Father’s Day memories – 2016

alan dad

This is a picture of my dad and me in front of our first house on 10th Street in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

My father died in 2003 and my two grandfathers passed on many years before that. I haven’t mused about them, really.

All three were sports fans, but none followed professional basketball. The NBA championship series ends on Fathers’ Day Sunday with the Warriors hosting the Cavaliers in Oakland. It’s been a weird series with a lot of blow-outs and down to game seven. I was too short for the organized game but could hold my own in pick up games. I’ve played enough to know the rules.

My paternal Grandfather Ohashi was named Toichi but known as George. I don’t know exactly when he emigrated from Japan, but it was in the later part of the 19th century. He and apparently one or more of his siblings initially ended up in Alaska.

There’s a photograph of him hustling pool someplace in Alaska, which I will dig out. When I was on a trip with the Presbyterian Church to Sitka, Alaska we took a ferry boat ride up and down the panhandle.

While in Ketchikan, my pal Sam Allen from Cody and I came upon a sign that said OHASHI Candy and Tobacco. Turns out it was owned by my Great Uncle, my grandfather’s brother who’s name escapes me. I was later at a conference in Seattle a few years ago and ran into an Ohashi who was a niece and a distant cousin of mine.

alan grandpa ohashi

This picture of my Grandfather Ohashi and me must have been taken on Fathers’ Day in front of his house.

His game of choice was billiards. I’m pretty sure he was a nine ball hustler. He owned a billiard hall on 17th Street in downtown Cheyenne. I inherited one of the pool tables when the pool hall closed and had it set up for many years, but when I moved to Colorado, I donated it to the Ethete Senior Citizen Center. I kept an old 9 ball from the rack. He was going blind, but could still hit a few trick bank shots.

My cousin Matthew from Salt Lake and his dad got me started collecting and scrounging up old stuff. He had an old Phillip Morris poster in there that I wanted, but couldn’t get freed up. I’ve wondered what happened to that item.

My Grandfather Ohashi in his downtown Cheyenne pool hall.

He developed diabetes later in life and couldn’t see very well. His spectator sport of choise was boxing. Back in the 1960s, there were only black and white TV sets. My dad and I would visit him and watch the Friday night fights. Boxers wore white or black trunks and it was easy for him to follow. He got pretty sick and moved into our house on 10th Street for a period of time. I was young but had to give up my room to my grandfather. I can’t remember how long he stayed, but he let me give him his insulin injections in his thigh. That was back in the day of those huge needles

He and my grandmother owned the Highway Cafe on the south Greeley Highway. He originally was a truck farmer from Brush, Colorado. He drove around an old panel truck and picked up produce from the farmers and sold them from a fruit and vegetable stand next to the cafe. It was nestled against a bluff where Interstate 80 would eventually pass and they moved a few blocks north. The Building still stands today, but is now a tobacco store.

Every once in a while I got the job of writing the new $1.00 specials on the black board. It was stuff like hamburger steak, egg foo yong, liver and onions. There was a Filipino guy named Carl who came in every night and had a half order of the special. The famous Cheyenne fisher Hank Okamoto came in from time to time showing off his string of fish. He was a fishing buddy of my Uncle Rich.

My dad brought my sister and I one at a time and together to the cafe. He cooked there after he finished working and after dinner. I don’t know this for fact, but it seemed to me the state Public Health Department put them out of business. The last straw was when the state required a vestibule to be constructed between the public area and the restroom, of which there was only one and not two.

alan grandpa sakata

Likely the same Fathers’ Day visit around town. This is my Grandfather Sakata and me on the porch of their home on Capitol Avenue.

My maternal Grandfather Sakata’s name was Jusaburo, but he was called Joe. There’s a Cheyenne history book that has the details about his emigration to Wyoming, but off the top of my head he came from Japan, then returned for my grand mother who was 20 years younger. What I mostly remember is he worked for the Burlington Railroad.

Back then it was known as the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad and he was the section foreman at a place called Orpha, Wyoming. Orpha still is there and located across the road from the Fetterman Battlefield State Historic Site.

I went to visit a few years ago. Many years before when I was in junior high school, my sister and I spent the summer irrigating on the Shinmori beet farm near there. We took a tour of Orpha which included the one room school, and the house where my mom’s family lived. Only the foundation remained when I last went to look around.

He and my grandmother moved to Cheyenne. The Burlington Northern railroad used to run through Cheyenne so I’m thinking he retired there. My mom, who was the youngest of the three kids ended up in Cheyenne, too. In his retirement, he became a gardener and did yard work for some of the neighbors around their home on Capitol Avenue a couple blocks from the state capitol building. That was one of the resupply depots for soda pop that we sold along the Cheyenne Frontier Days parades.

plains dairy trip

This is a neighborhood field trip to tour the Plains Dairy in Cheyenne. Notice I’m wearing the Yankees cap given to me by my grandfather.

His game of choice was baseball. My aunt lived in Washington DC and he watched the Senators play. He went to New York and brought me back a cap and pennant from Yankee Stadium in 1960. That was the first year I followed baseball. I’ll never be a Pittsburgh Pirates fan having watched Bill Mazeroski homer in game seven to beat the Yankees.

When I graduated from high school, I remember getting his wise words in Japanese – but my grandmother reminded him that I only understood English and got the speech again in English.

Language was a barrier keeping me from knowing my grandparents better. Of course, after World War II, that was a big wake up call for the Japanese American community. Even in the middle of nowhere Wyoming, there wasn’t any Japanese spoken around the house nor were Sansei kids – third generation – expected to learn Japanese nor retain much if anything about the culture, although I still prefer rice with my eggs. The 20th Street Cafe run by a Japanese family serves eggs with rice upon request.

I learned to be self sufficient, but that may have been because I was boy. When I graduated from college, I lived at home for a couple years while in grad school at the University of Wyoming. I think my parents appreciated that.

My father, Frank, worked his entire career at the Coca Cola plant in Cheyenne eventually becoming the manager. When the business was sold to the Ludwig family in Laramie, my dad was a part of the deal. When I was a sophomore in college and away in Hastings at the time, they moved over the hill to Laramie. I remember going to that house on Downey Street for the first time. I didn’t know which drawer the forks were kept.

When I was in high school, I worked summers for him at the Coke plant. That was an eye opener for me seeing him in a capacity other than at home. He managed like it was a basketball team – he was a pretty good basketball player on the Cheyenne High School team. He didn’t ask anyone to do anything he didn’t do himself. That’s one thing that rubbed off on me. I remember him chewing out a guy, who came to work drunk and eventually was fired. It was the first time I’d heard him swear like a sailor.

One time I was caught shoplifting and the condition of my staying out of the system was fessing up to my dad and he calling the store manager. That was by far the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my 63 years. I don’t think he told my mom about it.

He was always supportive of my activities, even later in life. When I played in the Fremont County orchestra, there was a performance in Laramie. Very few people were in the audience, but my dad was there. He pushed me to get my Cub Scout activities completed. I made it up to getting my “Bear” patch before Pack 113 folded. He was asked to take over, but it wasn’t his thing.

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My dad at the first game at Coors Field in 1995

My dad was quite athletic. He was a sports fan and knew the rules to a lot of games. He had good hand eye coordination and was a pretty good bowler, golfer and basketball player with a wicked hook shot. We played softball together in church league and had a good change up which fooled hitters even in slow pitch. As a spectator, he and my mom were avid Wyoming Cowboy fans.

He also was a Yankees fan. One of his Coca Cola plant truck drivers was a guy named Tony Rizzuto, who was related to  former Yankees 2nd baseman Phil Rizzuto. A bunch of guys from work a a guy from the air base all loaded up in my dad’s car and drove down to Denver to watch the Denver Bears play an exhibition game against the Yankees. That was in 1964. It was great seeing Mantle and Maris play. 

Definitely a big life highlight.

Coors Field opened in 1995, the replacement Rockies played the replacement Yankees in the strike-shortened year. I took my dad to watch that game. The Rockies made the playoffs that year too.

What about the name O’Hashi?

Nobody knows for sure, but the O’H is attributed to a school administrator who changed his name when he found out his birthday was March 17th – St. Patrick’s Day. Only my dad and his youngest brother Jake used the anglicized spelling.

I haven’t figured out what I’m going to do on Sunday, probably not watch the basketball game since my team, the Celtics, aren’t playing. The only tie I have to the Dubs is back in 1980 when the Warriors traded Robert Parrish and top draft pick Kevin McHale to Boston. The Celtics won the championship in 1981.

How I ended up a Celtics fan is another story, but it dates back to when Wyoming center Leon Clark was drafted by Boston in 1966.

I doubt I’ll watch the game. I did pick up a ball at the Sports Authority liquidation sale and may shoot a few hoops someplace.

Whatever your Fathers’ Day memories are, I hope they are fond ones.

My sport of the day? I’m going fishing if the water isn’t too high.

 

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What is the chief end of man?

jesus card

Jesus of Nazareth

I’m a baseball card collector. Any kind of trading cards, really. Especially if they’re interesting.

I’ve been at it since I was in Sunday school.

One of the main reasons I went to church was for the the swag – Bible verse rulers, cookies and … trading cards – Jesus cards. My Sunday school teacher had a lesson and then passed the cards around. I’m pretty sure the girls didn’t know what to do with them. Probably wrecked these paper treasures by gluing them in a scrap book.

Me, I had a Jesus collection.

jesus card back

If Jesus autographed this card, it would be worth a lot of money. I doubt anyone could authenticate it.

I’ll trade you two Mantles for this Jesus..

When I was a kid, my family went to the First Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It was on the “other side” of town and kids from the other junior high school feeder schools went there.

In a sense, it was integration.

We went to church most Sundays. My parents were involved in the activities – women’s circle, Mariners. I’m pretty sure my mom was the main instigator of all that and my dad just tagged along for the food.

My sister and I went to Sunday school, sang in the choir and went to the youth fellowship group in the evenings. It was fun with not much emphasis on Christianity-related stuff. The mission was to make it home before “Batman” came on the TV.

Not like some of my friends who were Mormons, Catholics and Lutherans, there was some high pressure sales when I went to my friends church events. When it came to summer church camp, the Presbyterians and Congregationalists all came together.

I almost became a Mormon at one point. There was a girl involved but I came to my senses.

Presbyterians didn’t emphasize the “Jesus Saves” message or much of that sins = hell and good =  heaven drills.

It was mostly about the liturgy of church life – baby christening (which I don’t remember), free Bible in the 3rd grade (which I still have and rebound it when I wore it out. Well, actually dropped it off the top bunk at camp one too many times), catechism – “What is the chief end of man?” (I still know the answer), another free Bible for high school graduation (which I have but still in the box).

hc alan debbie karen mary coors

My mates and I at Hastings College.

A group of my Presbyterian high school friends all ended up attending Hastings College in Nebraska. The student body was around 650 which was the size of my high school class.

More liturgy.

Chapel on Wednesday morning wasn’t required, but there would be the occasional good program like Barbara Jordan.

Dress up family style dinner on Wednesday night was a hassle. We were enticed to attend with pretty good food.

Then there was the social engineering.

Freshman women weren’t allowed to leave campus for the first semester.

All women had to be back in the dorms by 1:00 am. They looked forward to daylight savings time because of the added hour.

There were very few minorities – a latino who now happens to live in Boulder, a couple black guys on the football and track teams, a Chinese and me.

These days, there aren’t women’s hours, but the school is still very white bread, but it fits in with that middle-of-the-grain-belt-culture, which is okay.

There was a Jewish guy who was big into Jews for Jesus. Apparently the Bible says there will be 144,000 Jewish men selected to be “saved.”

He wanted to be one of them.

He was the most religious zealot on campus. There were some pre-seminary majors, but this guy was over the top – Campus Crusade for Christ, all that.

At the time, the conservative lifestyle suited me – I was Republican then. In fact, my first presidential vote was for Nixon, I’m sorry to admit. The school year was 3-1-3. During the January Interim in 1973, I took a political science class called Legislators and Lobbyists in Washington DC. One of the activities was attending Nixon’s inauguration. I was tear gassed during an anti-war demonstration.

I was going through the motions, but still didn’t get the religious part of campus life at Hastings College.

chariots_of_the_gods-720080While in college I became interested in the “Chariots of the Gods” craze.

Basically, it’s about aliens from other dimensions who Erich Von Däniken believes are the angels who talked to various Biblical characters through burning bushes, pillars of fire, angels. The chariot that Jesus is supposed to ride when he returns at the end of the world is a UFO.

The Bible categorizes angels from archangels at the top to Satan at the bottom and several categories in between. There’s supposedly a constant unseen battle happening between good and evil.

Since I’m more into the tangible, the aliens / UFO model started to make some sense.

I’ll skip through time.

After graduating from Hastings with degrees in biology and political science, finding a job was not on my radar screen. My counselors forgot to tell me there aren’t many jobs counting smooth and wrinkled peas.

I sat out the post-Vietnam War recession in grad school at the University of Wyoming. After two years, I got a job in Gillette in 1977.

ufo mcguire

The water well on the McGuire farm with the Israeli flag flying.

In 1980, there was a story in the Casper Star Tribune about strange lights in the sky bouncing around a remote part of southeast Wyoming. I called the reporter about it and as a journalist he was awe struck.

At that time, there was a TV show called “That’s Incredible” hosted by Sarah Purcell and John Davidson.

The show was sending a crew to  Wyoming for a story about the UFOs visiting the Pat McGuire family at the Morton Pass Farm in the Sybille Canyon between Wheatland and Laramie on Highway 34.

“We have to go there,” I said to a group of my friends. I was obsessed by it.

The story is whacky and more involved than what I’ll write here, but hold on to your hats.

Sprinkle

Leo Sprinkle

A world renowned paranormal psychologist from the University of Wyoming named Leo Sprinkle specialized in alien abduction experiences and through hypnosis, regressed McGuire to the time he was taken aboard the UFO several years earlier.

He claimed to have been in touch with the Archangel Michael and given instructions to drill a big well on his property and begin farming.

The well was a gusher – over 8,000 gallons / minute supposedly delivered by the aliens.

He was approved for a low interest loan from the state of Wyoming for some irrigation equipment, even though hydrology studies that said the sage brush country would remain dry and unproductive dur to lack of water.

In homage to Michael and his other alien abductors, he flew the Israeli flag over the water well pump. He said the aliens wore Star of David belt buckles. He also wore one on the belt that held up his Wranglers.

ufo lights

Nocturnal Lights seen from the Morton Pass Farm in 1980.

My UFO entourage drove down and met the “That’s Incredible” crew. The nocturnal lights weren’t quite as active as they were earlier, but nonetheless, there were some to be seen, which I photographed.

On my way to Laramie from Gillette to visit my parents I generally stopped at the McGuire’s through the early 1980s. One day, the access road was closed.

After that, I lost touch with the McGuires.

Over time, I learned the McGuires had family and financial problems and were unable to make ends meet with their high altitude barley crop, even with the free water.

I heard the University of Wyoming ended up with the farm.

Pat died in 2009.

I read a couple books on the topic of angels as aliens. One was “Angels: God’s Secret Agents” by Billy Graham. It puts into context good angels and bad angels and mentions the UFO phenomenon and I can’t help but make the same comparisons with what I saw on those hills on Highway 34 that summer.

angels gods secret agentsGraham writes, “Some reputable scientists deny and others assert that UFOs do appear to people from time to time. Some scientists have reached the place where they think they can prove that these are possibly visitors from outer space.

“Some Christian writers have speculated that UFOs could very well be a part of God’s angelic host who preside over the physical affairs of universal creation.

“While we cannot assert such a view with certainty, many people are now seeking some type of supernatural explanation for these phenomena. Nothing can hide the fact, however, that these unexplained events are occurring with greater frequency.”

A few years later, after I moved to Lander, I was in Cheyenne for some reason.  I saw that Billy Graham was speaking at Frontier Park. It was free, so I went over to listen.

Alan and the PopeCopter in 1993

It was the biggest religious event I’d attended, at least until I went to see Pope John Paul II at Cherry Creek Reservoir in 1993. Now that was a crowd. I’d only taken Catholic communion once and it was at that papal mass.

Rev. Graham didn’t talk about angels or UFOs, but he’s one inspiring speaker.

I was compelled to give a few bucks when his minions passed the hat. I was attending the Evangelical Free Church which was a fairly conservative branch of the Presbyterians. The preacher and his wife were young and personable. I had forgotten that I wrote my home church on the offering envelope. Back in those days, to get a tax deduction, the church had to send you a receipt.

My minister was surprised I went to see Billy Graham and I told him my Angels and Aliens story.

He looked at me as if I was the son of the devil and the topic didn’t come up again.

I don’t wear my faith on my sleeve.

I do think there’s something to the historical Jesus as being a guy who walked his talk about the benefits of being nice to each other.

I bought a copy of the Jefferson Bible. Thomas Jefferson separated out all the scripture that was said by Jesus and compiled it, which is pretty much what I follow.

“What would Jesus do?”

The path I happened to take to get me there, was the UFO and alien route. I ended up where most others end who come through more conventional recruitment.

Based on the super natural stuff I’ve seen, the claims that Jesus was taken up to heaven don’t surprise me.

I don’t care if there’s a resurrection or not, nor do I care if I get raised from the dead. As far as I’m concerned, one lifetime here is enough!

jesus alou

Jesus of San Francisco

I’m still an avid card collector and plan to hold on to them, just in case.

I don’t want to be standing at the Pearly Gates and Peter says, “Welcome to heaven, but where’s all your stuff?”

To go along with my Jesus of Nazareth card, I have Jesus of San Francisco – Jesus Alou.

He and his two brothers Matty and Felipe all played for the Giants. The three played in a few games together in 1963.

Most of what I know about life is from trivia on the backs of trading cards.

jesus alou backAnother factoid and why I like this card is, Jesus Alou started his professional baseball career in 1959 playing for the Hastings Giants in the “D” Nebraska League.

Will my Presbyterian coincidences never cease?

By the way, man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

Swish and spit

I got a call from my cousin, Leslie.

These days, whenever relatives call, there’s generally some sort of family emergency. This time, Leslie told me our Auntie Elsie died. She was 89 and after a fall breaking her ankle she was moved out of her house and into a rehab center in north Cheyenne.

I stopped in to visit her when I was in town before and noticed she had a banged up face. Cheyenne is a smallish town. Elsie’s roommate is the great aunt of some high school mates of mine. She said Elsie fell out of bed. What I wasn’t told, is that she was now in hospice care because of it.

I was planning another trip to visit her and get a couple bits of family history from her about the time she sprung my grandfather and her brother – my Uncle George – from a holding stall at the Santa Anita Racetrack when Executive Order 9066 was signed by FDR rounding up west coast Japanese – Americans.

Long story short, Japanese who lived in the interior like in Wyoming were viewed as being non-threatening and allowed to stay in their homes and Elsie was able to get them back to Wyoming.

After World War II Elsie chose to move to Boston where she attended dental hygienist school and upon graduation, returned to Cheyenne and worked for Dr. Carson, who ended up being our family dentist.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s going to the dentist was viewed, I think by everyone, as cruel and unusual punishment. Those belt-driven drills that moved the bits at the speed of a hamster spinning his cage were gruesome.

The classic diabolic dentist movie scene is when a Nazi war criminal played by Lawrence Olivier bores into Dustin Hoffman’s front teeth in “Marathon Man”.

I inherited my dad’s bad teeth. I don’t know if kids still get their baby teeth capped, but all my teeth were covered with stainless steel. If there were metal detectors back then, I never would have made it into a sporting event or through the airport.

My aunt the hygienist cleaned my teeth. She always made it fun for kids. This was during the days of cuspidors – those little round sinks with cold water swirling around. I’d get that gritty toothpaste which sort of tasted good squirted out by my aunt pulling the trigger on that high pressure water pistol that shot a straight stream from two feet away.

Then swish and spit.

I always liked the mist that splattered up on my face as the fast moving water sloshed up the ceramic sides of the bowl.

When it was Dr. Carson’s turn, he wasn’t the most personable guy, at least compared to Dr. Cohen, my pediatrician. After a few pleasantries, if I was in for a filling, he pulled out this Dr. Frankenstein contraption. It was a glass, graduated cylinder embraced in a stainless steel housing with a needle the size of a house nail. He would stick it in a bottle of Novocain, pull it out of the robber stopper with a squeak and squirt the air out before jabbing me various places in my mouth.

Elsie would come in and mix up the filling gunk, which consisted of mercury and silver. My mouth was so full of toxins by the time I was out of high school, it would make a tuna fish gag. I gave up my last old school filling when my root canal tooth finally gave way a couple years ago and replaced by a ceramic one. My dentist at the time talked me out of gold, because it would ‘show’.

I shouldn’t have listened.

There’s no wonder dentists are viewed as torturers.

I don’t have to tell anyone who’s experienced those low RPM drills how much more pleasant it is to go to the dentist now and have to submit to those water-cooled hydraulics ones.

When I have dental work done nowadays, I don’t bother with the anesthetic since the needle poke hurts more than the drilling and there’s no biting of the inner cheek because of the weird numbness.

At the end of the session, Auntie Elsie handed me a pencil and a toothbrush and I was on my way.

Dr. Carson’s office was right next to the Bunten Pharmacy on one side and a block away from Save More Drug and Thrifty Drug. While waiting for my ride, I killed time browsing the baseball cards and Beatle cards and waste my money one a pack or two of them.

Elsie was single and in those days, that was unique, but not unusual for my family with three of her brothers never marrying and a brother and sister marrying much later in life.

She lived in south Cheyenne with my grand parents and her brother, Richard. She eventually moved out to her own place. Rich stayed there until both grand parents died and eventually married. More on them later.

Elsie was quite the athlete – playing 2nd base in a competitive softball league and a 175 scratch bowler. When she quit playing, I think I have her glove in my baseball box. My dad gave me my first glove, which I still have. Not a good memory about it though. The neighbor kid, who was much older than any of us threw a ball at me that was catchable.

I was scrawny and my hand and arm weren’t strong enough to keep the ball from flying out of the webbing and into my eye. I think it knocked me out. I ended up going to the emergency room, but I was no worse for the wear.

The glove I used most of my Little League career I bought at a church rummage sale in November 1963. It’s a Rawlings Wally Moon model. It had a broken in pocket and I made many a good play with it. There were a couple fly balls I should have had but flinched when the fence came up on me. Those weren’t major league fences, they were chain link barely waist high with the barbed edges uncovered which aren’t allowed these days.

Elsie taught me how to bowl. Starting out, everyone uses the house balls. The problem was, finding the same or a similar one each time I went to the alley. I didn’t really get the hang of the game, even though my mom and dad were at one time avid bowlers. World War II put an end to that when they were both kicked out of the American Bowling Congress after Pearl Harbor.

Neither of them picked up the sport again after that. Besides, my dad had a bad back which kept him 4F and out of the war. I also inherited his back problems and was introduced to chiropractics and sat out my sophomore year of high school wrestling – a great sport for spindly guys like me.

I think chiropractors had the same macabre reputations as dentists – maybe they still do.

When I started working and had disposable income, Elsie talked me into buying my own ball and shoes. I wasn’t a great bowler because I didn’t spend enough time at it. I did bowl enough to win a bowling trophy while on a team in Lander, Wyoming.

That was a rite of passage.

About that same time “The Big Lebowski” came out. I related to the nerdy Steve Buscemi character, since I didn’t quite fit into the usual bowling crowd.

Bowling has changed. I got rid of my ball in an early purge, which I now regret. There’s no bowling alley in Boulder and the ones in Denver are these disco-like places with flashing lights and loud music.

The worst part is, the score keeping is automatic.

Keeping score with soft lead pencils projected overhead is a lost art form. It was a display of bowling knowledge. I was always lousy at math, but I could score a bowling game. I think I was good at it because it was very visual – marking those x’s and half x’s writing legible numbers. Some people were bad at it. Even if I wasn’t bowling, I liked to keep score.

After Elsie died there was no big to do, I come from a long line of low key die-ers. A few months earlier my cousin Alison called to report her mother – my Auntie Jeannie – had passed away. She had a stroke while sleeping and didn’t wake up. She had a small reception, nothing like some services I’ve attended.

Purging baseball cards for the good of future generations

I put all my baseball cards from 1979 to 1998 in the neighborhood rummage sale.

Silver Sage Village is having a 16 household rummage sale on September 19th and everyone has been culling through their junk. My office mate moved to one he set up in his apartment and this has given me a good chance to go through my stuff.

I’ve been selling unwanted things on ebay, including parts of my sports card collection. My account is AnAmericanPlaceII which is an homage to social realism photographer Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery in New York City.

In a past life, I had a sports card store front called Pine Riders in Riverton, Wyoming that opened during the sports card bubble in the late 1980s through the 1990s. The great thing about having a store like that was buying, selling and trading for my own hobby, as well as helping others support theirs. To this day, I’m amazed I was able to keep the doors open turning over cardboard worth a dime to a few bucks.

On Pine Riders opening day, former Yankees pitcher who won the decisive game of the 1961 World Series, Bud Daley, came over and signed autographs. I ran into Bud at the Wind River Casino when I was in Fremont County a few months back.

When I moved from Wyoming to Colorado over 20 years ago, I hauled literally a ton of cards with me in notebooks, boxes and brief cases that took up space in closets, crawl spaces and basements.

At the height of the card bubble, I had a colleague trade my entire collection of cards – complete sets from 1958 through 1998 – around 25,000 cards – for a handful of items that are of more interest to me and much less bulky to haul around. Among my newly pared down collection is a 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle card and Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig autographs.

My friend Rodger McDaniel recently wrote a blog post about how he was once a millionaire before his mother threw away his baseball card collection with included a few 1952 Mickey Mantle cards. That Topps card is one of the few Holy Grails of the hobby. My mom, on the other hand, saved mine in a box which was the basis of my collection as I have continued it to this day.

Rodger’s lament is one of the classics.

In getting ready for the garage sale, I am doing my part to increase the value of the newer vintage of sports cards that are generally from 1980 to the present.

I realized I had no heart-felt feelings about them, like I do for the rest of my Yankees collections and started slashing and burning. I collect:

  • 1919 Yankees for no particular reason except that Chicago Bears founder George Halas was on that team and this also was the year of the Black Sox Scandal;
  • 1923 Yankees were the first to play in Yankee Stadium and won the first World Series title that year;
  • 1932 Yankees finished the season winning the World Series and highlighted by Babe Ruth’s supposed “called shot” home run for a sick kid and also the first year for Frank Crosetti;
  • 1961 – 1962 Yankees‘ third base coach was Frank Crosetti and this was also the first year I paid close attention to baseball mostly because of Maris and Mantle chasing Babe Ruth’s home run record;
  • 1977 – 1978 Yankees with Reggie, Reggie, Reggie!
  • 2001 Yankees since I went to New York for games 3 and 4 of the World Series a month after 9/11

I emptied out all my boxes of Donruss, Fleer, Bowman and Topps, cards, which in this day and age have little value to me personally or financially. The huge number of cards and sets and subsets became unmanageable. Now, I could care less about Harold Baines or even Mark McGwire who took a personal and professional nose dive in the wake of the performance enhancing drug scandals.

Those are all going to the garage sale along with hundreds more – George Brett, Nolan Ryan …

Free agency also screwed things up. It used to be a player stayed on the same team for his entire career. Now, a pitcher has a good year and gets traded.

I’ve always been a Yankees fan and many of those I’m tossing are of ballyhooed young players like Brien Taylor and Pat Kelly. I also have a lot of players like Joe Girardi who were okay, but not great players. I also had a lot of Girardi cards because he was one of the original Colorado Rockies in the 1992 expansion draft.

During this time period, I was in a rotisserie baseball league called the Buttheads. I always collected cards of the players on my team – the Yangs – which gave a bit of reality to the fantasy. I have a lot of Greg Maddux cards and Pedro Astacio, Denny Neagle (I was the only Butthead to select Rockies pitchers).

Why the Yangs?

In Star Trek Episode 52 “The Omega Glory” Kirk and crew find themselves in some alternate world where the good guys are the Yangs and bad buys are the Coms.

Back to sorting.

I’m a member of a facebook group called Baseball Card of the Day. Members post images of cards for various reasons, memories, updating about the status of their collections. Occasionally, there will be someone who talks about leaving their collection to their kids to pay for their college educations.

I say, do your kids a favor and cash in your cards while you’re still alive. If a guy like me who  has a pretty good idea as to how much a Frank Thomas 1990 Leaf card is worth and where I might find someone who would might buy it, an heir with no idea about the hobby will have a hard time figuring out how to parlay that 1989 complete set of Topps baseball cards into microbiology textbooks.

Baseball cards are for moms to decide to keep or throw away, it’s much less stressful.

By the way, If you’re holding a Joe Hesketh rookie card, it just went up in value because I threw mine away.

Baseball cards and life go full circle

My life transitions have pretty much mirrored my baseball card collecting. In baseball card milestones, I’m entering into the sixth phase of my life.

mazeroski

This is the 1961 Topps card with Bill Mazeroski rounding the bases after winning the 1960 World Series with a home run.

Phase 1, the 1960s, Growing up and JFK – I really didn’t get into baseball until the early 1960s. My family got a TV around that time and the first World Series I watched was in 1960 when the Pirates beat the Yankees. My maternal grandfather was a Yankees fan and my dad was a Yankees fan, which would make me a third generation Yankees fan.

Watching Bill Mazeroski hit that home run to win the series in 1960 is still etched in my mind and to this day, I’m not much of a Pirates fan. I have a 1960 Roberto Clemente that was abandoned to me by Pat Higgins since his dislike for the Pirates was even greater than mine!

As for baseball cards, I don’t think I bought a pack until 1962 when my ranging pattern expanded. My grandparents lived a few blocks from a Safeway and the Missile drugstore and I remember buying packs of Topps cards. In 1961, my 8th birthday favors were 1961 Topps baseball cards. Around that time was when I signed up for Little League and ended up playing for the Red Sox, of all things. In November 1963, my mom’s church circle group held their annual rummage sale in the Presbyterian Church basement.

wally moon

In 1963, I bought a Rawlings Wally Moon baseball glove at my mom’s church rummage sale. This is a 1963 Topps card.

I rummaged around and found a Wally Moon mitt and bought it for a quarter, which was my weekly allowance. It was the weekend after President Kennedy was murdered. Besides the glove, I remember many of the women talking about JFK, when one of the women – who was a staunch conservative – came out of the kitchen area and said “It serves him right.”

Being a kid, I was awestruck by the comment, I think the others were, too. By this time, the Beatles were big and Topps put out several years worth of Beatles cards which were sold at the Save More Drug Store. I bought a bunch of those but don’t know where the bulk of them went. I still covet my 45rpm copy of “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

nixon elvis

I lost interest in sports card collecting in the 1970s when I was in high school and college. I ended up voting for Richard Nixon in 1972.

Phase 2, the 1970s, High school, college – When I learned how to drive and was in high school and college, I out grew baseball card collecting and stashed the cards in old Quaker Oats boxes where they remained in the crawl space in my parent’s home in Laramie. Back then, there weren’t plastic storage boxes like there are now.

Luckily, my mother didn’t touch my cards and I eventually retrieved them. The reason cards are worth so much money today is because of moms who tossed out their kids’ collections while they were away.

I became more interested in politics back then and was involved in student government. I’m sorry to say, my first presidential vote in 1972 was for Richard Nixon. I was a Republican for a long time, until I was drummed out of the party for supporting John Vinich for U.S. Senate in 1988. Turns out, I probably was a Democrat all along.

munson rookie

Buzz Thurber was one of the first big time card collectors I knew. He had a complete set of the 1971 Topps cards which were tough to find in good condition.

Phase 3 – 1980s, started working – I got my first job and coincidentally, there was a resurgence in sports card collecting. I don’t know what started it all then, but some tipping point caused mostly guys to dig out their collections – myself included.

There were sports card stores opening and sports card trade shows happening around the country – mostly in the larger towns.

I was in Lander by this time and one of my friends, Buzz Thurber, was a bigger collector than I was. I was impressed that he had a set of the 1971 Topps cards. They have a black border and tough to find with edges not chipped up.

Buzz and I organized a small card show in the meeting room at the Crossroads Restaurant – which it was known back then. I always tell kids to study and get a good job so they can spend money on stuff like baseball cards and not have to ask for permission.

In 1995 I took my dad to see the replacement Yankees play the replacement Rockies in the first game at Coors Field.

In 1995 I took my dad to see the replacement Yankees play the replacement Rockies in the first game at Coors Field.

Phase 4 – 1990s, Moved to Colorado – I ended up staying in Boulder when the Rockies came to Denver in 1993. I went to Colorado, for what was originally a temporary stay when I worked for the Northern Arapaho Tribe setting up a “cultural conduit” between the tribe and its former homelands along the front range. The idea was to develop markets for Arapaho artists works.

I remember the first time I drove up to Laramie to visit my parents. My dad asked, “What are those green license plates doing on your car?” I had season tickets to the Rockies from the opening of Coors Field in 1995 until the All Star Game in 1998.

I forgot to mention that I joined a rotisserie baseball league in Lander. I didn’t quite get how to keep the stats since it was before computers and all the data was compiled by hand. My team was called the Yangs. As opposed to yin – yang, there is a Star Trek episode about an alternate world where the Civil War was fought not by the Yanks and Confederates, but the Yangs and the Congs.

In Boulder, I joined a league colloquially known as the Baseball Buttheads with Paul Pearson, Scott Deitler, Glenn Locke, et al. When I joined, it with my Yangs team, the data were figured quasi-manually, but with the explosion of fantasy sports, migrated to an online version. I kept baseball cards of all my players. I was the only team owner with enough guts to draft Colorado Rockies pitchers.

pine riders

My sports card store in Riverton was called Pine Riders.

Prior to my move to Colorado, my friend, John, and I – we both worked at the Wyoming State Journal started up a sports card store called Pine Riders in Riverton. He was a big sports card collector, too. That was a lot of fun buying and selling cards.

At our grand opening, we had former Yankees pitcher Bud Daley who still lives in Fremont County. I ran into Bud at the Wind River Casino working the slots a few months ago.  We also had former Cleveland Indian utility player Woody Held who lived in Dubois. He passed away in 2009.

bud daley

Bud Daley  makes his home in Riverton, Wyoming. He pitched the winning game in the 1962 World Series. He was a special guest when Pine Riders opened in Riverton.

It was around this time that the bottom started falling out of the market. The hobby became very weird. Topps had a corner on the hobby which was now being transformed into business. Two other companies, Donruss and Fleer came out with sets. All of a sudden, the market was flooded with cards.

To top it all off, a Walmart opened up in Riverton and if I didn’t know better, Walmart targeted Pine Riders and the office supply store across the street with predatory pricing.

Kids were bringing in cards they bought there for less than our wholesale price. Pine Riders slowly lost that part of the business which was a blessing in disguise since there were Donruss, Score, Topps, Fleer, Bowman, Leaf, Fleer Ultra, Upper Deck, Topps Stadium Club and a bunch of others. The store continued to do okay in the secondary market. I left the business when I moved to Colorado.

The old cards maintained their values, but for new collectors, artificial scarcity was created with unique “chase” cards that were traded and sold like stock. Those cards weren’t for collecting, but rather for making money. I think sports cards mirrored the dot com model. Whoever ended up with a suitcase full of chase cards ended up holding card board.

maris topps

Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record in 1961. All the boys in the neighborhood wanted to be Roger.

As for myself, I traded away my bulk cards which were sets spanning 1958 to 1990. I started collecting certain Yankees teams: 1996 the Seinfeld Yankees era with Jeter, Williams, O’Neill; 1977 – 78 with Reggie Jackson; 1961 – 62 with Mantle and Maris; 1953 my birth year, 1932 with Ruth at the end of his career; 1923 first year in Yankee Stadium and first World Series title, 1919 the year of the White Sox scandal NFL and Chicago Bears founder George Halas was on the team. Then lost interest.

ground zero

This is Ground Zero in October 2001. Every time I go to New York I go to the same corner and take a picture.

Phase 5 – the 2000s, Terrorism and baseball – September 11, 2001 was a strange day. I was working in Denver at the time. I didn’t have the radio or TV playing that morning. I rode the 204 bus to the RTD station in Downtown Boulder.

No chatter on the bus. There was not one mention of the World Trade Center terrorist attack until we pulled into the Table Mesa Park n Ride. When I got into Denver and on the 15 bus, the town was eerily quiet – no planes were in the sky.

Flash forward.

I’m a very experiential person and felt like I needed to get to New York City. Turned out the Yankees won the American League Pennant, but the World Series was delayed until late October because of the terrorist attacks. I flew from Denver to Boston and made my way to New York on Amtrak for games three and four. I bought game tickets on ebay.

    These are the two fans i befriended for game 3 of the 2001 World Series in Yankee Stadium. Jeter hits a walk off homer in the 10th.

These are the two fans i befriended for game 3 of the 2001 World Series in Yankee Stadium. Jeter hits a walk off homer in the 10th.

This trip, I stayed at the Hotel Pennsylvania which is across from Penn Station. It used to be well kept secret in New York City, but has since been “rediscovered” – at least they raised their rates.

The Yankees dropped the first two to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix. The security was tight getting into Yankee Stadium. The game was dramatic. President Bush threw out the first pitch.

A flag from the World Trade Center flew over the stadium. Lee Greenwood sang “I’m Proud to be an American”. Clemens pitched well, I think a three hitter and the Yankees win 2 – 1 on a hit by Scott Brosius.

Game four was quite the nail biter that went into the 10th inning. Paul O’Neil gets on base and Tino Martinez smacks one into the stands to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth off BH Kim.

jeter rookie

Derek Jeter retires this year. He was one of many Yankees who appeared on Seinfeld.

Kim stays in the game in the 10th and ends up facing Jeter who hits a walk off homer to take a three games to two lead. I sat with a couple New York guys.

Everyone was a Yankees fan that night.

Jeter was dubbed “Mr. November” for his heroics. He’ll likely be the only player to be known as that since I’d be surprised if any more World Series games are played in November.

babe ruth w517

I’ve been filling in my 1919, 1923 Yankees collection. eBay has taken the challenge out of collecting. All a hobbyist needs is money and can buy just about anything.

Phase 6 – 2013, Downsizing – I had some pretty serious health issues in 2013 and came to the realization that it’s time to start sort through my stuff. I’ve been threatening to do this for many years.

I was in the hospital and rehab place for six weeks; physical therapy for four weeks and have been on my own for six weeks.

The acid test will be when I take on the Bolder Boulder 10K foot race on Memorial Day. I joined a facebook baseball card group which compelled me to get out the boxes again. Now that I’m old, it’s time to let other people enjoy what i have and am selling and trading to lighten my load.

I’m moving cards, autographs, comic books and other ephemera on ebay. I’m converting the stuff that I no longer want into the few odd ball items I need to fill out some of my Yankees collections.

It’s very liberating but very time consuming. I’m still challenged by collecting and enjoy thumbing through my collection – I feel like a kid again!

Does anyone have an autograph of Jimmy Burke laying around – he was one of the coaches on the 1932 Yankees.?

Baseball

It’s baseball season.

I mentioned before that the main reason I moved to Colorado back in 1993 was because of baseball. Living in Wyoming for the first 40 years of my life, I’d been to exactly two Major League Baseball games.

One was at Wrigley Field in Chicago  and the second was at Yankee Stadium – both in the late 1980s. Reggie was traded to the Angels by then and Ryne Sandberg was still the Cubs’ second baseman.

henry alan

My neighbor Henry is a big Giants fan. I’m a third generation Yankees fan.

The last time I’d been to a game was around my birthday during early May 2013 when the Yankees were in Denver. I went to all of the four – game stand.

Today’s game was very exciting. I’m not much of a Rockies fan but being with three hard core Giants fans was a lot of fun. Colorado has a rich baseball history, but not much of a baseball tradition among fans or would-be fans.

The game was tied at the end of the 9th and the first wave of Rockies faithful headed to the turnstiles. The game was still tied at the end of the 10th and the next wave of fans raced for the gates.

The stadium was pretty much empty.

Then the Giants loaded the bases in the top half of the 11th and light-hitting Hector Sanchez launches a grand slam home run into the center landscape to take a 12 – 8 lead going into the Rockies half of the 11th. Bearded Giants closer Sergio Romo had a little trouble in a non-save situation and gave up a couple runs and eventually retired the side preserving the 12 – 10 win and avoiding the sweep.

Baseball is a strange game because of all the statistics. For instance, did you know the Giants have a lineup with three Brandon’s – Brandon Hicks, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford? Add in the Rockies Brandon Barnes and I believe this may be a Major League record for the number of Brandon’s in a game between two division rivals in April.

Did I mention that the Rockies don’t really have much baseball tradition?

I’ve been to a couple minor league Denver Bears games back in the early 1960s. By that time, the Bears were playing in the old Mile High Stadium and were the AAA affiliate for the New York Yankees. Growing up in the Rocky Mountain West, I was baseball starved, except for the Bears and playing Little League.

plains dairy trip

This was taken back in the early 1960s. I’m wearing the Yenkees cap hat given to me by my grandfather. I haven’t changed my wardrobe over the years.

My grandfather brought me a Yankees cap from one of his travels and my dad was a Yankees fan, so that would make me third generation.

My Little League team sold pancake breakfast tickets for a fund raiser and my Uncle George who along with my grandparents ran the Hiway Cafe on the South Greeley Highway.

He sold tickets on my behalf and one year and along with my teammates we all sold enough tickets to earn a trip to Denver to watch the Bears play which was a lot of fun.

I don’t remember any of the particulars of that game but was surprised when my dad came home with tickets to watch the Bears play the Yankees in an exhibition game later in the summer.

We went with a bunch of guys from my dad’s work, including Tony Rizzuto, who was related to former Yankees infielder Phil Rizzuto. We picked a guy I didn’t know who was an airman at Warren Air Force Base who was a big Yankees fan. I’m thinking the game was in 1963 or 64 because first baseman Moose Skowron was traded to the Dodgers by then and Joe Pepitone was the new first baseman

Our seats were in the right field bleachers. Roger Maris played a couple innings in right field and Mickey Mantle was in center. Bobby Richardson was at second, Tony Kubek at short and Clete Boyer was at third.

I think Yogi Berra was the manager and Ralph Houk was the general manager by then. Seems like Jake Gibbs got most of the catching duty that game, but Elston Howard and John Blanchard were still the main catchers.

Seeing that game is a highlight in my life experiences.

mazeroski

This is the 1961 Topps card with Bill Mazeroski rounding the bases after winning the 1960 World Series with a home run.

I started following baseball when we got a TV set in the early 1960s. I remember watching the World Series that year and the Yankees losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The image of Bill Mazeroski rounding the bases is still etched in my mind and to this day – remember? He hit the World Series – winning home run,

I’m still not much of a Pirates fan. Anyway, the following season was the friendly duel between Maris and Mantle in their quest to hit 61 home runs to surpass Babe Ruth’s record of 60.

triangle park

Many a baseball game was played at the Triangle Park in the Cole Addition of Cheyenne, Wyoming. The playground equipment is in the middle of what was our infield.

During that summer of 1961 my school mates played pickup baseball games at the Triangle Park in the Cole Addition of Cheyenne. Sometimes we played only with two or three on each side, but I do know that Husty Twitchell belted out 61 home runs well before Maris!

Part of my rekindled addiction to baseball – baseball cards.

I dug out a bunch of my baseball cards from storage. It had been maybe 15 years since I’d browsed through my collections. Back in the late early 1990s I traded all of my bulk collection for a start on the challenge of certain Yankees teams.

I started with the 1961 and 62 teams that won back to back World Series Championships, 1953 Yankees, which is my birth year. The toughest are the 1932 Yankees which still have Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig on the roster.

george halas

My final Yankees collection is the 1919 team. I was surprised to learn that George Halas – founder of the Chicago Bears and the NFL was on that team.

When I stopped paying attention to my hobby, I started collecting the 1919 Yankees – which was the year of the infamous White Sox cheating scandal.

The main reason I lost interest in the hobby was because of the glut or cards on the market and rise of the internet, which took all the challenge out of run-of-the mill collecting.I did fill out the few cards in the 1961 set I collected using ebay. When it gets down to the last few items of anything in a collection, you just want to be done with it, right?

Now that ebay has become better, I have found that ebay is really the only way I can fill out the 1919 collection since the cards and autographs are so scarce.

Back to baseball tradition.

I supported the Rockies from 1993 to 1998 and gave up my season tickets after the All Star game. That was quite the event for Denver and I’m glad I was able to experience it.

Compared to the Florida Marlins, a team that came into the league the same year as the Rockies, that franchise has enjoyed much more on-field success than the Rockies. The Marlins still have trouble filling the stadium seats, but have had better success on the field.

fb dad coors

I took my dad to the first game at Coors Field on March 31, 1995. It was the replacement Rockies playing the replacement Yankees.

The few times I’ve been to Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park in Boston, the air is electric. The fans are dedicated. Not only are all the seats filled, but the bars and restaurants around the parks are filled, too.

The Rockies are on track to have another mediocre season, but team management is poised to make a lot of money from the casual Rockies fans.

There’s no doubt that the New York and Boston markets have way more baseball tradition and only time can develop that.

I’m not sure how that will work out here in Colorado since the starting point of team ownership seems to be more about making as much money as possible and getting by with an inconsistent team on the field.

Although Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd is looking like a fantasy baseball genius by getting rid of Dexter Fowler and replacing him with Charlie Blackmon in center field.

Speaking of center field, it used to be that the upper center field deck was often times empty because no tickets were sold there because attendance was so low.

coors field empty seats

The Rockies previously didn’t sell seats in the right – center upper deck. This season, there’s a new “LoDo dining experience” call the Rooftop Bar up there now.

This year, additional seats were added and a premium bar – restaurant experience was added called The Roof Top.

My party didn’t make it up that far today, but it looked like everyone was having a good time.

I hope I’m wrong and the Rockies have a great season and make it to the World Series, so at least those patrons in the Roof Top bar will have something to cheer about.

Meanwhile, I’m looking for an autograph of 1932 Yankees coach Jimmy Burke, if anyone happens to have one laying around.