Former major-league pitcher looks forward to baseball in Summerlin


It’s not until you sit and talk to Jerry Reuss, then you read his recently published book, that you realize how one of the great major-league pitchers of recent vintage could easily have made it on the stage, as a straight-faced, standup comic, had he not chosen baseball as a career.

So what does Reuss have to do with Summerlin and northwest Las Vegas? Well, for one thing, he has lived in these parts for the last 20 years. And, for another thing, he has lots of glowing opinions about the community.

“I love living in Las Vegas, especially in this part of town,” Reuss said during a recent afternoon discussion. And those feelings about Las Vegas come from a guy who spent 22 years with major-league teams beginning in St. Louis, with stops along the way in Houston, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and other cities.

His book is called “Bring In The Right-Hander!” One thing is certain: It will keep you laughing. The cover shows the left-handed Reuss with a somewhat disgruntled expression, waiting to be removed for a right-handed relief pitcher by Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda.

In addition to being a chronological sequence of interesting anecdotes that tell the story of Reuss’ baseball life, the book is written with an enormous sense of humor. Obviously the golden era of Reuss’ career was 1979-87, the years he spent with the Dodgers. During that time, he led his team to a World Series victory over the New York Yankees. But the pranks and humorous events that he perpetrated, especially on Lasorda during those years, could easily have been labeled the “Tom and Jerry” show.

“I wrote the book mainly for my kids and grandkids. There wasn’t a time they didn’t ask, ‘Grandpa, tell me your story.’ ” With encouragement from his wife, Chantal, Reuss sat down in front of his computer and did just that.

Still, for one of only 29 ballplayers to play in the major leagues in four decades, baseball remains heavily instilled in his heart. Since his retirement in 1990, Reuss did baseball television for ESPN, the Los Angeles Angels and the Dodgers. He also coached in the minor leagues.

“I came to Las Vegas in 1994, and I have done some baseball play-by-play and color radio broadcasting here. I expect to do maybe 10 to 15 games for the Las Vegas 51s this summer, alongside Russ Langer,” Reuss said.

That led to the question of whether a baseball stadium should be built in Summerlin to accommodate the 51s. And here Reuss wasn’t being funny.

“As a one-time ballplayer who will always love ballparks, I can see how a new stadium in the area that’s being discussed would be an anchor for Summerlin,” Reuss said. “I can see a lot of good in that.”

The area that the 51s’ owners have proposed for the stadium lies within a vacant, 200-acre site just east of Downtown Summerlin, which is scheduled to open Oct. 9.

But Reuss noted that many questions remain, including financing for the stadium. He also noted that “a state-of-the-art ballpark in Summerlin could really put us on the map.”

By that, he made reference to consideration of up-to-date efficiency factors. Reuss is a strong proponent of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and the U.S. Green Building Council. Often referred to as LEED-Green, it advocates standards of leadership and innovation in construction.

“If that ballpark gets built, they should think LEED-Green,” Reuss said. He referred to ballparks that were built in other cities using environmental and energy-efficient standards advocated by LEED-Green. “The Colorado Rockies’ stadium in Denver is LEED-certified,” he added.

“Things like the use of gray-water and solar technology — such as solar energy for night-game lighting — would make a new stadium in the middle of a desert state-of-the-art,” Reuss said.

“Then Las Vegas would not be just in the business of entertainment. It would be recognized by others for its leadership in the production of energy efficiency. And that would put us on the map — a very important map.”

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. His most recent novel, “Double Play,” is now available. Contact him at hjaffe@cox.net.