Betting, radio and music: What a way to make a living

Fox Sports Radio’s Bernie Fratto, 65, has quite the life in Las Vegas — and he says he’ll never retire.

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LAS VEGAS — The inquiry arrived, asking whether he could fill in Thanksgiving night on Ben Maller’s overnight Fox Sports Radio show, and Bernie Fratto didn’t hesitate.

With the country in a tryptophan coma, Fratto went to work — from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. his time — in the network’s Las Vegas studios.

‘‘Love every minute of it,’’ Fratto said. ‘‘I’m like Dick Clark, who worked into his 70s. He grew up in the Depression and never turned down work. Neither will I.’’

Fratto, 65, took a radio cue from meeting, by chance, the legendary journalist Dick Schaap in the late 1980s. The Michigan native delivers so much sports-betting information that having a notepad nearby is wise.

‘‘He loves sports, he loves communicating and he loves blending the two,’’ Schaap, who died in 2001, wrote long ago in a letter of recommendation. ‘‘If you hire him, I promise I will continue to steal from him.’’

A catcher who signed with the Reds organization, only to have an arm injury fizzle that dream within a month, Fratto found a home behind the microphone.

He and wife Debbie moved to Vegas in 2010. He hosted UNLV basketball pregame and postgame radio shows, guested on others and got FSR’s national ‘‘Straight Outta Vegas’’ gig in 2018. Strong ratings boosted it from one to four hours.

On Labor Day, FSR architect Scott Shapiro added Friday to Fratto’s workload, creating ‘‘The Bernie Fratto Show.’’ It airs on more than 600 FSR outlets and SiriusXM’s Channel 83.

He aims to emulate Pablo Casals, the world’s finest cellist, who lived 96 years. In 1989, the Pablo Casals Elementary School opened on West Potomac Avenue in Humboldt Park.

At 93, Casals taught at a university when a student asked why he still practiced three hours daily.

‘‘Casals said, ‘Young man, I’m beginning to see some improvement.’ I tell that story on the air,’’ Fratto said. ‘‘I’ll never retire. I’d like to be the sports-radio version of Pablo Casals.’’


The soul of the show, if not the host himself, hails from 2648 West Grand Boulevard in central Detroit: Motown.

Berry Gordy’s brainchild revolutionized the music industry in the 1960s, spawning hits from the Miracles, Martha and the Vandellas, the Supremes and many others. Gordy put a ‘‘Hitsville, U.S.A.’’ sign above the front window.

Today, the building is a museum. Fratto has visited on several occasions, taken out-of-town guests on tours and driven by it ‘‘millions of times.’’

‘‘It’s nondescript and well-kept,’’ he said. ‘‘You walk in, and there’s a tangible, visceral feel that will knock you on your butt — this transcendent, seminal happening that crossed racial and gender lines. Timeless music.’’

Fratto trumpets texture and selects the bumper music — much of the Motown sound — that reconnects listeners after commercial breaks.

He shuffles stuff in and out every 90 days. That’s a testament to Shapiro, who allows hosts such autonomy.

Someone asked Fratto the name of a song. He wrote back, ‘‘That was ‘Say A Little Prayer’ by Aretha Franklin.’’ Via Twitter, someone else typed, ‘‘Best bumper music on FSR! Love hearing the music of my youth. Great show. God bless!’’

Some of it isn’t Motown. Fratto recently eased in the fabulous ‘‘Mas Que Nada’’ by Sergio Mendes, from his impeccable ‘‘Brazil ’66’’ album, retaining his rich 1960s theme.

‘‘There’s a method to my madness,’’ Fratto said. ‘‘Imaging is so big in radio, trying to create a mood, a vibe, of which people aren’t even cognizant: ‘Man, this kind of feels good. I think I can hang here for a while.’

‘‘When it resonates, I get texts.’’


During his first trip to Vegas, Fratto stayed at the Stardust. In its showroom, Joan Rivers opened for Rich Little, a show he attended. The Maxim became home base. He and a pal favored blackjack.

He witnessed Ray ‘‘Boom Boom’’ Mancini’s mauling of Duk-Koo Kim, in the outdoor ring at Caesars Palace, in 1982. Hanging out with figures such as Randall ‘‘Tex’’ Cobb became commonplace.

Cobb told Fratto about his biggest payday, which came against Larry Holmes.

‘‘He got pummeled,’’ Fratto said of Cobb. ‘‘He almost didn’t make weight. He told me, ‘Frankly, I was worried about the weigh-in . . . but I shoulda been worried about the way out!’

‘‘He said he’d fight Holmes again, but he didn’t think [Holmes’] hands could have taken it.’’

Fratto speaks with authority on Packers milquetoast defensive coordinator Joe Barry, having watched him, in 2008, orchestrate the first Lions defense to yield 500-plus points (517) in a season.

He strives to be a keen observer, providing a journalistic foundation with sports-wagering insights.

‘‘This season, we studied the [Stanford] Wong teasers,’’ Fratto said of six-point, two-team NFL manipulations. ‘‘They’re hitting at about 68%. The problem is, because it’s minus-140, if you’re not at 73%, you’re losing money.’’

He conveys tactics in an even manner. Sportsbooks maximize profit and minimize risk. That, Fratto said, should be the tack of every bettor.

‘‘I want to take people behind the curtain, show them how to treat this right so they don’t hurt themselves. You’re not in the prediction or fortune-telling business. Your goal is to manage risk.

‘‘Do that, and you can have fun and it can be profitable. Part of managing risk is bankroll. Never endanger your bankroll.’’

Listen to ‘‘The Bernie Fratto Show’’ for money-making guidance and hear some epic music.

His own Hitsville.

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