UW's Lawrie may be Seattle's most dominant athlete ever
Washington softball pitcher Danielle Lawrie could cement herself as the city's most dominant athlete in a team sport before she's done.
Seattle Times staff columnist
OKLAHOMA CITY — A man sat at Beverly's Pancake House early Wednesday morning wearing a Thunder jersey and attacking a tall stack of buttermilk artery cloggers. He heard I was from Seattle, put down his fork and spoke despite a full mouth.
"You here to ask for your team back?" he needled.
"No," I replied. "I came to watch Washington win a softball championship."
"Oh, I didn't know they was from Seattle!" the man exclaimed. "That pitcher they got? She's somethin' else, I tell ya. She could kill a bear, hard as she throws. We've seen some good softball around here, but she's one of the best. Has to be."
Well, at least Seattle and Oklahoma City, destined to always be at odds over the swiping of the Sonics, can agree on one thing: Danielle Lawrie is a bad mamma jamma.
So bad, in fact, that we must realize her talent should be measured in even broader terms. It's too limiting to consider Lawrie only the nation's finest college softball player. She's so much more than that.
She's the most dominant athlete (in a team sport) in our city.
And if that statement weren't grand enough, how about this: She's only a junior, so she could go down as the most dominant athlete in the history of Seattle team sports.
After you finish calling me crazy, consider my argument.
Dominant: (n) 1. Commanding, controlling or prevailing over all others. 2. Very important, powerful or successful. 3. A pitcher who could kill a bear with a rise ball.
What are my criteria for dominant athletes in team sports? There are three things. They must be the best or be in the argument as the best at what they do. They must influence winning. Their talent must translate in pressure situations.
Now that she's led the Huskies to a national title, Lawrie scores an A-plus in all three categories. She's the national player of the year in her sport, a two-time All-American and will go down as the greatest softball player in Washington history. She's led the Huskies to two Women's College World Series appearances and won a national championship. And pressure? The girl eats it for breakfast.
As a sports town, Seattle remains young compared to the Bostons, Chicagos and New Yorks. So the list of comparable stars is short. Remember that in major professional sports, Seattle has had just four most valuable players: Ichiro, Ken Griffey Jr., Shaun Alexander and Lauren Jackson.
The most dominant athletes in Seattle team sports history? Griffey, Ichiro, Elgin Baylor, Steve Emtman and Walter Jones.
And now, Lawrie.
You could make cases for several others — Gary Payton, Bob Houbregs, perhaps even Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, Shawn Kemp, Tim Lincecum and Steve Largent, to name a few — but you'd be getting picky based on personal preferences.
Here's how Lawrie stands out from the others on the list. As the best in her sport, she led her team to a championship and has a realistic chance to repeat as a senior, and she did it all while playing the most important position in the game of softball. And she bats cleanup. She's Babe Ruth with a ponytail and without the gut.
Griffey will be considered the best team-sports athlete in Seattle history. Ichiro will be the most graceful. Jones has had seasons in which he was the best pure player in the NFL. Emtman was a beast as a Husky. Baylor was probably the most gifted.
Most dominant? It might be Lawrie now. After next season, might should turn into is.
You're witnessing a once-in-a-century talent. If Lawrie continues to improve, she will become an internationally respected softball player on the level of Lisa Fernandez. She's that good.
She just threw 1,501 pitches in a three-week span to win a championship, including 251 in one game. She struck out 521 batters this year. Her season totals: 42-8, 0.97 earned-run average.
"She's the best," Washington coach Heather Tarr said. "And it's awesome because she does things the right way."
Tarr was talking about Lawrie's standing among all-time great Huskies pitchers, but her words apply to almost any local sports comparison. If Lawrie didn't play a women's sport, there wouldn't even be an argument.
Drop the chauvinism, naysayers. That pancake paramour is right.
Danielle Lawrie is somethin' else, and luckily, we have another year to appreciate — or better yet, realize — her rare dominance.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
About Jerry Brewer
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