Arguably Rio Rancho’s best-known commercial artist – even at the age of 84 – Dick Moots is headed into the Albuquerque Professional Baseball Hall of Fame on July 23.

“I was thrilled to hear it,” Moots said Thursday, after the news broke via a press release. “I get to throw out a first pitch.”

The iconic Albuquerque Dukes logo, a half-century old now.

Dick Moots stands near his recent exhibition of his work at Broadmoor Senior Center, (Herron photo)

It won’t be the first time he’s done that, but, unlike the Hall’s two other new inductees – pitcher Dave Stewart and third baseman Ron Cey – he never played in a ballgame.

Moots created the iconic Dukes logo, which countless Albuquerque residents still crave on T-shirts, caps and, according to Moots, an ankle tattoo.

The story’s been told many times.

It was after the 1971 baseball season ended, and the Los Angeles Dodgers – then with a Class AA Texas League team, the Albuquerque Dodgers – decided to move their Class AAA team in Spokane, Wash., to Albuquerque before the 1972 season.

The city’s two newspapers (Journal and Tribune) held a name-the-team contest, allowing fans to choose between Dodgers and Dukes. Dukes won out.

So, who to turn to for an “image” of sorts for the new mascot, quickly decided upon to be a conquistador of sorts? The job fell into the hands of Moots, still living in the same house he moved his family from Chicago into in 1970.

He was working with Aquarius Press, a new firm, at the time and, through that position as creative director, met the Albuquerque team’s general manager, Charlie Blaney.

“(Blaney) couldn’t believe they wouldn’t pick ‘Dodgers,’” Moots recalled. “When they picked Dukes, it was already the preseason. He said, ‘Dick, we’re going to need a logo, and we need it soon.’”

Moots came up with several sketches representing a Duke. A yellow-helmeted version got the nod. He also designed uniform lettering, program covers, schedule posters, letterhead, envelopes and business cards for staffers for the team’s first 10 seasons.

Surprisingly, Moots said on the “Drawing the Duke” video, all of the graphics were done by hand – “all pre-computer graphics,” he said. He still has all the original artwork at his home.

His relationship with the Dukes ended in 1980, Moots said, when the team was sold to an East Coast group and the new general manager, Pat McKernan, basically dumped Moots because he didn’t want to pay for such stuff.

The Dukes logo, purchased by Fred Matteucci after the Dukes moved to Portland, Ore., after the 2000 season, is still popular and often seen in the area.

“I still see people with Dukes stuff on. I’ll say, ‘Nice cap you’ve got with that Dukes logo. I did that 50 years ago,’” he said.

Meet the other inductees

Also tossing first pitches on July 23 in a pre-game ceremony at Isotopes Park as part of Dukes Retro Night are Cey and Stewart.

Cey played for the Albuquerque Dodgers (1969-70) and Dukes (1972), becoming one of the most productive players to play in Albuquerque. He led the 1970 Dodgers with 22 doubles and ranked first on the historic 1972 Dukes squad in games played (142), hits (163) home runs (23), RBI (103) and walks (117).
Cey played 16 prolific years in the Major Leagues with the Dodgers, Cubs and A’s. He was a six-time N.L. all-star, and named co-MVP of the 1981 World Series when the Dodgers defeated the New York Yankees in six games.

Stewart played for the Dukes twice (1977, 1979-80), and won 27 games over two-plus seasons while in Albuquerque — third-most in Dukes single-season history — including a Pacific Coast League-leading 15 triumphs in 1980. He led the Dukes to the PCL championship that season, their first of what would be three PCL titles in a row.

Stewart spent 16 illustrious years in the Major Leagues with the Dodgers, Rangers, Phillies, Athletics and Blue Jays. He won 168 career games and is a three-time World Series champion, and was named 1989 World Series MVP.

Following the game, there will be a Fireworks Extravaganza.

First pitch is set for 6:35 pm while gates open at 5:30 pm.