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Albuquerque Isotopes
Albuquerque Isotopes

How the Albuquerque Isotopes Got Their Name

Albuquerque Isotopes
Albuquerque Isotopes

From the Savannah Sand Gnats to the Montgomery Biscuits, Minor League Baseball is full of slightly bizarre names. But where do they all come from? From now until Opening Day, we'll be taking a look at the stories behind some of the greatest team names in MiLB. So far we've covered the Akron RubberDucks, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, and the Las Vegas 51s.

This one's not a surprise to fans of The Simpsons. When the Calgary Cannons moved to Albuquerque for the 2003 season, "Isotopes" won a name-the-team contest with 67% of the vote. The second place suggestion, Dukes, was a throwback to the long-lived Albuquerque team that had left New Mexico three years prior for Portland, OR, where they became the Beavers.

Other options in the online contest held by the Albuquerque Tribune included Roadrunners, 66ers, and Atoms. All good options, but none presented the same referential appeal as Isotopes. In an episode of The Simpsons that aired in 2001, Homer learns of a devastating plan to move the fictional Springfield Isotopes to Albuquerque. That move fell through, but in the alternate universe that is reality, the Albuquerque Isotopes were a smash hit. In the three weeks following the announcement of the new name in September, 2002, the Isotopes sold more merchandise than the Dukes ever had in a full season. The team had yet to play a single game.

"It's definitely a unique logo," says Laura Verillo, the Isotopes' Director of Public Relations. "It reaches out to not just baseball fans but also science fans." That Venn Diagram of appeal has helped keep the Isotopes' merchandise in MiLB's top ten — out of 160 teams — every year since their inception.

Verillo emphasizes that the atomic implications are equally valid, citing New Mexico's many nuclear technology facilities, but that doesn't mean the team is ashamed of the name's animated origins. With the approval of Fox and The Simpsons, statues of Homer, Marge, Bart and Lisa Simpson can be found throughout the stadium. Kevin Levine, the writer responsible for the first episode of The Simpsons to reference the Springfield Isotopes, even came out to visit the life-imitating-art version of his vision and talk about how the name first came to him.

Courtesy of Albuquerque Isotopes

The team got another pop culture boost over a decade after the name debuted when AMC chose to set the wildly popular Breaking Bad in Albuquerque. While living there during filming, actor Bryan Cranston became a fan of the Isotopes, helping organize charity games at the stadium and even wearing a logo-ed hat in an episode.

The name is offbeat, popular and even educational. "We definitely all know a little more chemistry now with the name," Verillo says.

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Pop Culture
The Simpsons's Classic Baseball Episode Gets the Mockumentary Treatment
Fox Sports, YouTube
Fox Sports, YouTube

Opinions vary widely about the continued existence of The Simpsons, which just began its 29th season. Some believe the show ran out of steam decades ago, while others see no reason why the satirical animated comedy can’t run forever.

Both sides will no doubt have something to say about the episode airing Sunday, October 22, which reframes the premise of the show’s classic “Homer at the Bat” installment from 1992 as a Ken Burns-style mockumentary titled Springfield of Dreams: The Legend of Homer Simpson.

As Mashable reports, “Homer at the Bat” saw Montgomery Burns launch his own baseball team and populate it with real major league players like Wade Boggs, Steve Sax, and Jose Canseco to dominate the competition. In the one-hour special, the players will discuss their (fictional) participation, along with interviews featuring Homer and other members of the animated cast.

It’s not clear how much of the special will break the fourth wall and go into the actual making of the episode, a backstory that involves guest star Ken Griffey Jr. getting increasingly frustrated recording his lines and Canseco’s wife objecting to a scene in which her husband's animated counterpart wakes up in bed with lecherous schoolteacher Edna Krabappel.

Morgan Spurlock (Super-Size Me) directed the special, which is slated to air on Fox at either 3 p.m. EST or 4:30 p.m. EST depending on NFL schedules in local markets. There will also be a new episode of The Simpsons—an annual Halloween-themed "Treehouse of Horror" installment—airing in its regular 8 p.m. time slot.

[h/t Mashable]

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video
Seattle Mariners Fans Are Going Crazy for These Crunchy Grasshopper Snacks
Great Big Story, Youtube
Great Big Story, Youtube

Seattle Mariners fans have more than warmed up to the newest, offbeat addition to the Safeco Field concessions menu: toasted grasshoppers covered in chili-lime salt.

The crunchy snack, which sells for $4 and comes packed in a small container, has only been available for less than a season but has already sold 300,000-plus orders to date. That's about 1000 pounds of grasshoppers. 

Frequenters of Seattle's popular Mexican restaurant Poquitos will know that this delicacy—which first started as a novelty item on its menu—has actually been available to the public for six years. But it wasn't until local chef Ethan Stowell was hired to give the Safeco Field menu a hip retooling that the salty bugs found new, fervent popularity at the ballpark. (Also on the Safeco menu: fried oysters drizzled in hot sauce.)

Great Big Story met up with Manny Arce, the executive chef of Poquitos and visionary behind this culinary home run, to discuss the popularity of these crunchy critters. You can watch the video interview below:

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