Viva Las Vegas
In what has become an annual ritual, the Cubs made the trip to Sin City last night to take on our South Side rivals, the White Sox. It looked windy and cold last night; even during Lou Piniella’s interview with Len and Bob, Lou had to shield his eyes from the blowing dust.
Well, it is a desert, after all.
In any case, Las Vegas happens to hold a special place in my heart, being that my wife and I got married at the Monte Carlo.This is also the first time in nearly five seasons I haven’t followed the team up to Las Vegas from Mesa. Obviously, the trip is much earlier in spring training, so it wasn’t possible.
Cashman Field is an older ballpark by minor-league standards, and it is, like Len said, a bandbox. Home runs fly out easily with the wind and dry air doing nothing to keep fly balls in the park (more on that later). But it is quite roomy for spectators.
And every year Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman (below with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and Cubs skipper Lou Piniella) prances out to the mound with his two showgirls to throw out the first pitch. No wonder he’s the “Happiest Mayor in America.”
Last year I had a chance to talk to Goodman while I was there to cover the Cubs as they took on the Seattle Mariners. A very close friend of mine who was heavily involved with the Nevada Easter Seals introduced me to Goodman, whose effervescent personality was infectious. I asked him if he thought Las Vegas would see a Major League Baseball team.
“Absolutely. Someday we’ll see it here,” Goodman said. “But right now our job is to convince the powers that be that Las Vegas can be a viable city from a fan standpoint.”
My friend Scott reminded me that there are a lot of transplants in Las Vegas, from all over the country. Provincial team alliances will travel with these people–would they back a team in a city in which they did not grow up or value?
My feeling was yes. However, former Cubs president John McDonough once told me when it came to a city’s viability for a major-league team, it wasn’t so much the fan base, it was the corporate sponsorship base. If a city doesn’t have the corporate base to purchase all of those sky boxes, all of those sponsorships, all of that concourse and outfield signage, the team will have problems. But I think Las Vegas could do it.
D-Lee and D-Ganz
One of the most popular acts on the Las Vegas Strip is the 1000 voices of Danny Gans, at the Mirage. A talented singer and impersonator, Ganz also is a former minor-league and
college baseball player. In 1997, when Derrek Lee was a top prospect of the San Diego Padres and Las Vegas was the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate, as a stadium promotion, both Gans and Lee agreed to participate in a home run contest, mano a mano.
That year, Lee was the Padres’ Minor-League Player of the Year. The derby consisted of two rounds, 10 swings each. Lee hit four homers in his first 10 swings. Gans, who most did not know had previous baseball experience, surprises everyone with three bombs of his own. After the first round, Lee walked over to Gans and joked: “Don’t make me look bad.”
Lee goes on to hit two more in the second round for a total of six. Gans, down by one, hits two more homers. On his last swing, Gans sends it deep to left center where it just bounces off the top of the wall and drops back into the outfield.
Final score: Lee 6, Gans 5.
“It was really the talk of the town for a while,” Gans said. “The [then-] Stars actually signed me to a contract. The way it was structured, I could come in and DH. You know, if they were ahead, they’d put me in. I was thrilled. However, the Mirage didn’t want me to do that because if I got out there, they were afraid some cocky pitcher would throw at my head.”
Ah, show business. Only in Las Vegas.
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