When Sounders fans watched Steve Buttle play for Seattle from 1977 until 1982, they marveled at the bravery of the slight young man who hustled up and down the field.
At five-foot-seven and 135 pounds, fans saw the tenacity of the kid from Norwich, England, and rallied behind him.
Buttle used that same tenacity and bravery in his long battle with cancer.
“As a young boy, Steve Buttle was one of my favorite players. He was hard-working, crafty and always entertaining on the pitch,” Sounders FC owner and general manager Adrian Hanauer said. “I didn’t know Steve personally, but whenever we lose a member of the Sounders family, it is a sad day."
Sounders FC broadcast analyst Alan Hinton coached Buttle with the Sounders in the North American Soccer League for three seasons and stayed in touch with him through the years.
He remembers a player who came to the Sounders in 1977 at the age of 24 hoping to revitalize his career after surgery on his left knee. He was never the same player after the surgery as he was when he played 139 matches for Bournemouth, but he made up for what he lacked in speed with an accelerated soccer sense.
“He was almost going backwards, he was so slow coming onto the field,” Hinton said. “But as soon as the game started he had the fastest brain out of anybody. He was just a fantastic player.”
Equal to his bravery, in Hinton’s mind, was Buttle’s loyalty.
When his good friend Mickey Cave passed away while they were playing together in Pittsburgh, Buttle flew with Cave’s body back to England for the service.
That loyalty, along with his sense of humor, led Hinton to bring him to Tacoma as an assistant coach for the Tacoma Stars from 1986-1989.
Through thick and thin with the Stars, Buttle remained by Hinton’s side.
On Monday, Hinton had lunch with Buttle’s son John, who coaches soccer at Juanita High School. There, Hinton learned that Buttle was in hospice and he didn’t expect him to live much longer. It was the same thing Hinton had heard three months earlier when he first learned that Buttle was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer.
That is how Hinton will remember his longtime friend. Fighting to the end, against all odds.
He is survived by his parents, Arthur and Freda, his ex-wife, Jen Sheeley, their two children John and Sarah, who now lives in Omaha, Nebraska, and four grandchildren.
The Sounders FC is planning a moment of silence at their next home match to honor him.