Friday morning, May 1 Ryan Eberly received a call from a former A's player in California telling him of the death of Danny Gans Ryan had been a batboy when Danny played here in 1976. It goes without saying that it was a shock - it was hard to believe that it was true. Throughout the day, the Eberlys heard from many of Danny's 1976 A's teammates and others who were familiar with the fact that he had played with the team. All expressed their disbelief and sorrow at the news.
Danny, 52, died in his sleep early May 1 at his home in Henderson, NV. At the present time, cause of death had not been determined. In lieu of flowers, it is requested that donations be made to the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation, 6070 S. Eastern Ave #200, Las Vegas, NV 89119.
After being at the Mirage for eight years, Danny had just opened at the Encore this past February. ME and Mrs E had been invited to the opening night show and after party, but were unable to make the trip. Former A's teammate, Noel Bogdanski and wife Pat, were able to see the show in March and to visit with him prior to his performance.
For those of you not familiar with Gans career and his Clarinda connection, read on -
When Danny Gans came with college teammate Ozzie Smith to play for the A's in 1976 many will remember his talent as an impressionist from his stints at the Parent's Day picnic and in the press box on Baseball Day (photo was taken at an early season get together of houseparents, board and auxiliary members and body language would indicate a John Wayne impression) and he certainly made the team's bus trips a lot shorter with his vocal renditions backed up by fellow A's. Little did we know then that this talent would be his future.
His career goal was to become a major league ballplayer and just before graduation he was offered and signed a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. While playing in the Northwest League he tore his Achilles tendon and those skills and talents in entertainment would lead him down another path.
For a few years he was active on the comedy club circuit and gained a reputation as a "clean working" comic who also did great impressions. In 1986 his dad took him to see Sammy Davis, Jr. and that set the wheels in motion for his new goal - to evoke the full range of emotions - comedy, impressions, singing, dancing and playing an instrument.
His big break came in 1993 when he opened for Bill Cosby at the Hilton Hotel-after his scheduled thirty minutes Cosby put his arm around him and told the audience, "I believe we're looking at the Sammy Davis, Jr. of the 90's," walked off the stage telling him to "keep going", which he did for another half hour. Gans and his manager vowed the next time he came back to Vegas it would not be as an opening act or co-bill-they were determined to wait as long as it took.
During this time he had been building a reputation in the corporate world, doing about 125 dates a year. He also was on TV as a regular on "Open House and a recurring role on "Silk Stockings". In the Emmy Award winning mini-series "Sinatra", he starred as Dean Martin and made his big screen debut as shortstop Deke Rivers in "Bull Durham".
He and his manager took a gamble on the future in 1994 when they decided to do a one-man show in the 200 seat Coast Playhouse in Los Angeles. It was during this run that the Nederlander Organization sent a representative to see his act-soon he was on the stage of the 1,400 seat Neal Simon Theater on Broadway for a special three-week engagement, with the offer of a year's extention, They declined, working to fulfill the goal they had set of being a Vegas headliner.
On May 16, 1996 Danny realized his goal when he opened at the Stratosphere Hotel in Las Vegas. After a year there, he went on to the Rio Suite resort on Flamingo Road where he performed for three years in the Copacabana showroom.
In 2000, after signing an eight year contract, he opened in his own theater at the Mirage on the "Strip".
His show had garnered "Entertainer of the Year" 11 times as well as "Headliner of the Year" and "Show of the Year" consistently.
The "Man of Many Voices" presented a varied show featuring noted celebrities whose voices are instantly recognizable, as are the mannerisms that made his portrayals uncanny.
Gans was a family man with a strong Christian faith that showed through in his persona. He and his wife have two daughters and a son. They were, and I'm sure Jullie will continue to be, active in the Las Vegas community with many charity events.
Danny had come back to Clarinda twice since his playing days to put on benefit shows for the A's program and continued to contribute not only monetarily, but with tickets for the A's silent auction each year.
The entire A's family sends its love, thoughts and prayers to Danny's family. He will be remembered and missed.