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New Book Recalls the Stories of the Buffalo Bills

Author Budd Bailey sits in the WBFO studio behind a microphone in a blue quarter-zip sweater, white hair, and glasses.
Jay Moran/WBFO

Many among the rabid fan base of the Buffalo Bills are expecting greatness as the team starts its 2023 season. Leave it to veteran sports journalist Budd Bailey to offer a sobering reminder.

"The Bills have not been generally successful year after year since 1960." A fair statement in summing up a franchise that has an all-time record of 462 wins, 495 losses, and eight ties. Four Super Bowl disappointments, of course, aren't ever forgotten.

Journalistic perspective aside, Bailey also has a personal understanding of the team and its connection to its fans. His most recent book, co-authored by Greg Trantor, "The Buffalo Bills: An Illustrated Timeline of a Storied Team" is dedicated to his mother Natalie. After moving to Buffalo, she became a Bills fan, a loyalty that never faded.

"When she moved to Florida, my dad died and she still went to bars to watch the Bills on satellite," Bailey shared.

"One funny story, at some point in that stretch in the '90s, she went up to a woman who frequented the same bowling alley to watch the Bills as she did and said 'What's your association with the team?' And the woman said she was the coach's sister, Marilyn Levy."

Several books have examined the history of the Bills, many of which Bailey admits can be found in his own bookcase. This book sought its own niche.

"We got the opportunity. I say 'we' because Greg Trantor, formerly of the Board of Trustees of the Buffalo History Museum, and I had the chance to write something episodic. And that is to say, tell the story about the big days and moments in Bills history over their 64 years," Bailey said.

"It's not like we have to describe every game. We're just kind of picking the highlights and lowlights and the memorable moments to correspond to that."

The stories range from the team's origins to the 2022 season and much in between, including a personal favorite from the 1960s.

"The time Booth Lustig, the Bills' kicker who missed a field goal that would have won the game at War Memorial Stadium, tried to walk home and he got mugged on the way. When the police showed up, he told the police, 'I deserved it!'"

Co-author Greg Trantor also brought a fan's passion to the project. Considered to be among the largest collectors of pieces of the team's history, Trantor donated over 100,000 items of Bills' memorabilia to the Buffalo History Museum.

"As collectors go, Greg is very sane. He likes to have fun with the memorabilia," Bailey said.

"It really has helped the book quite a bit to have it because it adds something different than typical pictures. We've got (images of) bobbleheads, program covers, and ticket stubs that he's collected over the years and now has donated to the History Museum. Graphically, it really makes it look unusual and interesting."

Bailey once covered local sports for the public radio station WEBR. He also worked for the Buffalo Sabres before a lengthy tenure at the Buffalo News until retirement. The interview wasn't complete without a prediction for this season.

"I will say the one discouraging point is (quarterback Josh) Allen's hit on the salary cap has gone from $18 million to $40 million this year, whatever the number is. That's $22 million they can't spend in other places," Bailey offered.

"I certainly expect them to be good. There are about six or seven teams in the AFC that are also really good and also have really good quarterbacks. Basically, it comes down to Allen's health. If he's healthy, you'd think the Bills have a puncher's chance."

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Jay joined Buffalo Toronto Public Media in 2008 and has been local host for NPR's "Morning Edition" ever since. In June, 2022, he was named one of the co-hosts of WBFO's "Buffalo, What's Next."

A graduate of St. Mary's of the Lake School, St. Francis High School and Buffalo State College, Jay has worked most of his professional career in Buffalo. Outside of public media, he continues in longstanding roles as the public address announcer for the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League and as play-by-play voice of Canisius College basketball.