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In the end, the game comes down to one thing: man against man. May the best man win.

~ Sam Huff                    



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The Trade Bowl
by Thom Loverro
Dec 05, 2014 -- 2:50pm
ESPN 980

Last week it was the draft bowl -- Andrew Luck vs. Robert Griffin III, and Redskins fans wondering what might have been if the Indianapolis Colts had fallen in love with Griffin over Luck for the first pick of the 2012 draft.

This week it's the trade bowl -- watching the depth that that St. Louis Rams acquired out of the deal that sent the number two pick of that draft to Washington to give the Redskins a shot at Griffin.

Draft bowl, Trade bowl -- the Redskins come out on the losing end no matter what.

The Rams got the Redskins first round picks in 2012, 2013 and 2014 -- and a second pick in the 2012 draft. Their front office took those four picks and, through trades, turned them into eight players -- five of them starters. One backup running back ran for 1,000 yards last season. Only two of the eight proved to be busts.

No matter what happens Sunday at FedEx Field, the Rams won the Trade Bowl with that deal, as Griffin has gone from the NFL Rookie of the Year in 2012 to an unhappy backup quarterback now.

Before Washington can start winning games on the field, they have to start winning these boardroom battles -- the Draft Bowl, the Trade Bowl -- the personnel moves that produce a winner on the field. They have to draft better. They have to make more successful trades.

They have to start winning before one single player ever steps on the field.


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McCoy must 'prove' himself to Gruden this Sunday
by Thom Loverro
Nov 28, 2014 -- 3:18pm
ESPN 980

It is Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden's ego that put Colt McCoy in position today to be the starting quarterback for this team against the Indianapolis Colts.

I'm not criticizing Gruden. It's just what coaches do, especially quarterback coaches. They see a guy from afar that they like and are convinced that if they laid hands on him, he would be healed and become a winning NFL quarterback.

We saw it here before with Mike Shanahan, who coveted John Beck from afar, after he had already washed out with two teams, but still Shanahan felt compelled to trade for him to bring him to Washington.

Mike Shanahan found out soon he wasn't a miracle worker, but he gave you a glimpse into the mentality of these coaches when he declared about Beck and Rex Grossman that he would "stake his reputation" on their ability in play in the NFL.

Jay Gruden watched Colt McCoy from afar when McCoy was struggling in Cleveland and Gruden was the offensive coordinator in the same division in Cincinnati. He thought to himself, I can get this guy to play and play well.

So Gruden called McCoy last April and asked him to sign as a third string quarterback with the Redskins, telling him that "you never know what could happen."

Washington didn't need a third string clipboard holder. They already had one in Grossman, who had the respect of his teammates and seemed perfectly comfortable in that role.

Yet Gruden went out of his way to get Colt McCoy to come to Washington? Why? Because he thought he could make this guy a successful NFL starting quarterback.

He'll have to prove it Sunday.


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Jimmy Lange returns vs Tony Jeter this weekend at the Patriot Center
by Thom Loverro
Nov 13, 2014 -- 1:56pm
ESPN 980

(Promotional / Lange/ Jeter - GMU Patriot Center)

Jimmy Lange returns to the ring at the Patriot Center Saturday night after a two-year layoff, and that is good news for local boxing fans.

Lange, 39, has been a fixture in local boxing for 20 years, and has always been an entertaining fighter who puts on good show whenever he fights, and has promoted some great boxing cards at the Patriot Center on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax.

I remember being skeptical when they announced the first Lange show at the Patriot Center, doubting they could draw a respectable crowd. Was I wrong – they drew about 5,000 people, a remarkable crowd for a local boxing event, and have consistently brought good crowds to Patriot Center fight cards since.

Saturday night promises to be a memorable one – a rematch of the battle two years ago between Lange (38-5-2) and another local fan favorite, 38-year-old middleweight Tony Jeter, who has also made his mark in the area as a fighter and promoter.

They waged a brutal slugfest the last time out, with Jeter (17-4-1) winning a close, controversial decision. Both have local, devoted fan followings, and it promises to be a great night of local boxing.

At stake will be the vacant North American Boxing Association USA middleweight title.

Also on the show is female boxing star and world champion Tori Hunter, and a former Washington Redskins practice squad player, linebacker Mike Balogun, a heavyweight from Upper Marlboro, Md., who is coming off a second-round knockout win in his pro debut last month. The former University of Oklahoma standout linebacker will face Percy Womack on the card.


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Dusty Hernandez-Harrison headlines a November festival of local boxing starting Saturday night.
by Thom Loverro
Oct 29, 2014 -- 9:52am
ESPN 980

Boxing is alive and thriving -- you just need to know where to look.

The sport may not dominate the national sports landscape anymore, with big fights drawing everyone's attention. But the local scene here in Washington and Baltimore is active, with great fights and rising stars

The biggest of those rising stars will step into the ring Saturday night, Nov. 1, at a great venue -- DAR Constitution Hall.

Dusty Hernandez-Harrison -- one of boxing's hottest rising young fighters, undefeated at 23-0 with 12 knockouts -- returns home to Washington to face veteran Michael Clark, with his 44-11-1 record and 18 knockouts.

Harrison has met every challenge so far -- including fighting on one of boxing's biggest stages, Madison Square Garden, winning the World Boxing Council Youth Welterweight championship -- and may be ready to step into the national spotlight as a major title contender. The fight with Clark was originally scheduled for Sept. 27, but hurt his ankle training, and it was postponed. Now he is healthy, and going up against a fighter with more bouts under his belt than any other Harrison has faced.

“I’m excited by the chance to fight in my hometown and am grateful to all the fans and my team for their continued support,” Harrison said. His father and trainer, Buddy Harrison said, “This was Dusty’s first injury as a professional. He is 100% healthy and ready to go and we are looking forward to the large DMV crowd.”

The show is called "Hometown Takeover," promoted by All-In Entertainment. "Dusty is certainly excited to be fighting in Washington, D.C., after developing his skills on the national level during the past 18 months," promoter Jeff Fried said.

Also on the show is another young rising star, Jarrett Hurd, a 24-year-old undefeated (12-0, 7 knockouts) junior middleweight.

Event tickets are available for purchase through Ticketmaster beginning Friday, October 10. Ticket prices are $150 Ringside, $75 Preferred Reserved, $50 Reserved and $25 General Admission. For additional information please visit www.ticketmaster.com or call All In Entertainment at (202) 331-3902.

Two veterans will meet in another high-profile show on Saturday, Nov. 15, at the Patriot Center at George Mason University --a rematch between Jimmy Lange and Tony Jeter.

In 2012, Jeter won a controversial decision over Lange in a 10-round middleweight bout. Their rematch promises to be a personal battle.

Lange has been one of the most popular fighters in the area, and the shows he puts on at the Patriot Center have been successful and first-rate promotions.

The show also features one of the legendary fighters in Washington boxing history, former world super lightweight champion DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley, who, at the age of 40, is coming off an impressive win over Daniel Attah at the Washington Convention Center.

Also on the Patriot Center card is world champion Tori “Sho Nuff” Nelson of Ashburn. Va. and Ronny Hearns, the son of Boxing Hall of Famer Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns.

Doors will open at 6:00 pm, with the first fight scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm. "Lange-Jeter 2: The Rematch" is presented by Jeff Valcourt and Valcourt Building Services.

Tickets, priced at $50, $75, $125, $250 and $500 (plus applicable service charges), can be purchased through all Ticketmaster outlets, including the Patriot Center box office, online at www.ticketmaster.com/ and via Phonecharge at 1-800-745-3000.

Up the road in Baltimore, boxing returns to the Royal Farms Arena with a card called “Baltimore Boxing Renaissance” on Thursday, Nov. 13, featuring a card of local rising boxing stars. Tickets are $30 to $350.

You also have several charity boxing shows in November – Jonathan Ogden’s event in Baltimore, and Fight Night in Washington. And I would be remiss if I didn’t note the terrific local boxing shows Keystone Boxing puts on at Rosecroft Raceway, with one just taking place on Oct. 24.

Boxing dead? Not in this area.


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Could Joe Maddon have managed the Washington Nationals?
by Thom Loverro
Oct 27, 2014 -- 9:10am
ESPN 980

You have to wonder if Joe Maddon had left the Tampa Bay Rays a year earlier – when the Washington Nationals had an opening for a manager – if he would have wound up in the Nats dugout.

But the Nationals have a manager – Matt Williams. Though he may have had a postseason meltdown, he was just named Sporting News National League Manager of the Year, and will likely win the same honor from the Baseball Writer’s Association of America.

Still, everyone has speculated that about 27 or 28 major league teams – most with managers – would take their guy for Maddon, one of the most respected managers in baseball.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo and Joe Maddon are good friends, going back to when Maddon was Rizzo’s minor league manager in 1982. Maddon told me this story when I was doing a profile of Rizzo for Cigar Aficionado magazine.

“Joe Maddon, his former manager at Class A Salem in 1982, describes Rizzo as ‘the kind of guy who would fight for you and literally did.’ Rizzo was in the middle of a legendary minor league brawl in Salem. ‘We were playing the Bend Phillies, and I think it was the home opener,’ Maddon said. ‘There was a play at the plate and a fight broke out, and he was pushing the whole pile up against the backstop and had somebody pinned up against the fence. It was not a push-everybody-around-the-field baseball fight. It was a tough, real fight. And I must say, he thoroughly enjoyed it. He was never afraid.’”

They remain close, and Rizzo would have likely wanted Maddon to take the Nats job. But that doesn’t mean he would have gotten it.

It’s unlikely the Lerners would have paid Maddon the kind of money he will get -- $4 million to $5 million a year for 3-5 years, most likely.

The Lerners don’t pay managers. The only one they paid that kind of money to was Davey Johnson in 2012, and you saw that lasted one year. Matt Williams doesn’t make that kind of money.

So Joe Maddon in Washington, under any circumstances? Not likely.


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Postseason Press Box memories --- part 2
by Thom Loverro
Oct 23, 2014 -- 1:29pm
ESPN 980

The Washington Times stopped sending me to cover postseason baseball after 1997 for several reasons. The business was changing, and not for the better. Deadlines were getting worse, as newspaper distribution grew wider and wider in geography.

Many years ago, a hometown paper might have a 5-10 mile radius for delivery to most of its customers. Now, given not just the suburban growth but even to rural areas – and how willing people are to travel great distances from the city to live in affordable, comfortable housing – that radius was more like 90 miles now. We had customers to deliver the paper to in places like Richmond, Va., and Charles Town, W. Va.

Because of those limitations for us, the smaller paper in town, we didn’t have the resources on the desk and production to handle two late stories – a game story by our baseball writer and a column by me, sometimes coming in after midnight – for postseason baseball coverage. So they decided to just send our baseball writer to give the basics of coverage for our readers. Also, with about 10 minutes to file after the game ended, there would not be much difference between the game coverage and any column. So I was on hiatus from covering postseason baseball.

That changed in 2003, as the reality of baseball returning to Washington grew closer. It was important for me to be around the postseason atmosphere, where you run into many insiders in the baseball industry and can pick up valuable information about the story that I had been chasing since 1994 – a baseball team in Washington.

I came back to postseason baseball in 2003, and I came back with a bang.

I covered the memorable 2003 American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. I was in the Fenway Park press box for game three on October 11, 2003, with the series tied at 1-1, when all hell broke loose.

 

It was a matchup between former Red Sox pitching great Roger Clemens and the ace who replaced him, Pedro Martinez. The atmosphere was tense. Karim Garcia was hit in the back by a pitch from Martinez. The Yankee dugout started yelling at Martinez. Then Manny Ramirez was buzzed by a Clemens fastball and charged the mound. Both dugouts emptied, and it was an all-out brawl. But right in front of us, we saw 72-year-old Don Zimmer running toward Martinez with his arms swinging. He was going to fight him! Martinez grabbed him on the back of the head and pulled him down to the ground, and it felt like something pretty bad was about to happen. After about 15 minutes, order seemingly was restored.

A few innings later, though, I was sitting near Sports Illustrated Tom Verducci when he yelled, “There’s a fight in the bullpen!” We looked up and saw Yankees relief pitcher Jeff Nelson fighting with a Fenway Park groundskeeper.

Since this was an afternoon game, there was no shortage of column material for me and plenty of time to write it.

Game four the next day was rained out, which led to dueling press conferences between the Red Sox and Yankees brass, each blaming the other for what happened. Remember, this was the height of the “Evil Empire” designation that Boston owner Larry Lucchino gave the Yankees.

I was in the Yankee Stadium press box for game seven, when Grady Little left a tiring Pedro Martinez in the game in the eighth inning, resulting in the Yankees scoring three runs to tie the game at 5-5. And yes, I was there Aaron Boone sent Tim Wakefield’s first pitch deep into the Bronx night for the game-winning home run in the bottom of the 11th.

ESPN 980 Right next to the press box at Yankee Stadium was George Steinbrenner’s celebrity box. And the only thing separating the two was a piece of plexiglass. I was sitting front row right next to the plexiglass. Right on the other side, just a few feet away, sat Billy Crystal and Robin Williams, who, like many Yankees fans that night, hugged each other in joy after Boone blasted his home run.

The Yankees would go on to lose a forgettable six-game World Series to the upstart Florida Marlins. I remember the Marlins colorful manager, Jack McKeon, telling a story about how he went to church every morning, and before he walked in, he would put the cigar he was smoking in a ledge outside the church. Then, when he came out after services, take the cigar back out and light it up again. My father would do the same thing.

I was there again in 2004 when the Yankees were up 3-0 in the League Championship Series – winning game three by a score of 19-8 – when, down 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth with Mariano Rivera on the mound, wound up winning the game when pinch runner Dave Roberts stole second and scored on a single by Bill Mueller to tie the game. Boston would win on a two-run home run by David Ortiz in the 12thinning, and remarkably, win the next three as well to take the series. They would face the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

Boston would sweep St. Louis, but what I remember from this was several columns I came up with. Here is some more inside baseball – because of our deadline limitations, I had to write columns for the next day that stood up no matter what the result of the game was, a feature-style column. Sometimes that is easy, when you simply write about the next day’s starting pitchers. But this was my column – a source of pride – and I wanted to come up with something different, something unique. Sometimes, I nailed it.

The Red Sox-Cardinals series featured a showdown between two former partners – Red Sox owner Larry Lucchino and St. Louis owner Bill DeWitt. They were partners to buy the Baltimore Orioles in 1993 for $140 million from Eli Jacobs, when the deal fell apart because Jacobs went into bankruptcy. Lucchino and DeWitt agreed to become partners with Peter Angelos when he made his successful $173 million bid for the franchise in bankruptcy court, but both found out there is nothing more limited than being a limited partner with Peter Angelos. Lucchino dropped out quickly after the sale, and DeWitt, after declaring upon the sale of the team that he would be in charge of baseball operations, bowed out a year later.

Now both of them would face each other in the World Series – both had recovered well and were now enjoying success that Angelos never had in baseball.

The column for someone from Washington, and particularly Baltimore, to write was about the two owners. Turns out I was the only one who noticed that.

Getting Lucchino was easy. I had a relationship with him ever since I did the book, “Home of the Game – the story of Camden Yards.” I got him on the phone and interviewed him about his history with DeWitt and how they both wound up there now in the World Series.

But DeWitt was harder. I had met him before, but didn’t know him well. I had no way to get in touch with him, so that meant I had to go through the Cardinals public relations department. Like most major league baseball PR departments, they were useless, so I only had a one-sided column.

Walking through a packed Fenway Park just minutes before game time – surrounded by a sea of people – I turn around suddenly and bump into – guess who – Bill DeWitt! I spent a few minutes interviewing him and had my column – a good angle that no one else had.

The other column I liked from that series was something that tied into the pain of Red Sox fans, particularly the 1986 World Series pain, the game six loss to the New York Mets on the ground ball that went through Bill Buckner’s legs. In a small item in the Boston Globe – about an inch – was a note about a baseball clinic being held in town that featured a number of former major league ballplayers.

One of the players? Mookie Wilson.

Mookie Wilson was going to be in Boston during the World Series – the man whose dribbler of a ground ball changed the history of this franchise. That was too good to pass up, so I went to the clinic and interviewed Wilson.  I always thought it was curious that Boston fans never vilified Wilson for hitting the ground ball. They made Buckner the villain, though it was likely that Wilson would have beat out the ground ball anyway. So I had a column about Mookie Wilson in Boston while the Red Sox were trying exorcise the curse of that ground ball. 

 


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