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

A Grip on Sports: This time of year we have to roam far and wide to serve up a tasty meal each day

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Did anyone out there have June 12 in the betting pool? You know the pool we’re talking about, right? It’s only available here. We take wagers each year on when summer doldrums will officially hit this daily feature. At least in the local arena.


• It happens every (late) spring. The college year is done. The athletes formerly known by the NCAA as student/athletes and now answering to “hey, would you like some NIL money,” have gone home. Or are already back in town, doing the all-important foundational work for next season.

Either way, college competition, other than for four SEC and four ACC schools at the World Series in Omaha, is over.

Which means finding stories about them is like mining for gold in California in ’49. Uh, 1949. A few small nuggets, not much more.

But that doesn’t mean the entire sporting world is on hiatus. Not with a major golf tournament on tap this weekend. Or the NHL and NBA final series rolling along. Or the Mariners continuing to pull rabbits out of their hats at home – though on the road they look more like Bullwinkle trying to do the same.

There is more than enough to keep us going. After all, we have a life motto to live up to. When the world gives you plant-based hot dogs, make lemonade. We learned that not-so-ancient chestnut from eating-machine Joey Chestnut. Just this week, actually.

• We stayed up well past our bedtime last night. And for that we blame the Cardiac Kids. No, not North Carolina State’s hoop squad, circa 1983, the group trying to set precedent by getting the NCAA to pony up NIL money 40 years after their last hurrah. The Seattle Mariners.

Wait, you may rightly ask, didn’t the Mariners game end relatively early Tuesday night? The answer to that is yes. Just after 9 p.m., when Ryne Stanek induced Corey Julks to hit a weak fly out to center field. But the let’s-wait-until-the-last-couple-innings offense forced us to watch to the end of the 4-3 victory.

Oh, sure. We could have turned it off after Cal Raleigh’s two-out, two-run seventh-inning double gave them the one-run lead. But what’s the fun in that?

With Andres Munoz day-to-day due to back issues, you never know who might walk out of the pen to play with your emotions. And blood pressure. Last night it was Mike Baumann and Stanek. They did both.

Heck, Baumann wanted to entertain us so badly, he made sure the leadoff hitter in the eighth – the tying run – reached third with no one out. And then kept him there. Though the remote was poised in our hand, we never pulled the trigger.

We waited until that final out. Then switched over to Hulu to finish streaming season five of “Fargo.” Where Jon Hamm and multitudes of others pulled triggers left and right.

• News broke as we were almost finished this morning. Jerry West, one of the greatest guards ever, and the NBA’s logo model, died early today at age 86. We have a lot of thoughts, ones we will share Thursday.

• We have a prediction. An exception will be made.

When it’s time for Mike Leach to be nominated for the College Football Hall of Fame, the criteria of a .600 winning percentage for a coach will be overlooked due to his untimely death. His other accomplishments, like winning in Lubbock, Texas and Pullman, Washington, or inventing the Air Raid, will trump the actually pretty new rules.

Jon Wilner this week ruminated over Leach’s chances to earn induction as a coach. And pointed out, because Leach only won 59.4% of his games, he doesn’t reach a hard-and-fast benchmark. He was one win short, basically.

Yes, we know there is more than a couple times in his WSU career Leach and his team were robbed by awful, yet not unexpected, blown calls. Oregon and pass interference. Stanford and a missed fumble. USC and targeting. But there is no Pac-12 officiating screw-up HOF exception, though, if you think about it, there should be, not just for Leach but for all Cougar fans.

Anyhow, there is hope. When he’s eligible for induction in 2026, he will to be nominated. And the overseers, who only instituted the arbitrary 60.0% rule in 2005 and didn’t boot the coaches who were already in despite not winning at that rate, will have to decide to make an exception. If they don’t?

They face the wrath of Gardner Minshew. And who wants that?


WSU: We can pass along Wilner’s column about Leach and the Hall as it ran in the S-R today. … Now, this is what we call a challenge. Where do we slot Dave Boling’s column on Seattle news-anchor Eric Johnson’s retirement? Do we put it in the Prep section, as he graduated from East Valley High years ago? Or do we carve out a new segment, being Johnson worked at KREM for a while? After some internal debate, we decided he got his degree in broadcast journalism from Washington State, so we would link the column here. … We also have this story on former Washington State pitcher Ryan Walker, who is one of three Cougars plying their trade in major league baseball. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, a former Washington (and WSU) basketball player and his old coach each found a new home yesterday. … Despite the rocky way their season ended, the Utah women seem to have hit a gold mine this offseason. … The football numbers countdown for Oregon and Oregon State continued in the Oregonian. So did the Beavers’ position previews. … It’s been a long time since Mercedes Lewis played tight end at UCLA. Nineteen years, actually. But the Bears’ star is not retiring yet. … Who says good APR numbers are their own reward? There’s a lot of money involved for Kenny Dillingham at Arizona State.

Indians: It’s not raining in Vancouver. That’s an upset, seeing as the Indians are in town for a six-game set. Oops, hope we didn’t jinx it. Anyhow, Spokane rode Victor Juarez’s six innings of shut-out pitching and near-perfect relieving to a 1-0 victory. Dave Nichols has the story. … Elsewhere in the Northwest League, Eugene kept pace, routing visiting Eugene 11-2. … Hillsboro got back to .500 by shutting out Tri-City in Oregon.  

Mariners: Yes, we know the White Sox are awful. But winning a game after your starting pitcher is scratched not that long before the first pitch is something of an accomplishment. And when that starting pitcher is Bryan Woo, arguably your best recently, then even more brownie points are in order. Tacoma left-hander Jhonathan Diaz was called up, given the ball and gave up three solo home runs over 5 1/3 innings. As Lou Piniella liked to say, solo dingers don’t beat you. They didn’t, thanks to Raleigh. As for Woo, he had an MRI done on his elbow. He’s already had Tommy John surgery – in 2021 while he was at Cal Poly – so he knows the drill.

Seahawks: Mini-camp in June is not usually all that important. Except when there is an entirely new coaching staff in place and the players have to do a lot of learning. … Another change in the offing. Mike Macdonald wants to join a hot NFL trend and spend a couple days in the preseason practicing with another team. The Hawks will do it in Nashville. … A good omen for the Hawks? And a bad one for San Francisco? Christian McCaffrey is the cover boy for Madden. There is a jinx, right?

Storm: The hot streak continued, with Seattle, behind former L.A. star Nneka Ogwumike’s season-high 26 points, doused the Sparks 95-79 at Climate Pledge Arena. … USA Basketball explained why Caitlin Clark wasn’t picked for the Olympics. In such cases, there is always a public reason. And, usually, one that really was behind the choice.

Kraken: There is a Northwest connection in the Stanley Cup Final. … It looks as if Florida won’t lose one of its best players for Thursday night’s game in Edmonton. As for the guy who delivered the blow that knocked Aleksander Barkov woozy? That’s still to be determined.

Sonics: Speaking of key players missing time, the Celtics have no idea if big man Kristaps Porzingis will be able to play after his left-leg injury. … Dallas heads home hoping to have learned key lessons.

Golf: Tiger Woods stepped up to the microphone in North Carolina and talked about the speed of Pinehurst No. 2’s greens. The new-look waste areas confronting those competing at the U.S. Open starting Thursday. And, most importantly, where the talks stood between the PGA Tour and the LIV folks. … One of the newest LIV stars, Jon Rahm, withdrew from the tournament due to a foot injury. Maybe he stubbed his toe going all Scrooge McDuck with his piles of Saudi gold. … Uh, never mind. Rory McIlroy and his wife have decided not to go through with divorce proceedings at this time.


• We must admit we slept in a bit later this morning. Got up just a hair before 6 a.m., when our little dog decided it was past time to be fed. And the big one needed to be let out. Badly. Luckily, we are sort of in the dog days already, at least as that term pertains to local sports news. Until later …