DC sportswriter Thom Loverro hosts DC Grays benefit with King Soul at Caddies

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Thom Loverro (Part 1)

Hear our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

He’s known around town for his newspaper columns, radio gigs and podcast presence.

This Sunday, D.C. sportswriter Thom Loverro hosts a special benefit concert featuring the local band King Soul at Caddies on Cordell in Bethesda, Maryland from 2 to 5 p.m.

“We first saw King Soul about 12 or 13 years ago at Hill Country Barbecue and they changed our lives,” Loverro told WTOP. “We love dancing to old soul music. These guys were just a knockout band. We became devout followers wherever they played. They’re a colorful group to watch, led by Tom Clifford. … Any band with horns is OK with me.”

The back room of Caddies is the perfect intimate space for such a show.

“They’ve undergone new management in the past five or six years and they really have a commitment now to live music, as well as sports,” Loverro said. “The new management has really stepped up and made it a class organization, a class bar, some place you can feel safe and enjoy yourself, good food, good drinks and they have good hearts.”

Tickets are a tax-deductible $25 to benefit the nonprofit group DC Grays Baseball, named after the Negro League’s Homestead Grays that played at Griffith Stadium in D.C.

“[We’re] creating baseball opportunities for inner-city kids in The District,” Loverro said. “We field a college baseball team in the Cal Ripken summer wooden bat league [and] conduct clinics in Ward 6, 7 and 8. … We also run baseball’s RBI program [for] 300 boys and girls. … We organize leagues, recruit coaches, buy their equipment and uniforms.”

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1954, Loverro himself remembers playing ball as a kid.

“I used to play catch with a glove with my dad,” Loverro said. “In my neighborhood, it was stickball, slapball, stoopball, punchball, anything you could do with a 25-cent Spalding rubber ball. … I had already figured by the age of 10 that I wasn’t going to be an athlete.”

So, at age 10, he decided he was going to be a sportswriter instead.

“We lived near the Brooklyn Public Library and I read every baseball biography,” Loverro said. “I grew up five blocks from where Ebbets Field used to be. … When I was 3, I have this vague memory of my father taking me to a Dodgers game their last year in Brooklyn in ’57. … Then I have an even more vivid memory of them knocking it down in 1960.”

After the Dodgers left for Los Angeles, he rooted for the New York Mets.

“I remember when they built Shea Stadium,” Loverro said. “I used to see the Mets play at the Polo Grounds the first two years. … We were a National League house. We were a Brooklyn Dodger house first, then we were a New York Mets house. We hated the Yankees, persona non grata, except my dad gave me a pass on Mickey Mantle.”

He carried his New York fandom when his family moved to the Poconos in Pennsylvania.

“I was a big Joe Namath guy,” Loverro said. “I enjoyed that upset Super Bowl year of 1969. That was a great year for me, because you had the Jets, you had the Knicks and you had the Mets as well, so it’s not gonna get much better than 1969 for me. … The Miracle Mets with Gil Hodges as the manager, whose brother-in-law used to cut my hair.”

After working for various newspapers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, he landed a one-year reporting grant in D.C. in 1983, before being hired by The Baltimore Sun.

“I was a news writer my first 15 years in the business,” Loverro said. “I covered politics, government, organized crime. … I’m forever grateful for the 15 years I did covering news, because that gave me a foundation and discipline to grasp things in sports. … Sports is not simply anymore just what happens on the field. There’s a lot of complicated business.”

In 1992, he jumped to The Washington Times for his dream job as a sports reporter, but it was his former Sun colleague David Simon who cast him in HBO’s “The Wire.”

“He invited a lot of his old friends to appear as extras,” Loverro said. “I had the biggest two seconds ever in HBO history. … Darrell Green was going to throw out the first pitch at a Nationals game and I interviewed him. … One of his friends says, ‘Were you in ‘The Wire?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ All they wanted to talk about was ‘The Wire’ — and Darrell got frustrated!”

Soon, Loverro wrote a book on the Washington Football Team called “Hail Victory.”

“I’m sure you can buy it on Amazon for a penny,” Loverro said. “It’s an oral history of the team that goes back to 1932 when they were first founded in Boston. It includes an interview I did with Sammy Baugh before he passed away. On the list of gifts I’ve been given in this business, one of them was the chance to talk to Sammy Baugh.”

He also wrote a book on Oriole Park at Camden Yards called “Home of the Game.”

“I was there for opening day,” Loverro said. “The impact of that ballpark helped save baseball. People are misinformed about what carried baseball through the last 25 to 30 years. You hear a lot of arguments that steroids put people in the seats, but it was bricks and mortar. They built 20 new ballparks in 20 years — starting with Camden Yards.”

He constantly reminds young sports fans that the world didn’t start yesterday.

“The all-timer is Wilt Chamberlain,” Loverro said. “Every conversation about the greatest of all time in basketball consists of Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Magic Johnson — as if Wilt Chamberlain didn’t exist. … He could do pretty much whatever he wanted to do whenever he wanted. He averaged 50 points a game for a season!”

Who is his pick for the greatest baseball player of all time?

“The greatest baseball player in the history of the game is Willie Mays,” Loverro said. “Babe Ruth is very close, but there’s all kinds of baggage [because] he didn’t play when Black players were allowed to play. That wasn’t Babe Ruth’s fault; he was very close to a lot of Negro League players and wouldn’t have had any problem with Black players.”

As for football, a current player has a shot at the title.

“Tom Brady has really challenged that conversation,” Loverro said. “I never thought I’d say that. … I’ve been a Jim Brown stalwart for years as the greatest NFL player of all time, who played nine years and gained 12,000 yards. … His retirement story is so great. He quit because they wouldn’t give him time off to make ‘The Dirty Dozen.'”

Speaking of movies, what is his favorite flick of all time?

“‘Raging Bull’ I would put as my favorite sports movie,” Loverro said. “The original ‘Rocky’ is one of the classics. … I would put ‘North Dallas Forty’ as my favorite football movie [and] I stop every time ‘The Natural’ is on TV. … The ones that make you stop channel surfing are always ‘The Godfather,’ ‘Gladiator,’ but my all-time favorite is ‘Cool Hand Luke.”

As for television, he tapes a ton of old reruns on his DVR.

“For comedy, I’m big on ‘The Odd Couple’ with Jack Klugman and Tony Randall — and ‘Barney Miller,'” Loverro said. “Network drama, I think ‘Hill Street Blues’ was the gold standard, and ‘NYPD Blue,’ I think Dennis Franz was the greatest television actor of his time for what he did. As far as cable, I’m a big ‘Sopranos’ guy and ‘Breaking Bad’ as well.”

You can still hear him quote “The Office” weekly on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast, which revives the banter of their former ESPN 980 radio show “The Sports Fix.”

“He’s a nerd!” Loverro said. “He’s an everyday guy you’d like to drink with and hang out with, but he’s got this nerdish quality. Who comes up with a mock NFL schedule? That’s the ultimate nerd act — predicting what the schedule is going to be! That’s a revelation of who he is, but he’s been a great partner for many years and he’s been a good friend.”

He feels blessed to have been part of ESPN 980 before a wave of recent layoffs.

“We talk about how much we miss it,” Loverro said. “To have Coach [John] Thompson walk into our studio 10 minutes before we were done the show and give us grief. … Doc Walker, who played nine years in the NFL, was so helpful. … [Steve Czaban and Andy Pollin] were so generous. They started putting me as a guest on ‘The Sports Reporters’ back in ’99.”

Lately, he’s spent the pandemic cranking out a pair of sports screenplays.

“One is about Lizzie Murphy, the first woman to ever play professional baseball with major league players; back in the early 20th century, she played in an all-star game at Fenway Park in 1922,” Loverro said. “The second one is about a professional wrestler named Sputnik Monroe, who forced the integration of public events in the city of Memphis.”

He knows Hollywood is a tough racket to crack into, but he’s rolling the dice.

“It’s like the lottery. I’ve got a lottery ticket, I’m in the game, lets see what happens.”

Find ticket information to the DC Grays benefit concert at Caddies here.

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Thom Loverro (Part 2)

Hear our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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