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"We get a lot of top professional baseball players in to see the show," says Lance Burton, Master Magician and a staple at the Monte Carlo. " Pete Rose has been in several times."
Ah, yes, Pete Rose. He is the one enduring connection between the game and the Strip—he is baseball's Mr. Vegas, its Elvis. Several days a week, every week, year round, he appears at the Field of Dreams store in the Caesar's Palace next door to the Bellagio. He signs autographs, poses for pictures, tells stories and occasionally sells an apology ball for a few hundred bucks—that's a baseball on which he inscribes, I'M SORRY I BET ON BASEBALL.
"I'm the best deal in Vegas," Rose says. "Think about this: When you go see Bette Midler, will she take a picture with you? Will she put her arm around you? Will she sign an autograph for you? No. I give you all that."
When it is pointed out that, technically speaking, he doesn't sing or dance, he shrugs. "Maybe I can," he says. Alas, at the last minute, even Pete Rose cancels his scheduled appearances while the winter meetings are going on. No reason is given. He might just want the whole town to himself.
INSIDE THE Bellagio it looks like the opening bar scene from Casablanca , when everyone is trying to cut a deal. ("And bring fifteen thousand francs in cash. Remember: in cash.") Baseball people huddle by the elevators, outside the Caf� Gelato, near the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, between the slot machines, around the piano bar, speaking quietly so as not to be overheard, though nobody would really understand them anyway. There's a beautiful economy to the conversations of baseball men—team executives with titles like "special assistant" and "special projects coordinator," the scouts, the writers. The rhythms of the dialogue are familiar to anyone who has ever watched a Mafia movie.
Baseball writer: So when did you get in?
Special assistant: Little while ago. You?
SA: It's a zoo, huh?
BW: Yeah. Zoo.