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A Grip on Sports: The passing of an actor gets us musing on the most-memorable trade in Mariner history

Former Seattle Mariners Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson, Randy Johnson and Edgar Martinez, from left, and current Mariner Ken Griffey Jr. gather after Johnson threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Mariners' baseball game against the Oakland Athletics. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
Former Seattle Mariners Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson, Randy Johnson and Edgar Martinez, from left, and current Mariner Ken Griffey Jr. gather after Johnson threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Mariners' baseball game against the Oakland Athletics. (Elaine Thompson / AP)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • On this Monday morning, we have two words for you, and only two. Serenity now.


• Jerry Stiller, the actor who uttered the two words that seem to resonate even more in these pandemic times, died overnight. His son Ben announced it to the world on Twitter this morning.

What does that have to do with sports? Probably nothing. Yes, some of “Seinfeld’s” best episodes revolved around sports themes – the one with Keith Hernandez’s magic loogie comes to mine as does “The Contest,” though the latter, despite its name, wasn’t really sports related. Yet the show wasn’t about sports. Even if there was an occasional foot race in the New York City streets.

However, Stiller, as George Costanza’s father Frank, did deliver the most-memorable speech of the long-running comedy. Well, the most-memorable speech for Seattle Mariner fans.

There was a period of time when George, played by Jason Alexander, worked for the Yankees, hiding underneath his custom-made desk, changing the uniforms to cotton, that kind of stuff. And ever-present in those episodes was the back of owner George Steinbrenner’s head. It was a conceit of epic proportions that ran through the show for episode after episode.

Which brings us to the day Mr. Steinbrenner visits Frank to tell him George is dead. He isn’t, really, but that’s not important. No, really. It was just a starting point for what was – Frank finally has a chance to voice a question every Yankee fan in the 1990s wanted to ask: Why the heck did they trade Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps?

Those of us who watched from the comfort of our Pacific Northwest living rooms, our hair cut down to the skin and our minds still trying to figure out a way to explain to our children what in god’s name Buhner’s nickname really meant, chuckled. No, that’s wrong. We laughed uproariously.

Buhner was our rightfielder. Not New York’s. For once someone had fleeced the Yankees on a trade and it just happened to be the M’s. Yes, really. The M’s.

It was so bad, for New York, that the show about New York was making fun of it. Perfect.

We were all in that living room that night, right behind Jerry Stiller as Frank Costanza did not quiz Mr. Steinbrenner on his son’s death. Nope. He castigated the Yankees’ owner for the biggest mistake his team’s front office ever made.

It’s appropriate Frank didn’t utter his famous phrase then. Instead for asking for serenity, he asked for an explanation. There really wasn’t one. Never would be.

For those of us around here, we didn’t need one. Nor did we need the not-so-calming influence of a screamed mantra. With Buhner in rightfield for 14 years, we were all serene.


WSU: Nothing is serene anywhere else these days, including the football offices in Pullman. Nick Rolovich has to figure out how to prepare his new team for a new season, all without the foundation that would have been installed in the spring. Theo Lawson explores how the loss of spring football could impact the upcoming season. … Kyle Smith saw enough in Nathan Rawlings-Kibonge last summer to offer him a scholarship, which Rawlings-Kibonge accepted. Then the Portland athlete decided to try football. Now Rawlings-Kibonge has football offers from all over, including Pullman. Theo’s story delves into where the Cougars stand with the now-two-sport athlete. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, what happens if different conference wants to start football at different times? … Every football player in the conference, not just those at Arizona State, is on their own right now. … The tenure of new Colorado coach Karl Dorrell couldn’t have started any harder. … Reggie Bush talked about USC and how the NIL changes would have been a godsend for his tenure there. … In basketball news, a Colorado sharp shooter just graduated. … Finally, a book about the tough life of a late Oregon assistant athletic director is about to be released.

Idaho: Benson Mayowa has made a more-than-decent NFL career for himself since leaving the Vandals, having played 87 games in the league since signing as a free agent with the Seahawks. Now he’s back in Seattle and is expected to contribute to the Hawks’ defense as a pass-rushing defensive end.

Preps: More and more high school and prep events planned for this summer have either been postponed or canceled. The latest are part of our weekly local briefs column.

Indians: Miss ballpark food? The Indians have something for you. A take-out ballpark dinner for four – or more. Don Chareunsy has more on the team’s plan for May 21.

Seahawks: The Hawks are favored currently in 11 games. They probably won’t win that many the way they are constituted. But they can get there.


• Yes, Frank Costanza’s Jay Buhner rant is my favorite sports-related Seinfeld moment. But my second favorite? Has to be when Elaine wears an Orioles cap in the owner’s box at Yankee Stadium. And her refusal to take it off. It was the one time a Seinfeld character actually did something I could have seen myself doing. Though it’s hard to pick against “The Jimmy.” Everyone who ever played pickup basketball played against a guy like Jimmy. Until later …

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