In their illustrious 131-year history, only three Buffalo Bisons have been immortalized by having their numbers retired by the team. Each player was a part of great Bisons teams, but it was their own individual greatness that made them unforgettable. In particular, their power as hitters awed teammates, competitors and fans time and time again. And that's why no other player will ever wear the numbers they made so famous.
Ollie Carnegie #6
He was 32-years old and had played a grand total of 67 professional baseball games by the time he was purchased by Buffalo. Bisons owner Frank Offermann paid NY-Penn League's Hazleton club $500 with the understanding that $2,000 more would be given if the Herd's new outfielder was any good.
Yes, Ollie Carnegie turned out to be pretty good.
The greatest Bison ever played 12 seasons for Buffalo and established club records for games (1,273), hits (1,362) and doubles (249). His totals of 258 home runs and 1,044 runs batted in are Bisons records, with his RBI total also tops in International League history. He led the circuit in home runs and RBI in both 1938 and 1939 with his '38 total of 45 homers still standing as a club record. He posted a lifetime average of .308, including a .301 average in 39 games with the Bisons in 1945…when he was 46 years old.
Carnegie ended his career in 1945 and spent 21 years working for the City of Buffalo as a garage mechanic. He was inducted in the inaugural class of the International League Hall of Fame in 1947 and the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985. His retired #6 on the outfield wall at Coca-Cola Field is a permanent reminder of the greatest Bisons player of all time.
Luke Easter #25
"Before there was O.J. Simpson, Gilbert Perrault and Bob McAdoo, there was Luke Easter." - Larry Felser, Buffalo Evening News
There's one hit, one moment that stands above every other in the history of Bisons baseball. It occurred on June 15, 1957. Maybe 6,500 really saw it, although many thousand more claimed to have been there…on the day Luke Easter hit the most famous home run in Bisons history.
In the second game of a doubleheader, Easter took a knee-high fastball from Columbus lefthander Bob Kuzava over the centerfield scoreboard at Offermann Stadium. He was the first to accomplish the feat and the mammoth blast quickly became a part of Bisons lore. After the game, Luke told reporters: "If my legs hold out, I'll do it again." And he did, two months later in a game against Richmond.
The colorful, charismatic and outgoing Easter played eight less seasons in Buffalo than Carnegie, but no doubt had as big of an impact. The fan-favorite hit 114 home runs for Buffalo from 1956-1959, leading the IL with 35 in '56 and again with 40 in '57 (he also led the league in RBI in both seasons). Because of his personality and his power, he was the perfect person to have in place for the start of community team ownership that kept the struggling franchise alive and well in Buffalo. For all his accomplisments, Easter was inducted into both the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame and the International League Hall of Fame.
Jeff Manto #30
If you were to create a lineup from all of the great players who have ever played at Coca-Cola Field, there's little doubt who you'd pencil in as your cleanup hitter.
Jeffrey Paul Manto is widely considered the best Bisons player in the team's modern era and remains the team's modern era Home Run King, slugging 79 home runs over four seasons with the club, 1997-2000.
Manto first joined the Bisons in 1997 when the club played in the American Association and hit 20 home runs in just 54 games to help lead Buffalo to a league title. The Bisons then joined the International League in 1998 and Manto's .311 batting average and 23 homers in only 62 games that season helped the club win the franchise's fifth Governors' Cup title. The slugger hit 23 more home runs while hitting .296 for the Herd in 1999 before playing 94 games and hitting 13 homers in 2000 for Buffalo.
For his Bisons career, Manto hit .271 (250-923) with 45 doubles, 79 home runs, 207 RBI in 276 games. He ranks 1st in the modern era in on-base pct. (.405), 2nd in slugging pct. (.579) and OPS (.984) and 3rd in RBI. He is a member of both the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame and the International League Hall of Fame.
Jackie Robinson #42
The accomplishments and sacrifices of Jackie Robinson transcends baseball at every level. Because of what he has meant to the game we all love, no Bisons player shall wear his '42' from this day forth.