Shortly before a pregame ceremony inducting him into the Albuquerque Pro Baseball Hall of Fame along with Dave Stewart and Richard “Dick” Moots, former Albuquerque Dukes and Los Angeles Dodgers star Ron Cey heard a familiar sound.
He had politely stopped his conversation with a local reporter: “That’s my song,” Cey said with a big smile.
The reporter and Cey’s guest at Saturday’s Albuquerque Isotopes game each politely acknowledged the comment about the unfamiliar song and moved on.
“No, I mean that is MY song,” Cey insisted.
Sure enough, playing over the speakers at Isotopes Park as an announced crowd of 9,114 was filing into the stadium was “One Game at a Time,” followed by “Third Base Bag,” the two songs Cey, himself, recorded in the mid-1970s when moonlighting as a singer. But his day job brought him a little more fame.
Cey, like fellow Hall of Fame inductee Stewart, used Albuquerque as his final launching pad to Dodgers stardom with stellar stints with the Albuquerque Dukes, the longtime minor league affiliate of the Dodgers.
It was fitting, then, that Saturday’s Hall of Fame induction, as the Isotopes always see to, coincided with the always-popular Dukes Retro Night game at Isotopes Park.
The home team Isotopes – donning Dukes yellow and red jerseys of yesteryear – lost Saturday’s game 10-5 to the visiting Sugar Land Space Cowboys.
But the Dukes-heavy nostalgia overload of the night still brought about plenty of smiles, and plenty of sales at the Dukes merchandise stand, which had a line pregame of a few hundred fans waiting to shop – a line that was still 45 people long in the fifth inning.
“This year has been different than in other years because this is the 50th anniversary,” said Steve Palmisano, owner of the Albuquerque Dukes store and of the official trademark of the team that played its final game in the city in 2000.
The store – the brick and mortar version located at 621 Amherst Dr. NE and online at ABQDukes.com – has special 50th anniversary branded gear for sale and, if any merchandise was left at the end of Saturday’s game, it couldn’t have been much.
“This community still identified with that logo. It’s great,” Palmisano said.
That logo, meanwhile, the one seen on hats, shirts, jerseys and even tattoos all over Isotopes Park on Saturday night, was first sketched in 1972 – a half century ago – by Moots, the Rio Rancho graphic artist who on Saturday first acknowledged he didn’t think he belonged in a hall of fame along with great players like Cey and Stewart.
Then he realized, he told fans, that he threw as many shutouts as Cey ever did and hit as many home runs as Stewart ever did.
“So maybe I do belong,” the 84-year-old joked.
As for Stewart, on hand with family and his wife, he said Albuquerque was a special stop on his baseball journey and that he was happy to be back in such a beautiful city and ballpark, even if Isotopes Park was missing the famed outfield lava rocks and “drive-in” parking lot beyond the outfield fence where the pitcher known as “Smoke” fondly remembers hearing fans honk horns and flash headlights after big plays.
TIP OF THE CAP: While the familiar red and yellow Dukes jerseys were worn by the home team on Saturday, the players still sported black Isotopes hats.
Palmisano said continued supply chain issues with New Era had led to a smaller inventory of Dukes hats ready for the team.
PLAYING MY SONG: Cey was quoted in a 2015 MLB.com article saying his single “Third Base Bag” may have sold only about 30 singles worldwide, but it did receive regular play in Dodgers spring training games while he was on the team, he said.
Which is why he was all the more impressed with the surprise playing of both of his songs on Saturday, the handy work of Director of Game Production Kris Shepard.
Also on the play list was “Smoke on the Water” in honor of Stewart. But was there a song honoring Moots?
Well, not exactly. Rick Dees’ “Disco Duck” was the fourth song listed on the control room’s run sheet – more related to the “retro” theme for Dukes night than any particular tie in with Moots.
‘TOPES SUNDAY: Vs. Sugar Land
6:05 p.m., Isotopes Park, 610 AM/95.9 FM
PROMOTIONS: Bark in the Park
PROBABLES: Space Cowboys RHP Chad Donato (3-6, 4.77) vs. Isotopes RHP Ryan Feltner (4-1, 3.86)
SATURDAY: Visiting Sugar Land had 15 hits and five home runs — four off Albuquerque starter Corey Oswalt — to beat the Isotopes 10-5 in front of an announced Isotopes Park crowd of 9,114 on Dukes Retro Night.
Isotopes LF Sean Bouchard hit his 12th home run of the season, but there wasn’t much more on the highlight reel on the night for the home team.
With the win, Sugar Land won back-to-back games and takes the condensed three-game series. The Space Cowboys already have nine homers in this series.