The 30th anniversary of the biggest caper in Visalia minor league baseball history occurs next year.
On April Fool's Day 1985, the Visalia Oaks team bus went missing from its parking place at a car dealership.
The team's owners -- insurance broker Stan Simpson and the late Dr. Don "Doc" Higgins, both Visalians -- quickly determined that pranksters had struck.
Simpson received a tongue-in-cheek ransom note, typewritten in the era before email.
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"Simpson et al," the note said. "If you want to see your bus again, the following demands MUST be met."
A list of 10 demands followed, including executive box seats for the 1985 Visalia Oaks season, free beer, free Pauline Taylor hot dogs, reserved parking, a dome over Recreation Park, valet service in the restrooms and an escalator to the executive box seats.
"You better respond favorably to these ransom demands, in writing," the note said.
A Postal Connection address was included and the tagline read "Who You Gonna Call? Busbusters." (The popular "Ghostbusters" movie had been released the previous year.)
Right away, Simpson suspected banker Vic Dossey was behind the high jinks.
He wrote a reply to the ransom note, noting that his partner Higgins "has decided to sell his half of the franchise because of the humiliation he has suffered. So, you might contact your favorite banker to secure the necessary funds to buy his interest."
But Dossey kept a straight face.
Daily ransom notes arrived with rhymes such as "Don't worry, don't fret, don't even fuss / Just sit back and wonder who has the bus."
A Polaroid of the missing bus was attached to a milk carton and delivered to Buckman-Mitchell Insurance.
Meanwhile, tempers in the front office of the ball club frayed because the season was about to start. There was talk about notifying baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth.
Finally, on April 11, during a Chamber of Commerce mixer at the ball park, the missing bus rumbled through the left-field gate.
Dignitaries and community stalwarts bounded out the door, including Sheriff Bob Wiley, Mayor Berkley Johnson, Mary Louise Vivier, Lorie Mangine, Kay Nelson, LeRoy Swiney, Pauline Taylor, Don Westbrook, Cal Bennett, Ed Hurlbutt, Janet Sanford, Ken and Carmelita Conn and others.
Also in the mix, to Simpson's surprise: his own mother, Lois Simpson.
The moment of truth had arrived.
Dossey and two of Simpson's old-time Visalia friends -- David Hyde and Steve Chrisman -- got out of John Vartanian's limousine, each wearing T-shirts that stated "Bus Busters" on the front and "We Did It" on the back.
Police Chief Ray Forsyth told his officers to put the trio in handcuffs.
"We were 'arrested,' " Dossey recalled.
A party commenced.
"It was a gala," Simpson said. "The bus is back and the Oaks are saved. You couldn't have manufactured better publicity."
Dossey, retired to North Carolina, still has the ransom notes and newspaper clippings.
"It truly caught the attention of folks," he said. "It created its own legs."