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Originally published June 5, 2012 at 8:10 PM | Page modified June 6, 2012 at 12:16 AM

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Steve Buttle, fan favorite of NASL-era Sounders, dies of cancer at 59

Buttle, who totaled 15 goals and 44 assists as a versatile midfielder, helped lead Seattle to the 1977 Soccer Bowl, where itlost to the Pele-led New York Cosmos.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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RIP and thank you for your service Buttle. This open cup win is for you. MORE
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Steve Buttle, a fan favorite when he played for the Sounders from 1977 to 1982 in the North American Soccer League, died of cancer Tuesday morning at his home in Norwich, England. He was 59.

Buttle came to Seattle after having played for English clubs Ipswich Town (1971-73) and A.F.C. Bournemouth (1973-77), and it didn't take him long to become beloved in his new home.

"He was all heart and soul," said Alan Hinton, who coached the NASL Sounders from 1980-82. "He wasn't a big guy and had a wonky left knee. You wouldn't have thought he could play at all the way he strolled onto the field at the introductions, but as soon as the game started, he probably had the fastest brain on the field."

Popular for his No. 15 uniform, skill and nonstop hustle, Buttle totaled 15 goals and 44 assists as a versatile midfielder for the Sounders. He helped lead Seattle to the 1977 Soccer Bowl, where it lost to the Pele-led New York Cosmos.

Buttle played his last seasons with the Pittsburgh Spirit of the Major Indoor Soccer League, before joining the team as an assistant coach upon retirement.

In 1987, Hinton — who loved Buttle's sense of humor — hired his former player as an assistant coach for the MISL's Tacoma Stars. Both were fired a couple years later, and Buttle moved back to England in 1991.

His soccer legacy lives on through his son, John, who played a couple seasons in college and coaches at Juanita High School in Kirkland.

"Since a very young age, all I remember was being around soccer," said John Buttle, who credits his love of the game to his father.

Steve Buttle, who was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer a few months ago, is survived by his ex-wife, Jen Sheeley, their two children — John, of Seattle, and Sarah, of Omaha, Neb. — and four grandchildren. Buttle was an only child and his parents, Freda and Arthur, live in Norwich and cared for him in his final days.

"It's a sad day that we've lost him so young," said Hinton, "but he kept battling, just like he did all the days of his life."

Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or jmayers@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter: @joshuamayers

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