Gary Herron reached the pinnacle of Albuquerque baseball without hitting a home run or tossing a strike, although the ceremonial first pitch he threw before Saturday’s game at Isotopes Park had a little “pop” to it.
Herron had just been inducted into the Albuquerque Professional Baseball Hall of Fame, along with former pitcher John Ely. In many ways, Herron’s journey started in earnest in 1979 during the first of two stints at the News-Bulletin.
In the middle of that run in 1983, Herron pinch-hit for a handful of games as official scorer for the Albuquerque Dukes. This side-hustle may or may not have been common-knowledge to his bosses.
“In this business you always have to have a part-time gig. Journalism, the media, doesn’t pay a lot,” explained Herron, who also spent time doing sports reports for KARS Radio in Belen.
In addition to writing sports for News-Bulletin, Herron was responsible for news beats like the courts and “cop shop.” He recalls being l
ate to one Dukes’ game while covering a hostage situation at Thrifty’s in Belen.
During the 1985 season, Chuck Hines stepped down as official scorer and Herron moved in. A little bit like Wally Pipp being replaced by Lou Gehrig, who went on to play 2,130 consecutive games.
Herron’s streak is also impressive, with nearly 1,700 games scored between the Dukes and Isotopes, although not consecutively.
The role was perfect. Herron’s love for the game started at an early age in Michigan and continues now, complete with a “baseball room” at home to accommodate all the memorabilia. Among his 1,700 books are several he has authored.
The memories and stories seem endless, including when Herron gave pitching great and war hero Bob Feller a ride.
“I apologized because I was driving him in a Pinto. ‘No need to apologize. I drive a Maverick myself.’ How could you forget that?”
These days, Herron is the full-time sports editor of the Rio Rancho Observer and part-time official scorekeeper for the Isotopes. Herron admits a few of his scoring decisions have drawn complaints, and a few foul words, from players over the years.
But Herron himself has few complaints, even after taking a football to the face from a pass during a Belen-Los Lunas contest.
“I did an incomplete signal. People laughed. It’s a great life — It’s been great,” he said. “The roots are down there in Valencia County.”
Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.