http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgCherokee Nation citizen Gene Conley shown with the Boston Red Sox. Conley won a World Series with the Milwaukee Braves and three NBA Finals titles with the Boston Celtics. ASSOCIATED PRESS
Cherokee Nation citizen Gene Conley shown with the Boston Red Sox. Conley won a World Series with the Milwaukee Braves and three NBA Finals titles with the Boston Celtics. ASSOCIATED PRESS

2-sport star Gene Conley dies at age 86

The cover to Kathryn R. Conley’s book “One of a Kind: The Gene Conley Story” shows the Cherokee Nation citizen in his Boston Red Sox and Boston Celtics gear. COURTESY
The cover to Kathryn R. Conley’s book “One of a Kind: The Gene Conley Story” shows the Cherokee Nation citizen in his Boston Red Sox and Boston Celtics gear. COURTESY
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/11/2017 08:30 AM
FOXBORO, Mass. – There aren’t many who could say they were teammates with Hank Aaron and Bill Russell on a professional level. And there was probably only one man who could say he was a teammate of both. That man was also the only one who won a World Series and NBA Finals. That man was Cherokee Nation citizen Gene Conley, who died from at age 86 on July 4 in his Foxboro home.

Donald Eugene Conley was born Nov. 10, 1930, in Muskogee, Oklahoma, to Raymond Leslie Conley and Eva Beatrice Brewer.

The family moved to Richland, Washington, when Gene was 11. He lettered in baseball, basketball and track at Columbia High School before going to Washington State University in 1949 on a baseball scholarship. There he played baseball and basketball.

He played in the College World Series that year as WSU finished 29-6. Gene hit .417 average and won five games, two being shutouts. However, being 6 feet 8 inches tall, he played basketball for a season. In that season he was named an All-American and helped WSU win the Pacific Coast Northern Division.

But it was his pitching that brought big league scouts to WSU, and in 1950 he signed as an amateur free agent with the Boston Braves. He began pitching in the minor leagues in 1951, which was also the same year he married Kathryn Dizney, who survives him.

He made his Major League Baseball debut in 1952, the same year the Boston Celtics drafted him. According to The New York Times, the MLB in the 1950s was far less lucrative than today, and Conley needed an off-season job.

The Times reports that while playing with the Braves’ Triple A team, Gene pitched against the Brooklyn Dodgers’ farm team on which Bill Sharman, a Boston Celtics guard, played third base.

The article states Gene’s basketball talent impressed Sharman after Sharman saw Gene play for WSU against UCLA in the Pacific Coast finals when Gene was a sophomore. After the game Sharman offered to approach Celtics coach Red Auerbach to see if Gene could try out for the team, the article states.

“He called Red Auerbach and said, ‘I saw this skinny guy from Washington — you should give him a call,’ ” Gene told the Times in 2012. “I had no idea who Red Auerbach or the Celtics were.”

The article states Gene made the Celtics as a reserve center and earned $4,500 for the 1952-53 season, appearing in 39 games. It states his baseball manager was displeased, and the next season the Braves paid him $5,000 not to play basketball. Gene didn’t play hoops again until 1958, when the Braves cut his salary after he lost six straight games.

He became an All-Star with the Milwaukee Braves in 1954 and 1955. In 1957, he pitched the winning game of the World Series.

According to the Times, for his MLB career, he played 11 seasons – six with the Boston/Milwaukee Braves, three with the Boston Red Sox and two with the Philadelphia Phillies. He struck out Ted Williams and played against Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese. Gene won nine games in his championship season with the Braves, pitching alongside fellow Oklahoman Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette on a team that included sluggers Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews and Wes Covington, the Times article states.

He posted a 91-96 record and a 3.82 ERA. Not bad for a guy who had just a fastball and curveball.

His wingspan was so great that his fastball appeared “to come out of third base,” Al Hirshberg wrote in a 1955 profile in The Saturday Evening Post.

“I could sling the ball good,” Gene told the New York Times. “I pitched nearly my whole career with just two pitches, and if you do that you usually don’t last too long.”

In 1958, he played both sports. In 1959, he won the first of three NBA titles with the Celtics. The other two came in 1960 and 1961. In his six seasons in the NBA, four with the Celtics and two with the New York Knicks, he averaged 5.9 points and 6.3 rebounds a game.

According to the Times, Gene played alongside Celtics legends Bob Cousy, Tom Heinsohn, K. C. Jones and Bill Russell.

The Times states that in the years the Celtics made the playoffs, Gene showed up late for baseball’s spring training and out of shape despite playing basketball.

“I’d just go down there for two weeks and tell them I was ready to go, but I really wasn’t,” he told the Times. “The muscles are so different that when you get on dirt and put cleats on, it’s like running on clay, so all these different muscles get really sore.”

Playing two sports allowed little time to heal injuries, which often impaired his pitching. He struggled with back pain throughout his career and shoulder problems starting in 1955.

The Times states that toward the end of his career with the Red Sox, he received regular cortisone shots in his shoulder but did not tell the team, fearing his career would be over if it was known he had a sore arm. Though he won a career-high 15 games in 1962, his arm never recovered.

Gene played his final baseball game on Sept. 21, 1963, and was released by the Red Sox on April 25, 1964.
According to the Times, Gene played 18 professional seasons in 12 years. In six consecutive years during which his baseball and basketball careers overlapped, he played 12 professional seasons without taking a break.

After his playing days, he and his wife ran their Foxboro Paper Company for 35 years before retiring to Florida. The were married for 54 years and later returned to Foxboro. The couple had two daughters, a son and seven grandchildren. Kathryn wrote a book about his life called “One of a Kind.”

For more about Gene Conley, go to https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/one-of-a-kind-katheryn-r-conley/1113840556?ean=9780975433256.

People

BY KENLEA HENSON
Reporter
12/13/2017 08:15 AM
EVANSVILLE, Ind. – Cherokee Nation citizen Sydney Lawrence recently earned All-American status at the 2017 National College Athletic Association Division II women’s cross-country championship. Lawrence, 20, was one of two student-athletes to achieve the status for Oklahoma Baptist University. She and her teammate, Abby Hoover, are the first athletes of any sport to receive that honor for OBU since it joined the NCAA in August. “It is a huge honor to be one of the first to receive something like this in OBU’s history, but I cannot take all of the credit for it. God has worked in incredible ways to allow me to be here at OBU and to continue to run and compete for his glory, Lawrence, who OBU recruited from Stilwell (Oklahoma) High School, said. “It was an honor to receive this because this was my first time to ever compete in the NCAA. All of the work I had put in since my freshman year of college to prepare for this opportunity paid off.” She also thanked her family, coach and teammates for her and the Lady Bison’s success, which as a team placed 20th at the championship. “My family has supported me through this entire process and helped me keep the right perspective about everything,” she said. “And also my coach and teammates, everyone’s dedication to being successful and also having the mindset of competing and living for Christ is what makes this team and program such a special and life-changing thing to be a part of.” To receive All-American honors, student-athletes must place in the top 40. Although Lawrence said she was “doubtful” in the race’s beginning, she steadily progressed past other runners to the finish line in 40th place for the final All-American spot. “I was kind of doubtful in the beginning of the race because I was hearing that I was in like the seventy, eighties and I thought ‘wow I’ve got a lot of work to do and people to pass,’ but I tried to stay focused on racing smart and being patient. I truly cannot deny that the Lord was at work and giving me strength through the entire race,” she said. At Stilwell, running in Class 4A, Lawrence won state in the 3,200-meter and 1,600-meter runs as a freshman and was a three-time all-state cross-country runner. She also won a national championship as a junior. She excelled in cross-country after picking up the sport as a freshman. Up to that point she had concentrated on track. She said she was also recruited by the University of Central Oklahoma and Stephen F. Austin and John Brown universities but chose OBU because of the people she met and its Christian environment. As cross-country season closes, Lawrence said she’s had a successful season with awards and achievements, including All-Region, Great American Conference Meet runner-up, First-Team All-Great American Conference, GAC Scholar-Athlete, GAC Runner of the Week and NCAA All-American. Lawrence said with indoor track season beginning she would work hard to meet her goals. “It would be really great to go to the national indoor meet as well. The national standard is much more difficult than previous years of competing in NCCAA’s (National Christian College Athletic Association), but I am excited to have that motivation to keep working hard and meeting running times I never thought I could run,” she said.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
12/12/2017 12:00 PM
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen JoKay Dowell on Nov. 7 received a 2017 Dream Keepers award from the Greater Tulsa Area Indian Affairs Commission and the city of Tulsa Human Rights Department as part of National Native American Heritage Month. The GTAIAC’s annual Dream Keeper Awards Banquet celebrates Native American leaders “who exemplify strong character and have made a difference through solid dedication to public service.” Dowell (Cherokee/Quapaw/Peoria/Eastern Shawnee) was awarded the “Will Anquoe Humanitarian Award.” The award “recognizes humanitarianism and overall contributions to the Native community but also recognizes those who bridge communication and understanding among diverse groups.” Dowell was honored for her “strong history of advocacy and activism in the areas of Indigenous peoples’ rights, human rights, anti-war actions, peace and the environment.” She has traveled to Central and South American Indigenous communities to collaborate on ways to address shared injustices and successes, stated the Dream Keepers booklet. In 2016, she and her daughter Anna delivered supplies to the Oceti Sakowin camp on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota and spent five weeks there to help resist the Dakota Access Pipeline. “I looked around the room at the awards banquet and saw so many people of our people who have made profound contributions to their tribe, the community, the world. I felt inadequate, undeserving,” Dowell said. “I brought my grandchildren with me so that they can see that even though there is little financial reward or gain in community work, in service to others, there is so much reward. In fact, it’s mostly volunteer work. Many times we take money from out own pockets, but even then there is much reward when someone thanks us for something we’ve done or when we are recognized by our own community, our tribes, our peers like these Dream Keeper awards.” Residing in rural northern Cherokee County, Dowell is also a photographer whose work has shown at Gilcrease Museum and a writer published in Indian Country Today, Native American Times, Native Oklahoma Magazine, First American Art Magazine, Native Americas Journal, the Cherokee Phoenix and Indigenous Women's Magazine. Dowell served as faculty-in-residence for the 2004 University of Oklahoma’s National Education for Women’s Leadership Conference. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northeastern State University and has won awards for creative writing. In 2011, as part of the 7th Generation Fund’s delegation, she attended the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at UN headquarters in New York City. “I think each one of us has an obligation of service to our fellow human beings, to our home, Earth,” she said. “I’ve always been told that we Indigenous people have been given directions from the creator to take care of each other and Mother Earth and to demonstrate respect for all living things. I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do.”
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
12/11/2017 12:15 PM
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee actor and Nofire Hollow native Wes Studi sat down with the Cherokee Phoenix on Nov. 29 while attending the Tribal Film Festival Showcase at Circle Cinema to discuss his new film “Hostiles.” The film is set in 1892 and follows Capt. Joseph J. Blocker (Christian Bale) as he battles his hatred toward dying Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk (Studi) while being forced to escort him and his family from New Mexico back to ancestral lands in Montana. The film also stars Rosamund Pike, Adam Beach, Q’orianka Kilcher and Ben Foster, who portray characters that each adds layers to the story amid a harsh backdrop of the American frontier. The tagline of the film is, “We are all hostiles,” and reminds audiences that any character is capable of anything when called upon, either by choice or by circumstance. The Western premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in September before making its Oklahoma debut at Circle Cinema where audiences had the opportunity to catch one of three screenings and participate in a Q&A featuring Studi and the film’s consultants Chris Eyre and Dr. Joely Proudfit. “Hostiles” was scheduled to hit theaters nationwide on Dec. 22. Before the Nov. 29 screening, the Cherokee Phoenix sat down with Studi to discuss the film and what attracts the actor to projects. CP: Can you talk about your character, specifically the kind of journey he’s going to go on through this film? Studi: My character, when presented to me through script, was a matter of, ‘wow, this is going to be a challenge. This is going to be a challenge in that I have never done this before, this kind of role before.’ I have never even had this kind of experience before because I am a man dying a slow death over a period of a few months, and I’m described that way in the press for our film. So, yes, it’s kind of a daunting thing in that there is nothing in my background that I can call upon to feel what in the world it feels like to be a slowly dying person, but I gave it a shot and we’ll see at the Q&A if anybody believes me or not. (Laughs.) CP: Was there any other challenges coming in, mental or physical, that came with this character that was different from your other films? Studi: Mentally, the (Cheyenne) language is fairly foreign to me, but we had good instructors. We had plenty of time to work on the pronunciations, the ups and the downs and the flow of the language. That and just a lot of time outside. I believe I have one interior shot in the whole film. Everything else is exterior, so it was quite a challenge. But challenges are something I like. CP: Director Scott Cooper wrote this role with you in mind. Do you feel like you’re the go-to guy for this kind of role? Studi: Ah, Scott Cooper, the Prince of Darkness, had me in mind. That should scare me, don’t you think? (Laughs.) It’s great to have people think of you in terms of your past performances and to write with you in mind. I hope more of that happens in the future. CP: What would you tell people when they go into this film that they might get out of it? Studi: I think what the public can expect from our story is a good old-fashioned concept of a Western that has been brought to a contemporary audience. I think that will be able to take away from it’s story, the kind of world that we could be living in. And perhaps are in danger of living in a world like that again. It’s a cautionary tale in ways, but the message of it is so deeply hidden that is a very entertaining film in itself as a period Western. CP: What did you feel watching it for the first time? Studi: It really blew me away at first. I first watched it and I was simply almost dumbfounded. I was quiet for a good long while afterwards. I really had to absorb what I had just seen. It’s a very effective film in its own way. It left me incapable of conversation immediately thereafter. You know, some films you can walk out of and say, ‘oh, I like this. I like that’ or ‘I didn’t like this or like that,’ but this one…It’s thought-provoking. It absolutely is that, and it’s done in an entertaining way. CP: And in general, has there been a time where you’ve felt pressure to be the go-to Native American actor in Hollywood? Studi: I don’t feel pressure about that. I don’t mind being the go-to guy if it’s the right role. I’m not going to be competing with Jason Momoa (Pawnee actor) for a part, but I would very much like to be a functioning part of the entertainment industry. And that’s mainly what I’ve worked a larger part of my career for is to become not just a Native American actor but an actor in general. CP: And lastly, what attracts you to a project? Studi: My agents and managers, they work very hard looking for sort of crossover, jump out kind of roles that I haven’t done before. I’ve done so many of the wise old guys and somewhere I’m the warrior or the angry Indian. I’ve done a number of different kinds of parts as far as Native American parts go, but I’ve also been able to cross over into comedy with sort of “Street Fighter” and “Mystery Men” in a few films that sort of go outside the Native American sphere. That’s what I look for in terms of future roles is something different, something that I haven’t done before.
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/10/2017 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Carrigan Bradley, of Fort Gibson, recently won the 2018 Miss Northeastern scholarship pageant. Bradley, who also won the pageant’s talent competition, is a biochemistry major expected to graduate in 2020. She said she that after graduation she plans to continue her education with a doctorate in pharmacy. Bradley said she’s looking forward to representing Northeastern State University and her platform “Words have P.O.W.E.R.” The idea for the platform began when Bradley auditioned for the “X-Factor” at age 15, and the harsh critique from judge Simon Cowell that prompted online backlash. “My hope in creating this platform is to advocate for people in being kind to themselves with positive self talk, as well as being kind to others in their day-to-day conversations,” Bradley said. “As a titleholder, we get to be a voice and a role model for children of all ages to look to. I hope by speaking out about my experience and urging people to be kind and intentional with their words, I'll be able to change the way we speak to one another.” CN citizen Kayse Stidham, of Grove, was named second runner-up and crowd pleaser. Stidham is an early childhood education major expected to graduate in 2018. After graduation, she said she plans to teach pre-kindergarten and continue volunteering in her Girl Scout Service unit. During the pageant, more than $5,500 in scholarships and tuition waivers was awarded to contestants. For more information about Miss Northeastern, email Kirsti Cook at <a href="mailto: cookk@nsuok.edu">cookk@nsuok.edu</a>.
BY MARK DREADFULWATER
Multimedia Editor – @cp_mdreadfulwat
11/24/2017 10:00 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Ray Kirk forged his first knife as a Christmas gift in 1989. Twenty-eight years later, he creates knives from steel for his livelihood. “I’ve been retired since (20)04 and my knife-making is just what I do. I enjoy it,” he said. The master knife maker works in a small gravel floor shop behind his house. Sounds of humming from the gas forge, knocking from the hydraulic hammer and the ‘ping’ from a hammer striking the hot steel echo throughout nearby woods. It’s there, he spends most of his day thinking of knife designs and bringing those ideas to life. “I enjoy making knives. Right now I’m working on cross-between a little panabas and a karambit that is easy to make. It’s simple in design and it’s affordable. It’s always fun to figure out a new knife design and then figure out how to make it…easily, and it’s what I like to do.” Kirk said he continually makes certain knives to keep in stock. He said he has the largest inventory this year that he’s had in a long time. He takes custom orders, he said, but it should be a knife he’s used to making. He added that custom orders need to be planned and take more time to make. “I don’t do wild, scary, scientific…blades,” he said. “I enjoy making using knives, mostly.” Kirk said if someone custom orders a knife during the holiday season, he or she wouldn’t receive it until spring. “If I have something that they (customer) like, I might already have it in inventory. As far as a special knife of this design, this size, I couldn’t get to it.” He said a special-ordered knife creates a “connection” between the maker and the buyer and adds more time to the creation process. “I do heirloom knives where I take some steel and wood…from a customer…and if it’s weldable, I’ll forge-weld it together, and I’ll add some of my steel and make a usable knife out of it. It takes longer sometimes. I made some out of a crescent wrench. How good of an edge it holds, I do not know, but the guy said it’s working good.” Kirk said he sells knives ranging from $50 to $1,500 and offers discounts to veterans, active-duty military, police, fire fighters and Boy Scout leaders. Along with forging knives to sell, Kirk also desires to teach his craft. He said he’s going to Auburn, Maine, in mid-November to teach a two-week introduction bladesmith class for the American Bladesmith Society. “It makes you feel good whenever someone shares your enjoyment…and you’re able to share it with them.” Kirk said he plans to start a class at his shop next year and wants to hold sessions over multiple days instead of a few hours in the evenings. He plans to renovate a house on his property so attendees can have a place to stay. “What my wife and I plan on doing is we’ll have a place for them to stay, and it will run about $400 for three days,” he said. “We’ll make my kind of knife, and they should be able to make two of them in three days.” Kirk said, for the class, he’s going to accept two to four people per class. “If they pay $400, it’s like them buying two knives that they made plus they get to know how to do it.” To purchase a knife, visit <a href="http://www.rakerknives.com" target="_blank">www.rakerknives.com</a> or Kirk’s Facebook page at <a href="https://www.facebook.com/ray.kirk.5" target="_blank">https://www.facebook.com/ray.kirk.5</a>. For more information on classes, call 918-207-8076 or email <a href="mailto: ray@rakerknives.com">ray@rakerknives.com</a>.
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
11/21/2017 08:00 AM
WESTVILLE, Okla. – When expert bushcrafters were invited to square off against one another on the Discovery Channel’s new series “Bushcraft Build-off,” Cherokee Nation citizen B.J. Latta was featured among them. “Back in March, I get a phone call and this lady calls me from Hollywood, California, and she says, ‘hey, we would like to interview you on Skype for a upcoming TV show. You got recommended by (Latta’s friend) Matt Tate.’ It was just crazy being interviewed, and of course, I didn’t think it was going to go anywhere because there’s so many guys who are way more talented,” Latta said. Hosted by primitive skills expert Matt Graham, the show debuted Nov. 14 and takes survival to the next level by asking two teams of three bushcrafters to outdo one another in challenges meant to test ability and skill. Latta led his team on the series premiere competing to build the best shelter during a seven-day span in Utah’s Aspen Grove forest. Each team was allowed three hand tools to accomplish the task while being graded by Graham in areas of creativity, sustainability, livability and protection. “One tool a piece, per person and then we were just turned loose in the environment for seven days,” Latta said. “The part where I filmed was in the mountains of Utah, and we didn’t know what we were doing until we got off the plane, got out of the hotel room and they took us to the mountains. We were kind of kept in the dark, so the challenge was more real.” In addition to being limited on tools, Latta faced challenges from an unfamiliar environment. “I was totally out of my environment,” he said. “When you go to the mountains of Utah, there’s no cedar trees up there. There’s not one and that’s one of the main resources, especially for Native American people, here. Cedar trees are very life giving. We use that in everything in Cherokee culture, but when you get up there, there’s none.” The location itself was also a factor. “Even just working in the altitude was very tough for us because I’m not used to that, the oxygen levels,” Latta said. “There’s no high altitude here in Adair County. Your body’s different. You’re burning more calories. You’re exhausted more and in a survival situation, all that stuff really, really matters.” In the premiere episode titled “Built to Survive,” Latta said Graham was quick to offer advice when things started to go sideways. “I ran into a problem with my shelter,” he said. “I thought it out and thought, ‘man, my idea is not going to work. I need a bigger and better idea,’ and so I ask (Graham), ‘hey, what do you think about this?’ And so this guy, who is world renowned got to sit with me and I got to pick his brain, which is really, really cool.” The experience also allowed Latta to spend more time with his father, who was on his team. “To be able to spend that time with my dad, was probably the most rewarding,” he said. “Being on TV is going to be really cool, but that’s like third or fourth compared to spending 15 days with my dad.” Despite seeing himself on the Discovery Channel, the Stilwell teacher remains humble. “To know that maybe the world doesn’t see me as maybe successful on paper, but that’s because I’ve been a good steward at everything I’ve done and just worked hard like the Lord says, just showing up and doing your best can elevate you,” he said. “I didn’t put in an application to be on the Discovery Channel. They seen my work ethic working somewhere else and noticed me and asked me to come there.” For more about “Bushcraft Build-off” or to watch Latta’s episode, visit <a href="http://www.discovery.com" target="_blank">www.discovery.com</a>. A new episode is aired at 9 p.m. every Tuesday night.