Albuquerque returns as Isotopes

By Will Lingo
September 5, 2002


Albuquerque will get its Isotopes.

The Pacific Coast League team announced yesterday that it will be called the Isotopes when it returns Triple-A baseball to Albuquerque next season. The team is moving from Calgary, where the Calgary Cannons just completed their final season in the PCL.

The new team name comes from an episode of “The Simpsons,” in which the owner of the hometown Springfield Isotopes–so named because of the local nuclear power plant–considers moving the team to Albuquerque. Thanks to a hunger strike by Homer Simpson, the team remains in Springfield.

“In bringing baseball back to Albuquerque, we wanted to bring something that was fun, that was playful, that demonstrated great family entertainment to the fans here,” new team owner Ken Young said at a press conference announcing the nickname.

The nickname was among the several thousand entries in a name-the-team contest, but it was clear months ago that it was the one team officials favored. In a survey by The Albuquerque Tribune, more than 57 percent of those responding preferred Isotopes as the name for the new team.

The other obvious choice would have been Dukes, the name of the city’s previous team and a nickname that dates back to 1915 and the city’s first professional franchise in the Rio Grande Association. It comes from the city’s nickname, the Duke City, which stems from the city being named for Spain’s Duke of Alburquerque (the extra “R” was eventually dropped).

The modern Albuquerque Dukes joined the PCL in 1972 after 10 seasons in the Texas League and had been affiliated with the Dodgers since 1963. That franchise moved to Portland, Ore., for the 2001 season, and the Dodgers switched their affiliation to Las Vegas.

The move left Albuquerque without minor league baseball for the first time since 1959, but like that one-year break, the city will not be without a franchise for long. After the Dukes left, the city decided to spend $10 million to renovate Albuquerque Sports Stadium and presumably attract a new team.

Young bought the Cannons last year and announced plans to bring baseball back to Albuquerque. In addition to a new nickname, the team will be affiliated with the Marlins, not the Dodgers.

The Isotopes nickname actually makes sense for the area too. Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque got its start in 1945 as part of the Manhattan Project. The lab designs and produces about 90 percent of the components for nuclear weapons. And Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the atomic bomb was developed, is north of the city.

“Something new was needed,” Young said. “The team was new, the stadium was new. We felt we needed a new name.”

The new logo does use the same colors as the old Dukes logo, which Young said was a way to keep some of the Dukes tradition alive in the new franchise. The logo also includes silver.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Baseball League announced plans to place a team in Calgary for its inaugural season. A CBL delegation will be in Calgary today to meet with former Cannons owner Russ Parker.

“We love Calgary, its a great baseball town, and a perfect fit for Canada’s new professional circuit,” said CBL chairman Tony Riviera. “We’ve been in discussions with Russ Parker and hope to announce a lease arrangement for next season in Burns Stadium shortly.”

The CBL opens in May 2003. Commissioner Ferguson Jenkins, the only Canadian inducted into the Hall of Fame, said Calgary fans are looking forward to baseball after this season.

“We know fans are anxious to have professional baseball back next year, as demonstrated by the petition circulated at the Cannons last home stand,” Jenkins said. “Over 2,500 people signed their names to let the city–and our league–know they want professional baseball in Calgary.”