Only in Vegas

Sports views

Posted: Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The mayor came calling on major league baseball a few months ago with a showgirl firmly attached to each arm. He didn't get a team, but Las Vegas is a city that usually gets what it wants, and it wants big league ball.

There's no stadium yet, but in a city that builds a billion-dollar resort every few months or so, that doesn't figure to be a problem.

Las Vegas thought it was in the running for the Expos, and its mayor, a former mob lawyer and avid sports bettor, said at baseball's winter meetings he would bet on throwing out the first pitch in 2008.

"We'll make them an offer they can't refuse," Mayor Oscar Goodman said.

With that deadline in mind, let's peak into the future and take a look at the first season of the Las Vegas Luckies.:

April 5 — This is the moment Las Vegas has been waiting for. It's opening day, with the Dodgers in town to inaugurate Wayne Newton Stadium, just a steroid-fueled home run from the Las Vegas Strip. Newton is supposed to throw out the first pitch, but can't lift his arm over his head. Turns out Newton's skin is stretched tighter than a Rawlings ball.

April 21 — The Luckies unveil the Lucky Seventh Inning Stretch, soon to become popular among players. A Megabucks slot machine is brought into each dugout and millionaire players pull the handle to try to win even more millions. Instead of singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," Newton croons "Luck be a line drive tonight."

May 10 — The first promotion of the season, "Marry Britney Spears Night," draws a sellout crowd. A lucky fan in Section 7, Row 7, Seat 7 marries Spears at home plate during the third inning in a ceremony presided over by Fat Elvis, a 535-pound impersonator. The marriage is annulled during the sixth inning when Spears suddenly remembers she already has several husbands.

June 7 — Barry Bonds hits the 934th home run of his career, a monster shot that carries over the fake Eiffel Tower in left-center field and lands in the Caesars Palace fountains. Bonds later admits to reporters he has been using steroids since the late 1990s. Nothing is reported, though, because what happens in Vegas really does stay in Vegas.

June 22 — The boxing capital of the world pairs up with the Luckies for a "Fight Night Doubleheader" of baseball and boxing. Before the game against the Mets, Mike Tyson tries once again to fight his way out of bankruptcy when he meets George Foreman for the geriatric heavyweight championship of the world. On the undercard, Pedro Martinez fights a rematch with Don Zimmer, while special attraction Ron Artest takes on the first row of Section 10.

July 4 — High rollers enjoy fireworks in luxury suites, where showgirl hostesses bring them drinks and they can bet on each pitch at a mini-sports book. Bringing back memories of Fan Man, the Flying Elvi float in during the third inning, holding up the game while they sing "Viva Las Vegas."

July 18 — The Reds are in town and the Luckies hold a Pete Rose night, inducting Rose into the Las Vegas Gambling Hall of Fame for his contributions to the city's sports books. Rose is given a new Cadillac convertible, which he immediately bets on Cincinnati.

Aug. 4 — The new owners run into a string of bad luck at the craps tables at the MGM Grand. To trim expenses, they cancel the postgame locker room spread and hand players 2-for-1 coupons for the $2.99 all-you-can-eat buffet at Circus Circus.

Sept. 30 — It's the last Sunday of the season and the Luckies need to win to make the playoffs. Randy Johnson, in the 7th year of a $493 million contract with the Yankees, is pitching a shutout into the late innings and things look bleak for the home team. Mayor Goodman makes a quick call to one of his old clients, who gives Johnson a kneecapping as he returns to the dugout after striking out the side in the eighth inning. With Johnson out, the Luckies rally in the ninth to win 2-1.

Oct. 22 — The Cubs win their first World Series since 1908, beating the Luckies 5-4 in the seventh game at Wrigley Field. Instead of mourning, there's jubilation on the Las Vegas Strip, as bettors celebrate a big win over bookies who made the Cubs underdogs. Rose is seen sliding headfirst through the cheering crowd toward the payout window to collect his big bet.

Oct. 23 — While Chicago celebrates with a ticker tape parade, the Luckies arrive home at McCarran International Airport, where only the jingle of slot machines greets them.

Proving once again that there are no lovable losers in Las Vegas.

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg@ap.org.



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