Albuquerque Hall of Fame Names Three

Albuquerque Dukes fans may have a special incentive to attend the July 29 game of the Albuquerque Isotopes, which will feature the annual "Retro Night," The three-year-old Albuquerque Professional Baseball Hall of Fame will grow by three players and one of the greatest AAA teams of all time that evening during induction ceremonies.

Jesse Priest, Tom Paciorek, Dennis Lewellyn and the 1972 Albuquerque Dukes are the members of the 2009 class.

The Class of 2009 will join Class of 2007 inductee Tommy Lasorda and the larger Class of 2008 – former team owners John McMullan and Tom Bolack, the late G.M. Pat McKernan, former player/manager Hersh Martin, 1981 Minor League Player of the Year Mike Marshall, former skipper Del Crandall, former Albuquerque Journal sports editor J.D. Kailer and the 1981 Dukes team – on the walls of McKernan Hall.

This year's induction class was decided by the selection committee, which includes a former Dukes infielder, Terry McDermott, who had a cup of coffee – nine games -- with the Dodgers in 1972. The committee met before the Isotopes' game of May 28, discussing a list that contained close to 80 nominees.

As usual, these names will elicit different reactions from several decades of Albuquerque Dukes fans: Jesse Priest: Turning 80 this year, Priest's baseball career began in 1949, after he served in the Navy. He pitched in Albuquerque in 1951 and 1952, compiling outstanding marks each year.

In 1951, Priest was 19-4 in 30 games, including 19 starts. The next year, he and his wife Barbara were married at home plate at Tingley Field on 12 in front of a crowd of 3,631 – and if they all stayed around, they saw him win the game, 15-1. He finished the '52 season with a record of 19-9.

Albuquerque sold the right-hander's contract before the 1953 season to Shreveport of the Texas League. After ending his playing career because of a calcium deposit in his pitching arm, He later became a Texas Ranger – not a ballplayer, but a law enforcement officer.

Tom Paciorek: "Wimpy," 62, was the Pacific Coast League's MVP and The Sporting News' Minor League Player of the Year in 1972.

Paciorek, a first baseman on the 1972 championship team skippered by Lasorda, was a top-notch football player at the University of Houston – so good that he was drafted by the Miami Dolphins, in the ninth round of the 1968 draft but opted to play baseball.

Paciorek had a monster season in '72, when he batted .307, hit 27 homers, drove in 107 runs and scored 125 times.

He later played in the big leagues for the Dodgers, Braves, Mariners, for whom he was an all-star in 1981, White Sox, Mets and Texas, retiring after the 1987 season. After his playing career ended, he went into the broadcast booth.

Dennis Lewallyn: The right-hander, now 55, spent time with the Dukes and L.A. Dodgers from 1975-79, then began the 1980 season in Albuquerque before being dealt to Texas for shortstop Pepe Frias on Sept. 13 that year, when he made his American League debut. (Ironically, Frias was soon traded to the Dodgers by the Rangers; he appeared in only 39 games the rest of his career.)

Twice winning 15 games with the Dukes (1976 and '80), Lewallyn earned PCL MVP honors in 1980, when he led the league with 24 saves.

In contrast to his great success at the AAA level, Lewallyn was just 4-4 with one save in parts of eight seasons in the big leagues.

He later pitched for the Cleveland Indians and remains in baseball today: He is the pitching coach for the Chicago Cubs' Class AA farm team, the Tennessee Smokies.

1972 Albuquerque Dukes: It was the first year for triple-A baseball in Albuquerque, with the Dodgers' affiliate that had been in Spokane moving to Albuquerque for the first of what became 29 consecutive seasons. Lasorda came with the team from Spokane, and the team he put on the field at the Albuquerque Sports Stadium was loaded.

Let the numbers tell the story: The team won 92 games – only one Albuquerque team has managed to eclipse that mark since.

Pacific Coast League MVP Paciorek led the league in homers (27), Von Joshua led the PCL in batting (.337), pitcher Doug Rau had a sterling won-loss percentage (.824 after going 14-2), and Davey Lopes led the PCL in stolen bases (48).

The 1972 season included at least one of those "Just when you think you've seen everything" moments. In the July 10 game, reliever Charlie Hough gets the first out in the eighth, then is moved to right field as the another pitcher gets the second out. Hough then moves back to the mound and strikes out the next hitter to end the inning.

In addition to the names mentioned above, all who went on to play in "The Show," other notable members of the '72 Dukes were Ron Cey, Joe Ferguson, Steve Yeager, Larry Hisle, Rick Rhoden, Eddie "The King" Solomon and Rick Rhoden.