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

Grip on Sports: The sun may have been shining in Seattle on Sunday but it was a dark, dark day

The Seattle Mariners’ Robinson Cano, center, grimaces while being attended to by trainer Rob Nodine, left, and manager Scott Servais after being hit in the hand by a pitch from the Detroit Tigers’ Blaine Hardy in the third inning Sunday, May 13, 2018, in Detroit. Cano left the game. (Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Yesterday was beautiful around here. Sunny, warm, a perfect day to celebrate motherhood. But 285 miles to the west, it was a dark, deplorable day, no matter what the weather was like. Read on.


• The bad news started early in the morning. Chuck Knox, the first really successful coach the Seahawks had and the guy who paved the way for their future success under Mike Holmgren and Pete Carroll, had died at age 86.

Knox holds a special place in the heart of Hawk fans, mainly because he turned the team into a contender. The Kingdome became the house of horrors it is remembered as because of the way his teams played, grinding out wins behind a powerful running game – his first pick was Curt Warner – and a stout defense.

He also gave Seattle fans a playoff upset to remember, and an iconic photo burned in their memory.

Both came his first year in Seattle, 1983, as the 9-7 Hawks, who trounced Denver in a wild-card game, traveled to Miami and upset the 12-4 Dolphins 27-20 to make the AFC title game. They lost that contest in Los Angeles, to the Raiders 30-14, but remember, that was a Raiders team that pounded Washington in the Super Bowl.

So Knox’s Northwest tenure began with hope. The next year the Hawks were 12-4 but finished second to Denver in the West, lost to Miami in the playoffs and never won another postseason game under his watch.

That was something that happened to Knox’s teams often, starting with the Los Angeles Rams in the 1970s. 

As a high school (and college) aged Rams’ fan, his teams disappointed more than once. The regular season dominance was great, the postseason failures that more galling. It may have been where my fatalism was born.

Still Knox was respected by his players and peers, he gave Seattle its first taste of pro football success and he laid the groundwork for the future. On the Mount Rushmore of Hawk coaches, his steely visage, topped with a baseball cap of course, would dominant the left side.

By the way, there are many obituaries of Knox available to read. But if you want to really know the football mind of Knox, then read this 1990 story from the greatest sportswriter of all time, Jim Murray. It captures Knox’s essence perfectly.

• Mariner fans were just beginning to have hope this year may be different. Then Sunday happened. And an inside fastball caught Robinson Cano on his right hand.

Broken bone. Surgery possible. Two or three months without the star second baseman. There are words to describe this, but most can’t be used here.

Cano was having a Cano year. Anchoring the middle of the lineup, he got on base, drove in runs, was solid most every at-bat. Now he will be out.

So how do the M’s replace him? Hopefully by not moving Dee Gordon out of centerfield.

Cano will be back at some point, but the experience Gordon can gain learning his new home will never be replaced. If the Mariners really feel they are a playoff-worthy team, they need Gordon to be solid to good in center by then (he isn’t yet). Moving him back to second base for a couple months will stunt his growth in centerfield. Better to call up veteran Gordon Beckham from Tacoma (he’s hitting .300 with an OPS of .912) and have him fill in, or recall Taylor Motter and split the spot between him and Andrew Romine for the duration.

The long-term benefits of leaving Gordon in center demand it.

• Now this isn’t life or death, literally, or even injury. But the Sounders losing 1-0 to Portland in the rivalry’s 100th match is insulting to Seattle fans. The Sounders are like that actor in the old Life Alert commercials, they have fallen and can’t get up.

MLS champions two years ago. A finalist last season. And now the dredges of the league. It can happen that fast. 


WSU: The Cougars’ basketball roster rebuild continues as Ernie Kent mines the junior college ranks with gusto. The fourth JC transfer committed yesterday, sharpshooting guard Ahmed Ali. Theo Lawson has the story. … The last time a WSU athlete won the Pac-12 pole vault? That would be 1964. Were they still using bamboo poles then? … Around the Pac-12, Oregon won its 12th consecutive men’s track title.

Gonzaga: The baseball team took the deciding game of the New Mexico State series, 10-2. 

Chiefs: Swift Current won the WHL title and a Memorial Cup berth with a 3-0 series-clinching home win over Everett.

Mariners: There is the awful news – Cano’s injury – and then there is bad news – the M’s lost 5-4 and lost a road series for the first time this season. 

Seahawks: The Knox news dominated Sunday’s landscape.

Sounders: Seattle’s offense is so inept most of the time it struggles to get shots on goal. That happened again yesterday in Portland.


• If you happen to have an open spot in a foursome today and don’t mind waiting for me to hack my ball out of the right rough on 13 holes, hit me up. It seems like a great day to play a round or two. If I break 90 I will buy afterward. Until later …