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Baseball to gala: It was perfect day

The definition of best of both worlds?

Mine happened Saturday.

The day started with the christening of a spring training stadium opening in Arizona and concluded with an eventful glitzy gala at the Bellagio.

For a former sportswriter who spent years in ballparks in Cincinnati, San Diego and Denver, this was the ultimate day-night doubleheader.

At the invitation of longtime friend and sports fanatic David McReynolds, I flew to Phoenix on Friday to take in a pair of Cactus League openers in Scottsdale, Ariz.

We watched the spring debut of the world champion San Francisco Giants and, a day later, the opening of the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the spectacular new home of the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks.

Among the capacity crowd of 12,500 were many friends from the baseball chapter of my life. I was there to add another new ballpark to my list of firsts with the Rockies, starting with their maiden season.

By 6:30 p.m. I was jetting to Las Vegas. About an hour later, I was changing clothes in the back seat of my car, with the Leggy Blonde at the wheel, a la Bonnie and Clyde.

We thought we had missed the red carpet, only to see Caesars Palace headliner Matt Goss arriving.

He had some hot news: He just signed to do a documentary film on his life. The former British boy band star is still a big deal in the UK; he packed the legendary Royal Albert Hall back in October and is doing an encore there Oct. 21.

Inside the ballroom, news was popping faster than champagne corks at Larry Ruvo’s 15th Keep Memory Alive: Power of Love extravaganza.

Steve Wynn was there, making a rare return to the luxury hotel he built. Spies quickly informed me that Wynn and fiancée Andrea Hissom had set April 30 as their wedding date.

Caesars Palace headliner Celine Dion, unable to attend because she was to perform at the Oscars, told the 1,200 guests by video that they would be going to her final dress rehearsal March 12, three days before her opening.

Legendary carmaker Lee Iacocca made a grand appearance: He drove one of the 45 Silver 45th Anniversary Edition Ford Mustangs on stage.

Known as the “Father of the Mustang,” Iacocca donated two of the cars, getting $140,000 each for them, with the proceeds going to the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

Steve Schirripa of “The Sopranos,” fresh from an 80th birthday party for former cast mate Dominic “Uncle Junior” Chianese, said he is doing two new projects: the movie “Kill the Irishman” with Christopher Walken and hosting “Nothing Personal,” a look at contract killers, on Investigation Discovery.

The opening of a new baseball park and a grand event for a great cause, in one day, in different cities. That was a good day.

The Scene and Heard

The climactic fight scene in “The Fighter,” starring Mark Wahlberg in the lead role, happened in real life at the Thomas & Mack Center on April 12, 1997, when “Irish” Micky Ward stunned unbeaten Alfonso Sanchez in one of boxing’s biggest upsets.

Ward, who caught Alfonso (16-0) with a kidney shot, got $10,000 for the fight, one of his three in Las Vegas. The movie producers made it appear the fight took place at Caesars Palace.

“The Fighter” collected Oscars on Sunday night for best supporting actor, Christian Bale, and best supporting actress, Melissa Leo.

THE PUNCH LINE

Tropicana headliner Brad Garrett, who teamed up with Ray Romano at the benefit gala, cracked up the crowd with the promise that the show would be moving along because Robin Leach’s date “has to be on the pole by 11.”

Norm Clarke can be reached at 702-383-0244 or norm@reviewjournal.com. Find additional sightings and more online at www.normclarke.com.

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