1977 Topps Baseball Set

Rose_ASThis weekend, I completed my 1977 Topps Baseball set from cards purchased second, third, and fourth-hand on Ebay and other websites.  I was born in 1977, so it was natural that I would collect this set.  Also, the Dodgers won the first of two consecutive NL pennants that year.  I may upgrade the key cards at some point, but for now I’ll enjoy them for what they are – colorful reminders of baseball in the 1970’s.

The final two cards that I purchased are #450 Pete Rose All Star, and #120 Rod Carew All Star.  The All Stars were dispersed throughout the set in 1977, and they had red and blue All Star banners at the bottoms.  Carew was not only an All Star in 1976, but he was AL MVP in 1977.

ReggieGuidryThe year 1977 is well known as the year Reggie Jackson became “Mr. October”, hitting three home runs in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series.  Actually, Reggie had been Mr. October in the early 1970’s with the A’s.  However, Reggie only received the nickname after Thurman Munson gave it to him in a post-1977 World Series interview.  Does anyone actually know a third member of those 1977 Yankees?  That’s right, Louisiana Lightning Ron Guidry.

LeadersI also love the subset of “League Leaders” cards that Topps creates every year.  It is simply a handful of cards depicting batting and pitching leaders for the previous season.  It is a snapshot of that particular season.  I mean, Strikeout Leaders Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan were prominent in 1970’s baseball.  Sometimes Topps hides this subset in the middle of the set, but “League Leaders” were out front in 1977.

I may try to find better looking examples of some of the cards in this set, but that could prove difficult since most of the cards came from Topps with defects.  Topps did not have good quality control in those days.  I could also finish my 1981 Topps Baseball Set.  The Dodgers actually won the World Series in that year.


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Mugu Rock and Danielson Monument

What are two places in Ventura County that I’ve never visited? The answer is given above. One place was accessible by bicycle, and the other by foot.


Rock Selfie

Last Monday, I rode my bicycle to Mugu Rock on the Pacific Coast Highway. Mugu Rock looks north toward Point Mugu Naval Air Station and south toward rocky coastline. It is essentially the dividing line between the farmlands and foothills of Oxnard and the winding curves and sheer cliffs of Pacific Coast Highway.


Rocky Coastline

I enjoyed this ride for a few reasons. First, it was relatively short – 22 miles round-trip. Second, I rode my bicycle on the Pacific Coast Highway. Although the highway portion of my trip was only about four of the 22 miles, it was exhilerating! It was also hard to focus on safety with the beautiful Point Mugu wetlands on my right and the high-speed cars on my left. Third, I was able to take advantage of the locally well-known west-to-east tailwind on the way out. Of course, I found on the way back that it had turned into a headwind.


Which Way?

Sunday, I hiked to the Danielson Monument in Point Mugu State Park. I started at Rancho Sierra Vista about 15 miles outside of Oxnard. The trail began at the Satwiwa Indian Cultural Center as the Satwiwa Indian Loop. At the top of the loop one may head west to the beach, as the Satwiwa Indians used to for trade, or east to Sycamore Canyon waterfall, the Hidden Valley overlook, and Danielson Monument.



Almost There

The waterfall turned out to be a small pool that attracted several bees, flies, and mosquitos. The riparian area which led to the waterfall was a welcome change from the hot, dry grasslands that lined most of the trail. I had missed the turnoff to Danielson, but I doubled back and found it. From there, the trail was about a mile, mostly uphill and with several switchbacks. I was surprised to see that Danielson Monument was not some natural formation but a monument to the man who donated the land to Point Mugu State Park. To see the monument was well worth the hike. On the way back, I saw a woodpecker hard at work on one of the few trees that had been unaffected by fire. My round trip was about 6 miles.


Danielson Monument



After the hike, I had fries, shake, and soda at In-and-out Burger – chica chica yeah! Thus, I erased some of the fitness gains I had made that week, but not the memories.

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Baseball Card Grab at Frank and Sons

Saturday, I made a trip to Frank and Son Collectibles Show east of Los Angeles. I picked up some baseball cards for my All Star collection, plus a couple of other cards that caught my eye.

1958_MaysFrank and Son is located in an industrial area, but it stands out among the office parks and storage warehouses because of its popularity and recognizable clientele.  If you like collectibles, then you should go to Frank and Son.  Inside, there were rows upon rows of semi-permanent booths filled with every kind of collectible, including animated TV characters, comics and action figures, and trading cards. There were also concession stands which was nice because it was about 12:30 when I arrived.  Instead of eating, however, I stayed on task.


When it’s complete, my All Star collection will include all baseball cards in the Topps All Star subsets from 1958 to present.  I have most of the cards from 1980 to present, so I decided to pick up some from the 1970’s.  I chose the Topps All Star cards because of their affordability and star appeal – I got the above Willie Mays card for $36!


I perused stacks of cards from 1974 through 1979.  I pulled every All Star I found – 14 in all – including a 1974 Topps Reggie Jackson / Billy Williams, 1975 Topps Rod Carew, and the four 1976 cards above (I already had the Penguin).

I also purchased a 1976 Nolan Ryan and a 1978 Star Rookie Catchers with Dale Murphy, Ernie Whitt, Bo Diaz, and Lance Parrish.  Look at that strapping young Ryan! He would pitch another 18 years.

It was a fun Saturday trip.  I picked up some cards for my All Star collection as well as two other beauties, and I enjoyed browsing through toys and games from my childhood.

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Sunday Night Grilling

Emily and I returned home Friday night from travel, and I resolved to grill the following Saturday or Sunday.  I quickly thought of a recipe for chicken that I had used before, and Emily took some thighs out of the freezer.  The rest of the meal came together throughout the weekend in a team effort.

Sunday afternoon, Emily scratch-made vinaigrette for the pasta salad that she would prepare from cheese-filled tortellini shells.  She added hard-boiled eggs, celery, and artichoke hearts.  I had made the rub for the chicken Saturday night.  The rub consisted of vegetables – scallions, bell pepper, jalapeno, and celery – herbs and spices – garlic, parsley, and thyme – and liquids – lime juice, soy sauce, and olive oil.  The ingredients were processed into a paste, which was rubbed onto the chicken Sunday morning.  For the third dish, I peeled and chopped red and russet potatoes and tossed them in butter, garlic, and parsley.  These were to be grilled in my vegetable basket.

I started a chimney-full of natural wood charcoal and was ready to grill within an hour.  There were too few coals for a prolonged grill session, and I mentioned to Emily my need for a taller chimney.  The chicken was seared skin-side down, flipped three times, and cooked for 30 minutes with near perfect results.  There was even a smoky taste imparted by the rub.  The pasta salad was flavorful, crunchy, and unique – I did say that it was made from cheese-filled pasta?  The lone failure was that the potatoes need time in the oven in addition to the thirty minutes on the grill.

The grilling process was as enjoyable as the food.  While we waited for the coals to burn and the food to cook, I savored a Made West Standard and Emily made plans for the plants and trees in our front-yard.  The cat watched us and the birds through our front window.  By the end of the night, we had a lot of dirty dishes, but we also had full bellies and buoyed spirits.


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A Letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama,

I am writing so that I can learn first-hand what motivated you to say the following at the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this month:

And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.  In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.  Michelle and I returned from India — an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity — but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs — acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhi, the person who helped to liberate that nation.

I am concerned about your contentious remarks as well as the message you sent.

First, the use of the metaphor “high horse” was particularly egregious.  If anyone was on a high horse, it was you—lecturing the audience on the supposed misdeeds committed in the name of Christ.

Second, do you honestly believe what you said above, particularly the phrase, “…remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” or were you simply speaking off the cuff?  If the former, then how do you respond to Bill Donahue’s call for an apology for that remark?  Do you understand the history of the crusades well enough to make a blanket statement like that?  Furthermore, do you equate the instances you mention above with the terror perpetrated by ISIS in the Middle East?  Soldiers and sailors have spoken about how evil these terrorists are.  I’d like to hear that you are giving the soldiers and sailors the leadership they need to defeat this enemy instead of hearing about how this enemy is not unique in world history.

Lastly, did you believe that your audience needed to hear this message?  Do you have some specific knowledge of Christian leaders in this country who are condoning or allowing terror to be committed in the name of their religion?  I admit that the general message of rooting out evil in our communities is a good message, and one that is appropriate for the leader of this country to deliver.  America should continue to be a light to the world.  I’d like to believe that your contentious remarks were simply ill-considered.  I know that some in the media have already judged them to have been spoken from malice or ignorance.

Please respond to my questions as I would very much appreciate learning your intents and purposes first-hand rather than inferring them from second and third hand sources.


Casey Barker

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21 Things New Yorkers Should Know About the Rest of Us

ImageMy New York friend liked the article, “21 Things You Have to Explain about New York City to Out-of-towners,” by Dave Infante, and I ran across it last night on my Facebook wall.  The article proudly told of the unique and great things that New York City offers, but it also implied that those who don’t live in the Big Apple are hicks.  It’s natural and fine to be proud of one’s city.  And I am almost certain that I am a hick.  So below are my 21 responses to Mr. Infante and his New York City readers, to show them that being a hick has advantages.

  1. South Street Seaport is completely irrelevant  I don’t know what South Street Seaport is.  I guess it is irrelevant to me, too.
  2. Nobody goes to the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, or Rockefeller Center, either  We have cultural sites out here, too.  They’re Civil War battlegrounds, historic ranches, etc…, and they’re beautiful.
  3. Yes, it’s always this loud. No, it doesn’t “bother” us  All the big cities I’ve been in are loud.  Quiet is nice, too.
  4. You have to walk faster than that  I agree with you, there.  We all have important things to do.
  5. Our bars close at 4am every night  That’s great.  I have work in the morning.
  6. Cabbies don’t take advantage of tourists  Maybe if you had your own car, you wouldn’t need a cabbie.
  7. We don’t call it the “Big Apple”, and we barely even call it “New York” or “NYC”  Sorry, I missed that one.
  8. The Italian food in Little Italy is terrible  Try San Diego’s Little Italy.  Or try searching on Yelp.
  9. Streets are short, avenues are long, and it’s a grid  OK.  Our streets aren’t paved, and there is a scrappy cat or dog lurking on every corner.
  10. Yes, it’s true: we basically all live in glorified closets  That’s too bad.
  11. Everybody jaywalks  We don’t have paved streets, so we obviously can’t afford crosswalks.
  12. That annoying TV in the back of your cab?  We like to talk to our cabbies, but only when our cars are in the shops.
  13. There’re certain times that you will not get a cab  Like if everyone’s car broke down at once?
  14. Beyond hot dogs and pretzels, do not be afraid to eat from carts  We do, everyday.  I bet your truck tacos are made with flour tortillas, topped with something fancy and unrecognizable, and cost five dollars.Image
  15. That smell? It’s piss  Gross.  We have the smells of dairies and farms, where you get all of your fresh milk, meat, fruits, and vegetables.
  16. The city is empty on Summer weekends  You’re welcome here.  We grill in our backyards in the summer.
  17. We only eat at Katz’s Delicatessen when we’ve been at one/many of these bars  To each his own.
  18. No, the Hamptons aren’t “right there”  How does anyone get there if no one has a car?
  19. Don’t talk to us about the Knicks  I won’t.  I don’t like basketball.  By the way, the Yankees didn’t even make the playoffs last year.
  20. We find absolutely nothing weird about buying groceries at a bodega  Neither do we, except here it’s called Walgreen’s, and it’s open 24 hours.  You just need a car to get there.
  21. Watch out for street-corner slush lakes  Well, if you fall in, just drive to the nearest Walgreen’s, and buy new pants and socks.  Oh yeah, no one has a car.

When New York City becomes too much for you, you are always welcome here-in Oxnard, Visalia, or any of the other great cities in America.





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Fans of Climate Change

I found this article about how a people’s perceptions of cold weather are influenced by their views on climate change.  But what about people’s perceptions of warm weather?  I’ve recently begun to hear things like, “It’s unseasonably warm today.  How can people still not believe climate change is happening?”  Or, “It’s January.  There’s no snow on the ground.  Must be climate change.”  I’ve said these things facetiously, but I am surprised to hear them stated with any seriousness.


It’s Hot Out There.

First, who doesn’t believe that climate change is happening?  Even conservatives, the supposed climate change denialists, cite the fact that climate change has happened in the past, and will continue to happen regardless of what actions people take to stop it.

Second, just because it’s warm does not mean that climate change is happening.  The earth has warmed on average less than two degrees Fahrenheit in 100 years.    Can a person even feel the difference between a 74 degree day and a 76 degree day?  Were you expecting a snow day, and instead had to put on shorts?  Oh sorry, climate change happens!

Alas, I know what people mean when they say climate change.  They mean climate change caused by greenhouse-gas spewing, greedy businesses and corporations.  If it is a leap to say that climate change is happening because it’s warm today, it is more than a leap to say that man is causing climate change because it is warm today.

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