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Farewell Cleveland, It's Been a Great Ride

As a stark contrast to this dismal Bisons season, news came out just last week that former Bisons slugger Jeff Manto will be inducted into the 2008 class of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame on October 29.

And just like that, a flood of memories and magical moments in the Bisons’ Cleveland era remind us that this run has been especially memorable and productive for the Herd. And much of that run happened during the Jeff Manto years here in Buffalo.

Manto came to Buffalo via trade in 1997 and instantly became one of the team’s fan favorites. Noted for his power hitting, Manto hit 79 home runs during his Buffalo career, and one of his most memorable nights came in July of that year, when he belted three home runs against the Iowa Cubs, prompting a curtain call from the huge crowd that night.

On his fourth at bat, Manto was swinging for the ages, offering huge cuts that didn’t connect, and went down on strikes, prompting yet another standing ovation from the crowd. It was one of those electric Dunn Tire Park moments that even the casual fan can appreciate.

Manto’s #30 was retired by the Buffalo Bisons in August 2001, and on that night he spoke with emotion about how he didn’t realize at the time of his trade to Buffalo that he was coming home.

During those great Bisons seasons, which yielded league championships in 1997 and 1998, Jeff Manto’s teammate Torey Lovullo, now the Bisons manager, was also an integral part of the Bisons success. In August of 1998, when it looked like the season would go down the drain, Lovullo’s impassioned speech to his teammates exhorted them on to victory and a sweep at Syracuse, and then set the tone for the first round showdown in the playoffs.

Lovullo is a Buffalo guy through and through; he has had success as a player and as a manager at every level of the chain, except for these past two seasons. With his boundless optimism and his always cheery disposition, he will be the last to admit it, but this season especially must have been excruciating for him. Yet he took the cards that were dealt to him and played them as best he could. So as we say bid Torey Lovullo yet another goodbye, the best tribute we can offer him is to throw him one of his famed “Tor-realities,” his oft predictable post-game takes when things seemed their bleakest: “Torey’s a battler. He’s a professional. He knows what it takes to get the job done.”

Thanks Torey, from Bisonsland, for the warm moments and the memories which we will always wrap ourselves in.

Pat Listach Award

1999 Orlando Miller
2000 Jeff Patzke
2001 Kevin Sefcik
2002 Anthony Medrano
2003 Luis Garcia
2004 Todd Dunwoody
2005 Ryan Ludwick
2006 Jake Gautreau
2007 Hector Luna
2008 Morgan Ensberg

Jimmy Hamilton Award

2000 Tim Drew
2001 Roy Smith
2002 Jaret Wright
2003 Carl Sadler
2004 Luther Hackman
2005 Billy Traber
2006 Jake Dittler
2007 Bubby Buzachero
2008 Jeff Weaver

The Listach and Hamilton awards

Every season since 1999, we have selected the worst Bisons hitter and worst Bisons pitcher for our dubious Listach and Hamilton Awards. Both former rookie of the year Pat Listach and pitching prospect Jimmy Hamilton were Cleveland Indians properties, and both represented the futility of the jobs they were thrust into.

This whole award idea grew out of three fans in the stands—the two of us along with Bisons superfan Christopher Mach—having some fun with all this, and eventually grew into a big dog-and-pony show here at Play Ball.

This year we’ve really low-keyed it. Everyone in the Bisons organization, the press corps, and the fans are disappointed enough with the poor season. Everyone wants to turn the page and move on to our new parent club and hopefully better days.

At one point we considered retiring the awards, but in the interest of continuity and tradition, we decided to quietly make our selections and run with them.

So without further ado, the 2008 recipient of the Pat Listach Award is Morgan Ensberg. Ensberg’s arrival on the squad was supposed to set the tone and example in terms of leadership and experience. All Ensberg showed was a .181 average, all while committing 14 errors. Granted, with the team dead last in hitting in the International League, one could make the argument for just about anyone on the roster, but Ensberg’s performance is good enough for the prize.

Thirty-four pitchers wore the Buffalo uniform this season, yet Bisons pitching actually got better as the season went along. And the late season addition of veteran John Halama, along with the improvement of relievers Bubby Buzachero and Rich Rundles, made the team look respectable. So making a selection for the Jimmy Hamilton Award really wasn’t easy, but in the end the prize goes to Jeff Weaver, a former big leaguer whose scary ERA approaching the seven mark got him demoted to the bullpen.

The Bisons home schedule is now complete, and the team will conclude the 2008 season on the road in Rochester this weekend.

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