron, who then proceeded to rewrite baseball history, breaking Babe Ruth's hallowed home run record. Any baseball fan worth his weight in tobacco juice knows that. But how many Western New York sports fans know Aaron's prodigious career got its start in Buffalo? How many know the Clowns were headquartered at Offermann Stadium from 1951-55, winning three Negro League titles in that span? How many know Buffalo was a prominent setting for such a remarkable time in our grand old game? "It has been forgotten," said Cy Williams, the venerable local scout of six decades. "You ask people about it who are 50, 60 years old and they wouldn't remember it at all." -- cont'd below
"(The scout) says 'Hey, Wilkes, is there
anybody in here you think can go to
the major leagues?' I pointed and said
'You see that fellow sitting over there?
Hank Aaron... If he don't go to the
major leagues, then my name ain't
When Jackie Robinson entered the
major leagues, it marked the beginning
of the end of the Negro League.
Buffalo's baseball history is rich: the Bisons, Warren Spahn, Sal Maglie, Jimmy Collins, Joe McCarthy, the filming of "The Natural." The Clowns have been, at best, an afterthought in these parts. They could be the answer to a trivia question only if anyone had the idea to ask it.
|10 May 1952|
|17 May 1952
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|7 June 1952|
7 June 1952
|14 June 1952
||28 June 1952
||12 July 1952|
|19 July 1952
||19 July 1952|
19 July 1952
|26 July 1952|
|26 July 1952................................................................................................26 July 1952|
|2 August 1952|
|2 August 1952|
|2 August 1952|
|16 August 1952
||16 August 1952
||23 August 1952|
|23 May 1953
||30 May 1953|
|6 June 1953...............................................................6 June 1953|
|13 June 1953
18 July 1953
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