Former ballplayers call Vegas home

Apr 9, 2002 11:18 AM

The possibility of Major League Baseball “should-be” Hall of Famer Pete Rose’s putting down permanent roots in Vegas and working for a local resort, as well as the recent death of Las Vegas resident and former Los Angeles Angels pitcher Bo Belinksy, really emphasized how many sports figures make their home here, after their playing days are over. And many of them, it seems, are former baseball players.

Atlanta Braves pitcher Greg Maddux and former Boston Red Sox infielder Marty Barrett live here and even went to school here. (Although Greg, of course, is not yet retired.)

But there are many other heroes, past and present, who most locals, let alone tourists, don’t even know reside here. For instance, former New York Giants outfielder Dusty Rhodes, a hero in the 1954 World Series in which he was voted Most Valuable Player against the Cleveland Indians and one of the best pinch hitters in baseball history, lives in Henderson.

And, few people know that Arizona Diamondbacks superstar pitcher Randy Johnson has a home here.

Others include former Cincinnati Reds pitching star Gary Nolan, who started at the old MGM Grand and is now a casino boss with that organization. And, former Cleveland Indian catcher Duke Simms, is a southern Nevadan.

Former Cleveland Indian third baseman Al Rosen was president of Caesars Palace. Detroit Tigers catcher Lou Berberet worked for Southern Nevada Liquor. Obviously, they both lived here.

And there was pitcher Steve Barber, a former Baltimore Orioles star, who, like Belinksy, worked for an auto dealership after moving here.

Just recently I ran into former Pittsburgh Pirate infielder Bob Bailey, who now lives here with his wife Karen and sells vacation ownerships. He’s taking part in a Dodger (Brooklyn and Los Angeles) reunion to help kick off the new baseball season at Cashman Field and then at the Stardust Hotel Race and Sports Book next week. (The autograph show at the Stardust that follows the game at Cashman will include Dodger greats Don Newcombe, Carl Erskine, Maury Wills, and Bailey, among others.)

Bailey is participating because he played for the LA-LA land version of the Dodgers in ’67 and ’68.

Though Bob had a fine 17-year career, he may be most noteworthy for having been the first of the $100, 000 bonus babies when he agreed to a contract with the Pirates. (To put that in perspective, Mickey Mantle received only a $17,000 bonus to sign with the Yankees less than a decade before Bob.)

There is interesting irony about what is going to take place on April 13. Bob will be crossing paths with Wills for the first time in decades. The last time their paths crossed, literally and figuratively, was as Wills headed from L.A. to Pittsburgh and Bailey was coming the other way. They were traded for each other in 1967!

Bob remembers that when he got to the Dodgers, they already had another 3rd baseman, so they stuck Bob in the outfield. His batting average dipped under .200. Then they put him back at third in August of that season and he hit over .400 the rest of the way.

Wills did just fine in Pittsburgh, too, but he was not happy that he was moved to Bailey’s old position in favor of a young shortstop named Gene Alley.

Bob is looking forward to reuniting with Maury here in Las Vegas. Perhaps, we understand, because he heard Maury might be looking for a vacation condo. Wonder where he got that idea? (Hey, sometimes you have to tell a guy anything to get an interview!)