We’re not even one week into the 2015 Buffalo Bisons season, and the team has already endured a spate of cancellations and schedule disruptions. But Tuesday may have been the most bizarre of them all.
Counting 27 years to the day that the downtown ballpark opened its doors for the very first time, the Bisons were scheduled to play the bulk of two games – the first picking up a game suspended the night before due to a torrential downpour, and then a second seven inning game.
Play resumed precisely at 5:15pm in the top of the 4th. The Bisons and visiting Pawtucket Red Sox managed to get to the top of the 6th inning. Then it happened. All the electricity at Coca Cola Field went out. The lights. The scoreboard. The concourses and rest rooms. Everything.
“Emergency systems kicked in just the way they were supposed to,” said Bisons VP/General Manager Mike Buczkowski. And indeed, sporadic concourse lighting, as well as the stairwells, went on with the help of backup systems. As did the public address announcer mic, and interestingly enough, the radio booths, where both team’s broadcasts managed to stay on the air throughout the entire game.
So the game continued, with the umpires keeping the line score on the field, official scorer Kevin Lester pressed into extra service up in the pressbox to ensure that accurate counts are kept, and the new pace of play clocks down and out for the duration.
The in house crowd was a sparse one, and quickly found out that the beer taps weren’t working, concession and suite workers were unable to process credit cards, game day staff was unable to transmit pitch by pitch info across the internet. Public Relations Director Brad Bisbing was scurrying to keep the operations going as best possible, even unable to print the inevitable press release that would announce that the second game that evening would have to be pushed back to a Wednesday doubleheader.
But forget about that second game. As the first game wore on, a new threat emerged. Might this game go long enough to hit dusk and yet another postponement due to darkness? The Bisons had trailed the game throughout; the first postponement a night earlier had them trailing 8-3, thanks to a horrific top of the 3rd on Monday played in abysmal weather conditions, where it seemed that every routine play had something going wrong. Now it was the bottom of the 8th, the Herd was trailing 9-6, and had enough runners on base to bring the tying run to the plate. “When you’ve been around baseball as long as I have you’ve been through just about everything,” said Manager Gary Allenson. “I actually participated in a game back in the 80s that took three days to complete. It was a 27 inning affair that went 20 innings the first night before being called. Then we got in an inning and a half the next day before they brought the tarp on. I think I started 2 of 3 at the plate and ended up 2 of 12,” Allenson quipped.
Buczkowski said that this was the first time in ballpark history that the stadium lost power in game. “Back in 1993, we lost power on a FridayNightBash but it happened sometime around 4 PM. We couldn’t get things working so we just had to cancel the game that night. But this was a first. Fortunately, we managed to at the least get this game finished,” said Buczkowski.
The Bisons did end up losing the game 9-6 to fall to 1-3 on the young season, and Buffalo and Pawtucket will play a doubleheader at Coca Cola Field this afternoon (1:05pm start and two 7 inning games). As fans departed the ballpark last night, PA announcer (and former team public relations director) Tom Burns was imploring those in attendance to use special care in leaving for their own safety, as the concourses were darkened and the washrooms were pitch dark. “Thank goodness the PA mic was still working,” said Burns on social media later that evening.
Thank goodness indeed.