In a March 2001 episode of The Simpsons, Homer Simpson stumbled upon plans that Springfield Isotopes owner Howard K. Duff VIII (of Duff Beer fame) had hatched to move the local baseball team to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Homer staged a nine-day hunger strike to expose the plan, and the episode ended with Homer famished but victorious, standing on the outfield grass being showered with food by grateful fans for saving their team. It seemed it was safe to believe that a dystopian future with the Albuquerque Isotopes was never meant to be.
But just two years later, in 2003, Homer’s worst nightmare came to fruition in real life when the Florida Marlins’ new Triple-A affiliate, the Albuquerque Isotopes, debuted in New Mexico. (They were a Dodgers affiliate from 2009 to 2014 and are a Rockies affiliate now.) The Isotopes, who are one of the most popular and valuable franchises in minor league baseball, are about to play their 20th season, which they will commemorate with an anniversary logo that they unveiled this week.
The logo highlights the distinctive facade of their home ballpark, Rio Grande Credit Union Field at Isotopes Park, which opened in April 2003 with the new team.
The Albuquerque Isotopes franchise had been the Calgary Cannons since 1985 and before that, the Salt Lake Gulls from 1971 to 1984. With the move to Albuquerque, the franchise held a name-the-team contest while The Simpsons episode (“Hungry Hungry Homer,” season 12, episode 15) was still fresh in the imaginations of fans. The name Isotopes won convincingly, receiving more than half the tally.
Before the Isotopes came to town, Albuquerque was home to a number of different teams dating back to 1915, most notably the beloved Triple-A Pacific Coast League team that played there from 1972 to 2000, the Dukes.
The Isotopes 20th season will begin in April 2022.