Bob Pellegrini needs a nine, and he needs it badly. He's standing
at a craps table at the Showboat casino in Atlantic City with
several hundred dollars at risk. The shooter tosses the dice and
rolls a five and a four. The table goes wild, and the 67-year-old
Pellegrini starts shaking hands as if he's just added a fourth
grandchild. In 25 minutes the former Maryland offensive lineman
and NFL linebacker turned a $600 bankroll into $3,910 and made a
whole lot of new friends. He tips the attendants $100 and then
turns to a stranger who has been watching the action. "Take
this," a smiling Pellegrini says to the man, shoving five $20
bills into his shirt pocket. "If you don't want it, throw it in
Such behavior may seem odd, but Pellegrini has spent much of his
life making people happy. At Maryland he was moved from
quarterback to guard and then center and helped the Terps to two
10-1 seasons. As a 6'3", 225-pound senior he was an All-America
center and made SI's cover as part of a story on the nation's
best linemen. His nine years with the Philadelphia Eagles and the
Washington Redskins brought out the scrappy coal miner's son in
him; he became known more for his fighting than for his blocking.
"I decked Big Daddy Lipscomb," he says of the great 6'6",
300-pound defensive tackle. "He was afraid of my ass."
The father of three then spent over a decade doing everything
from owning an Italian restaurant in Williamsport, Pa., to
selling nonalcoholic beer in Saudi Arabia. A dinner with former
big leaguer Al Rosen, who was working at an Atlantic City casino,
led to Pellegrini's becoming an executive host at some of that
city's top casinos. Until retiring in June, he spent 23 years
working days and nights to entice high rollers to stay and gamble
at his bosses' casinos. He attended to their every need, from
hiring limos to babysitting their kids. He was so good that in
1986 casino moguls Donald Trump and Steve Wynn got into a bidding
war for his services. It was a Wynn-win situation: Steve got his
man, and Pellegrini got $250,000 a year, double what he had been
Pellegrini now lives in Ocean City, N.J., with his wife, Dolly.
He retired in part because the long hours were taking a toll. (He
had a heart attack in 1986 and a quadruple bypass in '98.) "I
caused a lot of my health problems by working too hard," he says.
"Maybe I could've done it another way, but that's what I
COLOR PHOTO: HY PESKIN (COVER) FOLD 'EM Pellegrini recently retired as a casino host.
COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS
Recruited as a quarterback, Pellegrini moved to the offensive
line and helped Maryland to a pair of 10-1 seasons.