BUFFALO - John Boutet stood in the middle of the room of wall-to-wall collection of Bison memorabilia and spoke of the importance of staying connected to history.
Boutet knows more about Buffalo sports history than just about anyone in town.
The overseer of the Greater Buffalo Sports Museum, Boutet’s latest venture-the Buffalo Bisons Hall of Fame Heritage Room, was unveiled at Coca-Cola Field this season.
Situated in section 107 of the downtown ballpark, the Bisons Hall of Fame room is a treasure trove of souvenirs and rare items spanning virtually all 100-plus years of pro baseball in the Queen City.
From old style equipment like catchers masks and bats to uniforms and caps there is plenty in this room to fascinate even the most hardcore baseball junkie.
“Even if you’re just interested in the history of baseball, not so much Bison baseball, you can look at the equipment. The gloves, masks. The jerseys. The different types of jerseys,” Boutet said. “You get a big appreciation of the sport. Where it started and where it grew to.”
A converted concessions stand, the second you walk into the Hall of Fame room you are instantly drawn in as display and every item is a chapter of its own in the rich history book of Bison baseball.
Boutet was also quick to thank Bisons PR/Director of Media relations Brad Bisbing for his efforts in helping this project come to fruition.
Bisbing is also responsible for the display on the far left wall of that features mini replica plaques of the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame plaques that are in a showcase on the upper tier of the ballpark.
With a constant flow of fans before and during every game Boutet said has seen many familiar faces visit the Hall of Fame. While Boutet is happy to see the positive reaction from the fans, the real payoff that makes him smile is when a display or certain item can conjure up a warm memory for a fan.
“The stories that come in the door,” said Boutet.”I’ve heard so many stories. ‘I was there when Luke Easter hit the ball over the scoreboard (at Offerman).’ ‘I saw Johnny Bench play at Hyde Park in Niagara Falls.’ ‘And I saw him, and I met him.’ The stories are just unbelievable and I like to hear them because I wasn’t around back then. I’m relitively young (49) so for me to hear those stories, that’s really cool.”
Featuring ticket stubs, classic game day programs and posters, the Hall of Fame room also has seats from Offerman Stadium, score cards, a heavy wool Bisons uniform from the 1940s, as well as a turn still from War Memorial Stadium.
But without question one of the most interesting items are a collections of color photos of the Bisons 1957 Kids Day game at Offerman where legend Luke Easter is signing autographs and the residential homes on Woodlawn Ave. could be seen in the background.
“I think one of the coolest things I ever got was, I got a call about four years ago from a Russel Arcara in Wheatfield and he used to come to the games at Offerman Stadium,” said Boutet. “He said back in 1957 my parents bought me my first camera, so I went out and got color film. Only professional photographers used color film in 1957 because it was very expensive. So he bought this color film and went down to Kids Day and took all of these photographs. These are a kid’s photographs-that look like they were taken by a pro.”
Pointing to the color photo of Luke Easter, Boutet put into perspective how rare this item is.
“That’s an iconic photo,” Boutet said. “You don’t see color photos of Luke Easter. Of the outfield.”
And it’s just one of many items that can spark a memory or two.