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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Be honest. Wasn’t mom your biggest fan?

A GRIP ON SPORTS • We’ve told these stories before. But on Mother’s Day they are always worth repeating. Right? Read on.


• My mom wasn’t really an athlete. Or a sports fan. As my dad was both, her begrudging sports tolerance was part of an eventually futile search for marital harmony. There’s a story in our family – from before my time – concerning an offer my dad received in 1947 to sign with the Giants. They wanted him to pitch in North Carolina. My mom, pregnant with my oldest sister, told him he could. When he got back to Los Angeles, though, he wouldn’t be able to find her. My dad passed on the opportunity. Regretted it the rest of his life. Did I mention their marriage ultimately fell apart? But that was after I was grown and on my way out the door. During my childhood she seemed like a sports fan to me. I realized later it wasn’t sports she loved, it was me. If I was playing baseball, she was in the stands watching and rooting. If I was playing basketball, she was in the stands watching and rooting. If I was playing football, she was in the stands hiding her eyes but rooting anyway. She chauffeured me to golf, she took me to Pasadena High for football practice, she made sure my friends and I got to basketball games – sometimes. Funny story. Once, while driving to a sixth-grade Catholic school game, she went to the wrong school in the wrong city. The heart of our starting lineup arrived at halftime of a key game. We lost. It was our only loss all year. The coach wasn’t a fan of my mom’s navigation skills. Anyhow, if my dad was my first coach, my mom was my first fan. On the ride home following baseball games, my dad would point out where I had come up short that day. When I got home, my mom would make me feel 10-feet tall. It might have been just a word or two or it might have been just a bologna sandwich and a glass of chocolate milk. But whatever she had for me, it always made me feel better. Though there were those times she made me feel worse. It happened as I entered the teen years. You know, the days when you want to distance yourself from your parents. Well, LaVonne Isabell never got the message. Either that or she ignored it. Her voice was unmistakable. She could be sitting in the car in the parking lot with the windows rolled up, I could be playing in the gym and I could hear her voice. It carried. And the things she yelled. Nice things, sure, but not the things 14 and 15 and 16 and, yes, 19-year-old boys want to hear. Heck, when I was playing summer baseball in college she would come to games and yell for me. No matter how many times I told her it wasn’t appropriate to praise her boy or to berate an umpire for a borderline call while I was hitting, she still did it. I remember one time, in a Orange County Metro League game after my sophomore year in college, she got all over the umpire while I was hitting. I stepped out and mumbled an apology. He asked “your mom?” I nodded my head. He laughed. “Believe it or not, I have one too.” I stepped in, the next pitch was about a foot outside and he called it strike three. I think he just wanted to hear what my mom would yell.

• So Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there. Keep cheering. Keep supporting. Keep being, well, a mom. We all love you.


• WSU: Not a lot with a Pullman connection, other than Mike Leach speaking for Donald Trump in Spokane yesterday, but we can pass along the mailbag from’s Pac-12 blog. We forgot to link Ted Miller’s work yesterday.

• Gonzaga: A Zag freshman golfer is headed to the NCAA tournament.

• EWU: Michael Roos headlines the Eagles’ athletic hall of fame class.

• Chiefs: Ray Whitney has earned another honor.

• Empire: Spokane has lost once this season, on the road in Billings. That game has been avenged. The Empire hammered the Wolves 75-28 last night in the Arena. Jim Meehan has the game story.

• Preps: We have a roundup to pass along which includes Saturday’s soccer and baseball action.

• Diving: It’s not too often we have a story concerning a possible U.S. Olympic diver and his Spokane connections, but we have one to pass along today.

• Mariners: Watching the M’s last night, I had this sinking feeling they were wasting chances to put the game away. Lots of chances. And it seemed to have come back to bite them when Steve Cishek gave up a tying home run in the bottom of the ninth. Last year, game over. Houston wins. This year? The M’s have a healthy Robinson Cano and he’s making all the difference. His 10th-inning bomb – his second of the game – lifted them to a 3-2 win. ... Ketel Marte is hitting and fielding well. ... The M’s are moving up in some estimations. ... Taijuan Walker is feeling better. ... There are some players that just seem to have a stranglehold on the M's.

• Seahawks: Jarran Reed wants to be the man in the middle of the Hawk defense. He has a chance to be that and more. ... It seems odd Marshawn Lynch is done. ... Trevor Boykin stood out in yesterday's mini-camp sessions. ... There are a lot of running backs in the minicamp and they may just spice up the offseason.

• Sounders: Seattle began the season in a 0-3 hole. The Sounders have now climbed all the way back to even. Their 2-0 win last night at home vs. San Jose got them to 4-4-1. The win wasn’t easy, though. ... The Timbers lost in Vancouver 2-1. The Whitecaps have played two Cascadia Cup games and have two wins. ... Colorado shut out their rivals from Salt Lake City.


• Did you notice my mom’s middle name? “Isabell.” My dad used to use it and call her a ding-dong. Did I mention their marriage didn’t last? Until later ...

Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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