ALBUQUERQUE — About the only thing missing were the lava rocks.
Wearing the mustard yellow throwback jerseys and all-red caps of the defunct Albuquerque Dukes, the Albuquerque Isotopes channeled their predecessors’ historically dominant hitting by hammering visiting Iowa 15-3 before a sellout crowd of 13,798 Saturday on Dukes Retro Night.
Every year the ’Topes honor Albuquerque’s baseball history by wearing old Dukes duds, and each July the club holds a pregame induction ceremony for the newest members of the Albuquerque Professional Baseball Hall of Fame.
The 2012 class was four deep. Three of them played on the 1982 Dukes squad that won a Pacific Coast League title with a roster that included future big league mainstays Orel Hershiser, Greg Brock, John Franco, Sid Bream, Candy Maldonado, Alejandro Pena, Sid Fernandez, Kevin Kennedy and Mike Marshall.
Brock, Kennedy, Bream and former Albuquerque Tribune sports editor Carlos Salazar make up the 2012 induction class. Brock and Kennedy were on hand for the ceremony. Salazar passed away in 1998, while Bream was locked into a previous speaking engagement.
For Kennedy, his memories of the old Albuquerque Sports Stadium run deep. Released just days into the 1982 season, he was signed by the Dodgers and assigned to Triple-A Albuquerque in the second week of the season. A catcher, he remembers what most players from that era do — the old park’s unique drive-in area that encircled the outfield wall.
Fans could drive around the back of the stadium and take in a game from their cars. The lot stood about 20 feet above the playing surface. A steep embankment of basketball-sized lava rocks were placed from the base of the outfield wall up to the drive-in area.
Brock was known to visit the rocks quite frequently in ’82. His 44 home runs that season set a Pacific Coast League record.
“I remember watching Greg rattle the lava rocks a lot out there,” Kennedy said. “I missed his first two homers but I was here for all the rest. He put a lot of balls out there.”
Brock laughs when he recalls those days. After playing parts of two years with the Dukes, he spent the better part of 10 years in the big leagues.
He had a chance to return to Albuquerque in 2005 when his son’s high school baseball team from Colorado played a tournament at Isotopes Park. Rebuilt on the site of the old Sports Stadium, Isotopes Park is regarded as one of the top minor league facilities in the country.
While the old lava rocks have been replaced by a grassy berm in right field, a tree-lined backdrop in center and a giant scoreboard and picnic area in left, the feel of the old park is still there, he said.
“It’s as nice as the old big league stadiums used to be when we played,” Brock said, glancing around. “The old Dukes stadium, though, back in ’82 was probably state of the art. But this place is nice. You probably don’t get many errors like you used to at the old place.”
Kennedy returned to Albuquerque to manage the Dukes for three seasons between 1989 and ’91. His 1990 club won a PCL title with a roster that included more than a dozen players who eventually played in the major leagues.
While the ’82 season was fun, Kennedy said, the managerial run he had with the championship team is something he’ll never forget because that was the season the parent Dodgers stocked most of the organization’s top prospects in Double-A.
“The ’82 team was great, but I didn’t have a lot to do with winning the championship because I didn’t play in any of the playoff games,” he said. “I think they would have won it all without me.”
The one certainty about Saturday’s rout of Iowa was that the Isotopes didn’t need any help from the ’82 Dukes. After spotting the Cubs a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning, Albuquerque and its bright yellow jerseys sent 12 men to the plate in an eight-run frame.
The Isotopes added another run in the second, then hit three home runs in a five-run fifth inning to take a 14-3 lead.
Six players had at least two hits, including a double and two singles by Matt Angle in a 4-for-4 night. Trent Oeltjen went deep twice while Jerry Sands, Josh Fields and Tim Federowicz also hit home runs.
The win is all part of the magic that Dukes Retro Night seems to provide. In eight games wearing the old team’s uniforms, the Isotopes are now 7-1.
NOTES: Bream now lives in the Pittsburgh area. It’s an ironic twist considering his most memorable big league moment came in 1992 when he slid in safely with the winning run that helped the Atlanta Braves eliminate the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Championship Series. The Braves eventually lost in the World Series to Toronto. … The Isotopes and I-Cubs continue their four-game series Sunday night. Albuquerque has won nine of the last 10 games between the teams this season. They play the final game in the set Monday at noon. … The Isotopes are back in first place in the PCL’s American South Division. They are tied with Oklahoma City with an identical 58-42 records.