Glitz, glamour, and gambling—escalated, somewhat, by gaudiness, garishness, and greed—fuel Las Vegas. It is, after all, a desert metropolis built on a foundation of fantasy. It is also where Elvis Presley made his live performance comeback after eight years of concentrating on movies and albums; where Frank Sinatra led a group of his former Army buddies to rob five casinos on New Year’s Eve in the original Ocean’s 11 film; where the television shows Las Vegas, Dr. Vegas, Crime Story, Vegas, Vega$, CSI, and The Player were set; where the Partridges made their professional début in The Partridge Family; and where Michael Corleone sought to expand his family’s operations by buying out casino owner Moe Greene in the 1972 movie The Godfather.
A destination city for vacationers looking for a hint of sin—if not sin incarnate—Las Vegas also offers recreation for its natives; baseball lovers have the 51s ball club, which traces its genesis to the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League. From 1903 to 1972—except for the 1919 season, which they played in the Pacific Coast International League—the Beavers formed a cornerstone of the PCL.
In 1973, the team’s tenure shifted to Spokane, where it became the Indians. After the 1982 season, the Indians moved to Las Vegas and underwent a name change—Stars. This label lasted until 2001, when the 51s name emerged. Future stars have populated the 51s, including Jayson Werth, Nomar Garciaparra, and Andruw Jones.
Las Vegas’s baseball team takes its name from Area 51, a part of Nevada about 150 miles from the famed Las Vegas Strip—the stretch of road with the iconic “Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada” sign.
Area 51—also known as Groom Lake—is the subject of conjecture, controversy, and conspiracy. UFO believers maintain that the United States government houses aliens, alien spacecraft, and time travel experiments at Area 51. NASA’s Administrator Major Charles Bolden—the top of the space agency hierarchy—dismisses those theories.
“There is an Area 51. It’s not what many people think,” said Bolden in a 2015 article by Sarah Knapton for Great Britain’s newspaper The Telegraph; Knapton is the paper’s Science Editor. “I’ve been to a place called that but it’s a normal research and development place. I never saw any aliens or alien spacecraft or anything when I was there.
“I think because of the secrecy of the aeronautics research that goes on there it’s ripe for people to talk about aliens being there.”
In 2013, the Central Intelligence Agency released a declassified report affirming the existence of Area 51 at Groom Lake; theretofore, the United States government maintained silence about it. “The report, released after eight years of prodding by a George Washington University archivist researching the history of the U-2 [spy plane], made no mention of colonies of alien life, suggesting that the secret base was dedicated to the relatively more mundane task of testing spy planes,” wrote Adam Nagourney in his 2013 article “C.I.A. Acknowledges Area 51 Exists, but What About Those Little Green Men?” for the New York Times.
A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on April 16, 2016.
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