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

Larry Stone says farewell after 27 years at the Seattle Times

Larry Stone photographed in Seattle in early November.  (Kevin Clark/Seattle Times)
By Larry Stone Seattle Times

SEATTLE – When I was hired at the Seattle Times in 1996 as a Seahawks beat writer — the answer to a trivia question no one’s asking — the sports editor, Cathy Henkel, asked me to give the paper at least three years. It had been a difficult hiring process, with a few people turning the job down, and she wasn’t keen on going through it again. I agreed readily.

Well, I lasted just one year on the Seahawks beat, but 27 at the Seattle Times, a stretch that sent me from middle age to senior citizenship, from the Seahawks to the Mariners to 10 years as a sports columnist, with vast opportunities to delve into all manner of stories that fell outside those realms — nearly three decades that provided some of the greatest joy of my life. That run ends this week with my retirement, and I naturally find myself in a reflective mood.


I think back to where it all began at the University of California in Berkeley. Perusing the school newspaper one day in 1976, the spring of my freshman year, I saw a little ad in the Daily Californian seeking sportswriters. I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life, but I liked sports, and I sort of liked writing, so I decided to give it a shot. I sauntered into the Daily Cal office, went to the sports department — a tiny, cluttered room — and said I was answering the ad. The sports editor, John Crumpacker — who would become a close lifelong friend until his death this year — asked me if I knew anything about baseball. It so happened the Cal baseball writer had just come down with mono.

“Sure,” I said. “I played in high school.”

“Great,” John said. “You’re covering Cal baseball. Go out and write a preview for the USC series.”

Now, I had no clue what that entailed, but I wrangled an interview with the coach, Jackie Jensen – only one of the most fabled figures in the history of Cal sports, to this day. Jensen had been an All-American running back and then became a standout Major League Baseball player with the Yankees, Senators and Red Sox, winning the American League MVP Award in 1958. He was known as the Golden Boy in his playing days and still had a regal aura, even though he was embattled at the time because the Cal players had recently submitted a petition asking for his firing over a variety of grievances. It was a tense situation for a fledgling reporter to walk into, but to my everlasting gratitude Jackie couldn’t have been more gracious, patient and accommodating. I’m not sure I’d be writing this farewell column today if he had barked at me, because high school English teachers don’t generally get that platform.

I fumbled out a story that Crumpacker thought was decent, once he and assistant sports editor Jon Rochmis edited it into coherence. I got another assignment, and then was handed the baseball beat full time. Suddenly, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. Writing for a newspaper touched something deep in my soul – so deep that every paycheck I would receive for the entirety of my professional career came from a newspaper, a claim I fear is becoming exceedingly rare.

That tiny, cluttered office became my home for the next 3½ years as I covered water polo, gymnastics, track and field and an array of other men’s and women’s sports before becoming sports editor my junior and senior year. RIP, my GPA, but this education was far more valuable. I traveled on the team charter for football games in places such as Knoxville, Tennessee; Lincoln, Nebraska; Morgantown, West Virgina; and Columbia, Missouri, as well as all the Pac-8 (yes, Pac-8) road venues. In Tempe for an Arizona State game, the play-by-play man for the student radio station, KALX, who hadn’t been comped a hotel room like the Daily Cal, crashed on the floor of my room for the night to save money. That play-by-play man was Larry Baer – now the president, CEO and minority owner of the San Francisco Giants.


It was an unparalleled learning experience and allowed me to land a job out of college at the Yakima Herald-Republic — which happened to be the only newspaper to show any interest out of the dozens up and down the coast to which I sent applications. It was serendipity of the first order, bringing me to a part of the country I fell in love with and connecting me with two people who would become seminal figures in my, gulp, 44-year career. One was Jim Scoggins, the crusty but lovable sports editor, the other a young sports writer at the YHR named Don Shelton with whom I bonded instantly and who became, like Jim, a lifelong friend and someone I would work with at four newspapers, including this one.

We covered the heck out of high schools, Yakima Valley College and Central Washington University. Don and I did the bulk of the writing, and Jim gave us freedom to pursue in-depth feature stories that gave me tools that served me well for decades. He also allowed us occasional trips to Seattle to cover the Huskies and Seahawks and to Pullman to cover Washington State – enough taste of the “big time” that it motivated me to get there one day.

The only problem was that the company cars we were required to drive on these trips, tiny Honda Civics, had stick shifts, which I had no clue how to operate. My brilliant solution was to somehow maneuver the Civic two blocks, bucking and wheezing all the way, park it out of sight on a back street, and furtively drive my own car to Seattle. When Jim got wind of this, after he stopped cackling for 45 minutes, he took me out for a stick-shift lesson that was harrowing, but made me proficient enough, barely, to negotiate Snoqualmie Pass.

Another time, I decided I’d bring the woman I was dating with me to the Seahawks game I was covering. After all, she had sat with me in press boxes in Sunnyside and Toppenish, so I figured she could do it in Seattle, too. That’s how naive I was back then. We stick-shifted it to the Kingdome, and I confidently brought her up to the press box (no oppressive security to prevent it in those days, circa 1983). It wasn’t long before Gary Wright, the still-revered public-relations man for the Seahawks, sauntered over and gently asked my date to show her pass.

“It’s OK, she’s with me,” I interjected confidently.

Gary regretfully informed this confused woman that she would have to exit. She spent the ensuing four hours sitting in my car in the parking lot, reading – but she didn’t hold a grudge. Lisa and I celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary in September.


Six years in Yakima led me in 1985 to the Journal-American in Bellevue, where Don had become sports editor. He made me the Mariners beat writer, in which capacity I covered my first spring training in Tempe, Arizona – beginning a 36-year streak in the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues that would bring me sunburns, endless adventures and dozens of rotting bananas for Times reporter Ryan Divish to photograph, halted only by the postpandemic season of 2021. Looking back, many of my fondest sports-writing memories occurred in the relaxed atmosphere of spring training, such as the time that Giants manager Roger Craig, on the north side of 60 years old, showed up out of the blue to join the Giants beat writers’ daily basketball game at Indian School Park. Craig drove up in his pickup truck, pulled out a cooler of beer, and played full-court hoops for a solid hour. Once, doing an interview with Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda in his Vero Beach, Florida, office, my boyhood hero Sandy Koufax walked in. I did a double-take, a triple-take, and a quadruple-take. Lasorda, to my everlasting gratitude, said, “Sandy, have you met Larry Stone?” We shook hands, and I believe I didn’t wash mine for months.

From Bellevue, I went back to the Bay Area for a 10-year stint at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and San Francisco Examiner, where I worked for another hugely influential sports editor, Glenn Schwarz. Glenn, a longtime baseball writer and prince of a man, offered two pieces of advice when I took over as Giants beat writer – make sure you take naps when you get a chance so you don’t get worn down, and buy yourself a navy blue blazer – it works casual and dressy. That advice has served me well for decades, along with that of Scoggins, who once unfurled the printout of an overwritten 100-inch article and said, sagely: “Never write a story that’s taller than you are.” (It’s a rule I break today. Sorry, Jim.) Then there was the veteran scribe who once told me that if you can’t figure out how to end a story, the word “indeed” works perfectly every time. I haven’t yet tested the efficacy of that one.

Eventually, the pull of Seattle proved irresistible, and after 10 years over covering Bay Area sports – six as Giants beat writer at the outset of the Barry Bonds era – I moved to Seattle in 1996.

The job has taken me literally around the world, with assignments in Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Germany and, of course, Canada (where in Montreal, fellow baseball scribe and buddy John Shea and I once ended up in an ambulance to the hospital following a Giants-Expos game when the taxi we were riding in got T-boned. We were shaken up but fine).


What I loved most throughout my career was delving into human stories, unearthing tales of people with a fascinating connection to an uncommon realm of sports, everyday athletes showing unspeakable determination to accomplish a task, folks struggling valiantly to overcome disease or other hardships.

I also loved exploring the roots of famous athletes, traveling to Stockton, California, for a story on Eddie Guardado’s harsh upbringing, to Greenbrae in Marin County to explore the formative years of Pete Carroll, to the tiny town in Wisconsin where Scott Servais grew up (and eagerly gave me a guided tour), and Dorado, Puerto Rico, to trace the amazing path of Edgar Martinez from a modest upbringing living with his grandparents to the Hall of Fame. Speaking of which, being in the Manhattan hotel suite with Edgar and his family when he got the Hall of Fame call was the privilege of a career. Close behind was walking through the museum in Cooperstown, New York, with an awe-struck Dave Niehaus and his wife, Marilyn, the day before he received the Frick Award at the Hall of Fame inductions.

Ah the memories. I was in Yakima when Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, turning day into night. I was at Candlestick Park in 1989 when the Loma Prieta earthquake sent the press box swaying, the most terrifying moment of my career. The 9/11 attacks put a somber spin on the Mariners’ 116-win season in 2001, and just three years ago the pandemic uprooted the world – including the sports world.

One fateful day, my finger got stuck on the plus button while I was shaking potato chip crumbs off my detachable keyboard at work, and I somehow sent out 45 consecutive tweets of nothing but plus signs, throwing the Twittersphere into a frenzy of disbelief and hilarity. I briefly became the No. 1 trending person on Twitter. I was even ahead of the “God” account – the only time I was more popular than God.

Also, I once spilled a soda in the press box in 1988, but fortunately that never happened again.

In Yakima, I got to bat against fastpitch legend Eddie Feigner – strike one, strike two (which was a foot outside but I don’t hold a grudge four decades later), strike three. I got to receive a standing ovation from a sellout crowd at Candlestick Park (when I walked out with Willie Mays to present an award to Bonds on opening day). At a high school sports banquet in 1985, emcee Steve Raible told the crowd I was the winner of the Woody Allen Lookalike Contest. Covering the Giants in the 1980s, I was often mistaken for pitcher Mark Thurmond, who was about the same age. Now players regard me as a grandfatherly figure.


So many all-time great events I got to witness first hand. My first World Series game to cover was Kirk Gibson’s home run – which I watched peering out of the bowels of Dodger Stadium after foolishly leaving the auxiliary press box in the top of the ninth to head down to the clubhouse. I was there – in my press-box seat – for Joe Carter’s epic homer (after which I had two simultaneous thoughts: I just witnessed baseball history … and my deadline was in trouble).

The Jack Morris-John Smoltz Game 7 pitching duel. Francisco Cabrera’s pinch-hit, pennant-winning single for the Braves. Felix’s perfect game. Cal Raleigh’s drought-ending home run. The Seahawks’ Super Bowl rout over Denver (and two heartbreaking Super Bowl losses – one much more so than the other). The Sounders’ shootout win in Toronto for their first MLS title. I was there when Mark McGwire hit his 62nd home run, now tainted but at the time the biggest sports story of the decade

Twenty World Series in all, happily capped by 2023’s. Twelve Super Bowls, including the single most stunning moment of my career, Malcolm Butler’s interception in the end zone (too soon?) Countless MLB All-Star Games (including the one in which Ichiro volunteered to give me a private one-on-one interview because he felt bad that the Japanese media had dominated almost all of his availability). WNBA and NBA playoffs (including one of the greatest individual performances I ever witnessed, the underappreciated 29-point quarter by Golden State’s Sleepy Floyd against the Magic Johnson-Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Lakers in 1987). Two MLS Cups, two NWSL finals, my introduction to the thrilling Stanley Cup playoffs last season, and a taste of the College Football Playoff with the Huskies in 2016 – all exhilarating, but none of which matched the purity of the high school games I chronicled for seven years.

So many colorful and iconic figures whom I covered. Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, Steve Young and Jerry Rice in the heyday of the 49ers dynasty, Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr. (who was the only person who noticed, immediately, that my shirt was on inside-out one day), Randy Johnson, Edgar and A-Rod, plus the inimitable Jay Buhner. The one-name-suffices stars like Felix, Ichiro, Julio, Stewie and Sue. I covered four Hall of Fame managers, two of whom are in (Dick Williams and Tony La Russa) and two of whom will be there soon (Lou Piniella and Dusty Baker). Husky legends Don James, Marv Harshman and Chris Petersen. The indefatigable Carroll. Every Mariners manager from Piniella to Servais – and there’s been a lot of them.

I started on manual typewriters, progressed through clunky Telerams, the infamous “Trash 80” and rudimentary laptops (including the Portabubble, which would go haywire with excessive crowd noise), and saw the advent of the internet and social media, changing the landscape immensely, for good and bad.


And now it’s all coming to a crashing halt, fully by my own choice. It’s time to explore new worlds, relax a little, travel with Lisa, hone my golf game, read and, yes, I’m sure, write.

I want to thank all my wonderful colleagues ; my family that endured far too many absences while I traipsed around ballparks or sweated over late-breaking news; the readers who kept me on my toes and provided amazing feedback; and Times publisher Frank Blethen, who still believes in local journalism and has kept The Times afloat and striving for excellence while so many other newspapers have thrown in the towel.

Am I forever grateful that I answered that ad in the Daily Cal? Will I miss this job with every fiber of my being? Have I loved every minute of it?