It’s a good thing Dick Moots liked that “friendly” looking, baseball-playing conquistador creation he sketched out on his drawing board a half century ago.
Lord knows the 84-year-old Rio Rancho resident wouldn’t have much luck avoiding it if he wanted to at this point.
“I never dreamed that it would last this long,” Moots said Thursday, talking about his 1972 creation of the now iconic Albuquerque Dukes logo. “It’s because of the fans, they just really took to it. … It’s amazing. It’s almost a symbol for the city, these days – one of them, anyway.”
Now, 50 years after Richard “Dick” Moots created the logo, and 22 years after the Albuquerque Dukes baseball team ceased to exist (the franchise moved to Portland, Oregon, after the 2000 season and changed its name), the Dukes logo lives on strong and proud. It is seen regularly on hats, jerseys and has even become a rather popular tattoo choice for those ink-loving New Mexicans looking to add some hometown or home-state pride (and who presumably have already adorned some part of their bodies with a Zia symbol).
On July 23, along with Dave Stewart and Ron Cey, two former Dukes players who went on to win World Series MVP honors in storied major league careers, the graphic designer from Chicago who moved to New Mexico in 1970 will be inducted into the Albuquerque Baseball Hall of Fame – a venture of the Albuquerque Isotopes.
The trio will be inducted in an on-field ceremony prior to the Isotopes game against Sugar Land in a game that, appropriately, also falls on the team’s annual Dukes Retro Night with the home team wearing the familiar Dukes uniforms.
“I’m thrilled. I’m delighted. I’m honored. I just never expected it,” said Moots, a sports fan, sure, but one who grew up playing basketball and even had a scholarship for a year to play at Loyola Chicago before going to art school instead.
“When I got the call from (Isotopes general manager) John Traub, he said, ‘We’d like to put you into the Hall of Fame.’ I said, ‘What Hall of Fame?’ I had no idea what Hall of Fame he was talking about.”
Thursday, at McKernan Hall in the main entrance to Isotopes Park, Moots showed off past work, including alternate prototype sketches of the Dukes logo, and told the story behind the creation of the logo in 1972 with photos of past Dukes legends lining the Hall of Fame wall behind him.
Traub said that while it’s probably “long overdue,” it also seems fitting that Moots’ induction into the Hall of Fame comes on the 50-year anniversary of the team taking on the name Dukes and the birth of a logo that has remained the same since Moots and then-Dukes General Manager Charley Blaney in the months before the 1972 season settled in on the design you still see around the state today.
Moots called the creation of the logo “a last-minute type of thing.”
Albuquerque’s Double-A baseball team at the time was affiliated with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who decided to shift their Triple-A farm team affiliation to Albuquerque in 1972. Former Albuquerque Tribune Sports Editor Carlos Salazar planted the idea into Blaney’s head that it would be a good time to change the name of the Albuquerque Dodgers to the Albuquerque Dukes – a nickname of various sports teams in Albuquerque earlier in the century.
A Southern California man, Blaney is said to have had little concern the name would actually change, so he agreed to a “Change the Name” contest with a ballot Moots created being published daily in both the Journal and Tribune for several weeks.
“The ‘Dodgers’ was winning like crazy,” Moots recalls. “On the last day of the competition, Carlos comes in with a whole bunch of ballots with the Dukes on it. Charlie couldn’t believe it. He then got told that the Dodgers weren’t happy, but he told them, we’ve got to do it. And that’s how I got to do the logo.”
Moots also created the Dukes mascot, uniform lettering, company letterhead, game programs and numerous advertisements and outfield signage throughout the 1970s. That’s in addition to countless other logos and designs seen around Albuquerque through the years, maybe most notably the first official Balloon Fiesta logo.
While Moots has received some celebrity and recognition through the years for his creation, including throwing out first pitches at past Dukes Retro Night games, he admits he never saw induction into the Hall of Fame coming.
Lightheartedly, Moots said, “And John had the good sense to say, ‘Hey, we’re gonna put you into the Hall of Fame.'”