Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2008 | 12:19 p.m.
Two patrons and a ticket taker watched Milwaukee Brewers slugger Prince Fielder push a teammate in a dugout on television in a small Henderson sports book Tuesday morning.
Soon, they talked about Fielder’s father, Cecil, playing at UNLV, which eventually led to a phone call to longtime UNLV baseball coach Fred Dallimore.
“A masher,” said one of the sports book customers. “What did he play, one or two years?”
“Two,” said another. “Played first base. Took up the whole area.”
“All he did is hit ’em out,” said the ticket taker. “That’s all he could do, homers or strikeouts.”
“Did you know he was a vegetarian?”
A little phone work determined that Cecil Fielder had an outstanding fall ball, when teams play unofficial games for practice, at UNLV in 1981, which whet his appetite for fame and fortune.
He played the first two games of the 1982 season before heading back to California. He went 3-for-8, against Chico State, on Feb. 5 and 6. He had one double, scored three times and knocked in a run.
Because Fielder played in at least one game, he is listed as a 1982 letterman at UNLV.
Baltimore had drafted the slugger in the 31st round of the 1981 draft but Dallimore, when reached at his home in Reno, said Fielder did not want to sign for peanuts.
“He wanted a ton of money,” Dallimore said. “Then he came to town and loved UNLV. I wanted him to lose 50 pounds and had a special running program for him. I might have been hard on him.”
In one of those first meetings, however, Dallimore learned about a penchant for gambling that would destroy Fielder.
He told Dallimore about being able to come to Las Vegas when he was 15 and play blackjack, because of his size and mature appearance, next to his parents.
Fielder enjoyed the Desert Inn, where he once had a $100,000 line of credit.
“I had casino managers and shift bosses calling me,” Dallimore said, “saying, ‘Coach, your big first baseman is hanging out at our casino. We don’t mind that, but we think he has a gambling habit.’
“He did. He loved the cards. Today, I guess he still does. It’s a shame.”
In 1982, Fielder was drafted in the fourth round by Kansas City, but he boosted his career in Japan, where he had a chauffer and full-time interpreter.
He returned to the States to sign a big contract with Detroit, and he hit 319 homers and drove in 1,008 runs in his career.
Fielder made $47 million and once called a 50-room mansion in Melbourne, Fla., home for his family, but he lost everything to gambling.
Prince Fielder wants nothing to do with his father, whose name came up Tuesday morning. As is usually the case, the myth bore no resemblance to reality.