Lasorda enters Albuquerque HOF

The former Dukes manager became the first to join the city’s baseball hall.

SANDIA PUEBLO, N.M. (AP) — Before his Hall of Fame career as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tommy Lasorda spent one magical season as skipper of one of the best teams in minor league history.

For his role leading the talent-stocked 1972 Albuquerque Dukes to the Pacific Coast League title, Lasorda on Wednesday became the first inductee of the Albuquerque Baseball Hall of Fame.

“I have great memories here,” Lasorda said. “It was the first year they were in Triple-A. We had a good team and we meant to give great results, which we did. We won everything.”

The Dukes went 92-56 that season, led by a lineup that included Ron Cey, Davey Lopes, Tom Paciorek, Von Joshua, Steve Yeager, Joe Ferguson, Larry Hisle, Burt Hooton and Charlie Hough.

“In ’72 I enjoyed one of the finest seasons I’ve ever been part of. Great team. Great bunch of guys,” Lasorda told more than 700 baseball executives, players and fans at a luncheon hours before Wednesday night’s Triple-A All-Star game.

It was high praise, considering Lasorda also managed the 1970 Spokane Indians, who won their pennant by 26 games and are considered by some to be the top minor league team in history.

“I felt the team we had here in ’72 was better than the one in ’70,” Lasorda said. “That’s the fantastic thing about it. Being inducted into the Albuquerque Hall of Fame, that’s special. It brings memories back of the good times I had.”

Former players return

Lasorda was roasted by Paciorek, an 18-year major league veteran who emceed the event, and Steve Garvey, the 10-time All-Star and 1974 National League MVP who began his pro career under Lasorda in 1969 at Ogden, Utah.

“I don’t think the committee could have picked a better person than Tommy,” Garvey said. “You look at who had the biggest impact and there’s no question he was a disciple for many good minor league players.”

The Albuquerque Isotopes, the top minor-league farm club for the Florida Marlins, recently announced plans for a baseball Hall of Fame in New Mexico’s largest city, and there wasn’t much debate about where to start.

“Albuquerque has such a tremendous history of baseball with the Dodgers and the Dukes,” Isotopes general manager John Traub said. “Tommy Lasorda being the first Triple-A manager here, it was a natural, a no-brainer.”

The city’s affiliation with the Dodgers, which started in the 1960s, ended in 2000 when a group purchased the minor league club and moved it to Portland, Ore. The Dodgers now have their top farm team in Las Vegas.

Baseball in Albuquerque was revived in 2003 when the Calgary Cannons relocated.

Still, it’s difficult — even for those loyal to the Marlins — to deny the rich links with the Dodgers. Many L.A. stars came through Albuquerque, including Garvey, Hough, Mike Piazza, Eric Karros and others.

“There are still a lot of Dukes and Dodgers fans in Albuquerque, and we appreciate that,” Traub said.

Though he has made other visits in recent years, Lasorda marveled at the growth in Albuquerque on this trip. He said he remembered it as a vastly different city in the early ’70s.

“When I was here, I’d tell people if they dropped a bomb in the middle of downtown it wouldn’t have done $40 in damage,” he said. “Now, it has grown by leaps and bounds and it looks fantastic. So many more people living here now.”

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