Tonawanda News — Having worked on the fringes of the Western New York media scene throughout this century, I have been introduced to most every famous name (and face) that exists in this market.
WGRZ’s mainstay sports director, Ed Kilgore, is not one of them.
After reading his book, I sort of wish he was.
“As I’ve Seen It” chronicles the 40 years he’s been on the Buffalo sports scene, as well as the early events in his life that led to him becoming a Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Famer. He also offers some fun stories of the teams he’s covered and revived some early sports memories that any reader would love to relive.
Those memories go back a long way. To put it in perspective, when Kilgore (whose given first name is Kim) arrived in Buffalo, the Buffalo Braves were battling the Boston Celtics for NBA supremacy. The Bills had just moved into the brand new Rich Stadium, and Kilgore — who spent his life in the West, Midwest and South — hadn’t seen NHL hockey before. The members of the Sabres’ French Connection quickly sniffed this out, so they initiated Kilgore to the Buffalo scene by doing interviews with the newsman posing as each other.
Kilgore quickly made a name for himself, though, opting to make Buffalo his home after brief professional stops in San Antonio, Houston and Alaska, where summer excursions during time off from the University of Missouri led to odd writing and broadcasting gigs.
He also became a trusted interviewer and friend to athletes and executives, which in the days prior to clamped-down journalistic ethics and instantaneously tweeted news breaks meant free trips, vacations with players and nights on the town.
Almost literally, if an athlete has ever made a name for himself in Buffalo, he’s had Kilgore to thank for that, at least in part. Kilgore was part of the Sabres’ broadcast team for nearly a decade, hosted shows with Bills ranging from Lou Saban to Jim Kelly and was on the scene at each of Buffalo’s heart-breaking sports moments (from his vantage point, “No Goal” really was a Stanley Cup-clincher).
He has become so entrenched in the community that he has become almost as big a name as the athletes he covers - and in some cases more so, like when a young Wayne Gretzky stopped during a practice to introduce himself to the “Mr. Kilgore” he’d watched growing up in Ontario.
A book like this is worth its cover price for the anecdotes it contains, and Kilgore delivers plenty of them. Not many people, after all, can claim to have been at both of the Sabres’ Stanley Cup losses and all four Bills Super Bowl losses. But those lows were preceded by plenty of highs, and he has a ton of inside information to impart, including calling the Sabres’ shot in firing Punch Imlach and nearly being beaten up by former Bills GM Bill Polian.
This book is well put-together and is like Baby Bear’s porridge — just right, long enough to deliver a full story, yet short enough not to feel like the author was simply trying to fill pages. The writing is crisp and clear, and the stories it contains are lively and read as though one were at the bar with Kilgore spinning yarns over a cold one.
The media industry as a whole is vastly different than when Kilgore first got into it. People like him — who devote their lives and careers to one community — won’t be around much longer in a business that values the cheapest possible personnel and nomad talents seeking their one big story to propel them to a bigger market. Broadcasters like him, quite literally, aren’t made anymore.
Kilgore is one of a handful of Buffalo broadcasters Western New Yorkers are lucky to have had for so long. And anyone who’s ever enjoyed — or been annoyed by — one of his broadcasts would be well-served to read his book.
Contact Paul Lane
at firstname.lastname@example.org.• WHAT: "As I've Seen It" • BY: Ed Kilgore • GRADE: A-