Bison Baseball Historian, Author
A newspaper coupon for a free ticket to a Bisons game drew 9-year-old Joe Overfield into the world of baseball in 1925. Over the next three-quarters of a century, Joe spent hundreds of afternoons and evenings at ballparks ranging from Offermann Stadium to Civic Stadium to Dunn Tire Park, developing a passion for the game and an encyclopedic knowledge of its history. Fortunately for baseball fans in Buffalo, and elsewhere, Overfield shared his wealth of knowledge, and, as the foremost authority on the game in this city and its official baseball historian, he left an unsurpassed legacy of baseball memories.
Overfield was a 1934 graduate of Lafayette High, and a standout second baseman for that school’s nine. In 1937, Joe joined Monroe Abstract Corp. as a researcher of land title records. A chance encounter with financial records from the 1878 Buffalo Bisons Baseball Club in the Erie County Clerk’s office spawned Joe’s evolution from fan to historian. Over the years, Overfield melded his skills as a researcher to his personal observations and recollections to achieve status as the preeminent source on baseball, and in particular Bison baseball, in Buffalo.
In time, Joe found an outlet for his passion, and skill, in print. The first of his many articles about baseball history appeared in the Buffalo Evening News in 1953. He wrote for the Sporting News and Baseball Digest for a period, and was a contributor to the original “Baseball Encyclopedia.” A founding member of the Society for Baseball Research (SABR), he was honored by that organization in 1986 for his contributions. It is important to note that the foregoing publications were national in scope, and Overfield by his involvement, developed a national reputation as a baseball expert.
The Bisons were his first love, however, and his devotion to the hometown team had its fondest outpouring in “The 100 Seasons of Buffalo Baseball,” published in 1985. The 250-page authoritative tome preserved the feats of Ollie Carnegie, Luke Easter, Johnny Bench, and countless others for a modern generation of fans, and is one of two accomplishments of which Joe was most proud. The other was his lobbying campaign on behalf of Jim “Pud” Galvin, an 1880’s former Herd hurler elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1965 due to Joe’s persistence.
The man who spent a lifetime chronicling Buffalo baseball became a part of that history in 1994 with election to the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame. Tonight, Joe, posthumously, joins many of his former subjects in the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.