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 STAFF REPORTS
05/24/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Four Cherokee Nation employees recently graduated from the University of Oklahoma Economic Development Institute held in Fort Worth, Texas. Career Services Executive Director Diane Kelley, Career Services Special Projects Officer Hunter Palmer, Commerce Entrepreneur Development Manager Stephen Highers and Jobs Business Development Coordinator Travis Gulley graduated on May 3. OU EDI is a 117-hour certificate program that provides advanced education for economic development professionals. “I’m excited that the Cherokee Nation now has four new graduates from the University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute,” Kelley said. “This is a prestigious program, and the knowledge and training we received will improve many of the services we provide to tribal citizens and businesses.” OU EDI classes focus on business retention and expansion, real estate and credit analysis, as well as areas of concentration in marketing, strategic planning, entrepreneurship and managing economic development organizations. Students typically take one to two years to complete the program through a series of in-person seminars, workshops and discussion groups. “OU EDI is the premier organization dedicated to training economic development professionals,” Mary Ann Moon, dean, said. “These graduates represent some of the finest economic development practitioners in the U.S. working to support their local communities. My congratulations to them.” OU EDI began in 1962 and is celebrating its 56th year of service to the economic development community. Fully accredited by the International Economic Development Council, the program has trained more than 5,000 graduates and remains the world’s leading economic development teacher.
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
05/22/2018 08:45 AM
KALGOORLIE, Western Australia – From Europe to Western Australia, Cherokee Nation citizen Jeylyn Sharpe is making a name for himself overseas as a professional basketball player. “I get to continue to play the sport I love, get paid for it and see the world,” Sharpe said. “If I didn’t take the opportunity then I would never get that chance again and probably regret not doing it.” The 6-foot-5-inch standout from Ketchum, Oklahoma, said he didn’t seriously consider playing professionally until after his senior season at Rogers State University, where he accumulated 1,125 career points and was named the 2017 Heartland Conference Player of the Year. Emails and Facebook messages from agents overseas wanting to represent him eventually led Sharpe to signing a professional contract in 2017 with BBC Grengewald Hueschtert of the Nationale 2 League in Niederanven, Luxembourg. With help from an RSU assistant coach, the transition from collegiate to professional play was seamless. “After my senior season in college, he put me through a lot of workouts to get me prepared,” Sharpe said. “The pace of play at the next level is faster. The shot clock time is shorter. You always hear ‘Europeans are very fundamental’ and you don’t really get an understanding of that until you play there. We were doing drills I use to do in elementary school. That’s how we would start our workouts and work our way up to the more difficult things.” Sharpe also gave a “special thank you” to the same coach for fostering a connection with Australia after his season in Europe ended. Listed as a guard and forward, Sharpe is one of three Americans playing for the Goldfields Giants, a professional club in the State Basketball League of Western Australia. “I am very fortunate to be at a place that feels like a big family, all the way from the owner down to the water boy,” he said. “The owner, GM (general manager) and coaches have all had us over at their house multiple times for dinner or just to relax and hang out. My teammates are great. I have never once questioned their effort on the court.” Though struggling in the win column, Sharpe said he’s confident in the team’s direction. “Our games have been a fight all the way to the end. Sadly the win and loss column doesn’t show that,” he said. “But we are a team that has stuck together the whole time and never pointed fingers at one another. By the end of this we hope to be a playoff team and keep playing into September, hopefully being a championship contender.” As for the style of play overseas, Sharpe said there are differences. “In college, we had a lot of set plays and quick hitter offenses to score, but out in Australia and Luxembourg we just have different type of motion offenses and they let us play out of it. They know we are good smart players and they expect us to make the correct decision.” Sharpe recorded one of his best games against the Mandurah Magic on May 12, accounting for 38 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and five steals as the team won 105-104. He is also the only Giant named to the 2018 SBL All-Star Games to be held June 4-5 in Mount Claremont. When asked what he brings to the team, Sharpe said his energy and basketball IQ. “In college I played a little bit of guard some times and a little bit of a post. I would also have to guard posts and guards in college, so I can do the same at this level. I try to be the guy that you can put anywhere on the court and you can have confidence that I will get the job you are asking done.” Sharpe’s dedication and leadership have not gone unnoticed by coaches and teammates, who voted him vice captain after arriving in February. “I was honored that they picked me as vice captain after only being there a few weeks. I think that they saw the knowledge and leadership I bring to the table. You don’t have to be a leader with just your voice. You can set the example by your actions, and I think the team saw me do that day in and day out.” Playing overseas has also allowed Sharpe to take the Cherokee culture to that part of the world. “It is cool to be able to tell them that I am Native American and that I am Cherokee,” he said. “I get to show them some pictures of my ancestors, and I know a little bit of Cherokee language, so I am able to show them what that sounds like. It’s great to get an opportunity to show other young Native Americans that goals are achievable if you work hard enough.” As for the future, Sharpe said he’s “going with the flow.” “I have been going with the flow lately, just letting this basketball take me around the world,” he said. “I would really like to play in China and Dubai before I am done playing. After this season I will be spending some quality time at home with family and friends. I really do enjoy it out here and can see myself coming back for another season.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/17/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation citizen and employee Stephen Highers on May 3 graduated from the University of Oklahoma Economic Development Institute. “Having graduated from the OU EDI program, I can now set for the test to become a Certified Economic Developer through the International Economic Development Council,” CN Entrepreneur Development Manager Stephen Highers said. According to the IEDC website, it’s a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization serving economic developers. It also states that with more than 5,000 members, the IEDC is the largest organization of its kind. “Economic developers promote economic well-being and quality of life for their communities, by creating, retaining and expanding jobs that facilitate growth, enhance wealth and provide a stable tax base,” the site states. “From public to private, rural to urban and local to international, IEDC’s members are engaged in the full range of economic development experience.” Highers, who also serves as a Tahlequah city councilor, said he was excited to bring back knowledge he gained at the OU EDI to Tahlequah. “Economic development is not easy, especially if you don’t understand the data and process by which to make informed, sound decision. Through my coursework and training at the OU EDI, I’m able to bring back to Tahlequah concrete ideas and solutions that will enhance our future growth in a healthy, competitive, and objective manner,” he said. Highers said the program is a two-year program, and he has plans to become certified in the winter of 2019. For more information, visit <a href="https://pacs.ou.edu/edi/about/" target="_blank">https://pacs.ou.edu/edi/about/</a>.
BY KENLEA HENSON
Reporter
05/17/2018 01:15 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Family, friends and community members gathered on May 11 at the Cherokee Casino Tahlequah grounds for a surprise ceremony for 9-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen Grant York. York suffers from several health conditions, including mitochondrial mutation. His mother, Kasie Mendenhall, said with mitochondrial mutation he is unable to absorb nutrients and hasn’t been able to eat solid food since he was 3 years old. In April, he was admitted to Physicians Choice Hospice. “The last two years have been hard on him. He has spent most of all of it in the hospital,” Mendenhall said. “Physicians Choice Hospice has allowed Grant to have his pain adequately controlled and for him to remain home and not in the hospital.” Caring for their patients is not the only thing PCH nurses do. They also grant wishes – Butterfly Wishes. York’s wish was to go to the “Dixie Stampede” in Branson, Missouri, and through the Butterfly Wishes program he and his family received an all-expense paid trip for him to fulfill that wish. However, before York and his family left for Branson, the nurses surprised him with a special ceremony that included York’s class at Keys Elementary School. This was the first time York met his classmates and teacher in person, Mendenhall said. The Tahlequah Police Department also joined the ceremony making York their first junior officer, and he even took the official TPD oath. He was also presented a certificate, T-shirt and badge. “Grant loves police and now he is a real police officer,” Mendenhall said. After a photo shoot for the family, the TPD gave York a police escort out of town. Once they reached Branson, the Branson police, fire department and Missouri Highway Patrol were waiting to escort him into town. Mendenhall said she was thankful for the community’s support her son and family received. “Seeing our entire community come together to support Grant and our family leaves me speechless. Without the support of the community things like this wouldn’t be possible,” she said.
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
05/17/2018 08:15 AM
BROKEN ARROW – An old Vaudevillian joke goes something like this: “She shall now hang upside down while juggling pianos...on horseback.” Adding a horse to an impossible task makes the joke funnier and even more impossible. That is, unless you’re 10-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen Sophie Duch. Take away the pianos and that’s exactly what she does as a professional trick rider at rodeos. On May 11-12, Sophie and her trusted horse, Jesse, took their act to Broken Arrow for the 2018 Rooster Days Festival and Rodeo. Born and raised in Stilwell, Sophie’s love for western trick riding began when her parents took her to a rodeo in 2011 where the All-American Cowgirl Chicks trick riding team performed. “I knew we were in trouble the moment Sophie saw the Chicks perform. She was only 3 years old but latched onto the fence and watched their every move,” said her mother and CN citizen Shawna Duch. “After the rodeo, Sophie had to meet each one of them. I could tell even then she was hooked.” Sophie has received much help learning her craft during her young life, including from her first coach, CN-sponsored professional trick rider Haley Ganzel. “There’s a lot of people around here to help you,” Sophie said. “They’ll even loan you a horse if you need one.” This has never been a problem for Sophie. The other half of Sophie’s team, Jessie’s Girl, is a good-natured bay mare and has been with her since she fell in love with trick riding. “She (Jessie’s Girl) just kind of took to it,” Sophie’s father Troop Duch said. “She’s a natural show-off. She really shines once she gets in the arena.” Having a well-trained horse is key to the success and safety of the trick rider because many of the most difficult and dangerous tricks are performed with little or no control of the horse’s reins. Sweeping and precise ovals of the arena must be completed at the right speed to be successful. For safety’s sake, tricks are performed from the inside or left as the horse runs counter clockwise, thus keeping the horse between the acrobatic rider and the arena’s fence line. At the Rooster Days Rodeo, Sophie performed not only as entertainer, but she also carried the American flag into the arena for the national anthem. In her act Sophie performed three tricks and demonstrated twice during Jessie’s giant loop giving spectators on both sides of the arena a look. On the second night of the rodeo, Sophie performed her mounted shooting act, in which she shoots targets while on horseback. For more information, call 918-696-1648 or 918-696-1648 or email <a href="mailto: Shawnaduch@gmail.com">Shawnaduch@gmail.com</a>. ??
BY KENLEA HENSON
Reporter
05/14/2018 08:00 AM
PRESCOTT, Ariz. – With more than 30 years of experience in public service, Cherokee Nation citizen Dale Deiter was recently selected as forest supervisor of the Prescott National Forest. Growing up in Arizona, Deiter said he developed a love for public service from his father, who served as a district ranger in Arizona and New Mexico. In 1983, Dieter began his career in the U.S. Forest Service, first as a volunteer and then as a wild land firefighter for the Gila National Forest in New Mexico for three summers and one summer for the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Jackson, Wyoming. During that time he also attended Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, where he earned a bachelor’s degree and a later a master’s degree in forestry. After college, Deiter landed a job as a pre-sale forester and then a hydrologist for the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. The hydrologist job took him to the Fishlake National Forest in Richfield, Utah, where he spent more than seven years in that position dealing with watershed management and restoration. In 2007, he went back to Wyoming where he served as the district ranger for Bridger-Teton National Forest, a position he held prior to his promotion as forest supervisor with Prescott National Forest. With a long resume under his belt, Dieter said the best part of having a career in the Forest Service is “leaving a legacy for public lands.” “The (national) forests are a place where people can go to have fun, so knowing you’re part of making that happen is very rewarding,” he said. Deiter said during his time with the Forest Service he’s traveled extensively throughout the western United States, even into Quebec, Canada, fighting fires. He said it’s “neat” to be able to work in places where a lot of people go for vacation. “You get the opportunity to fly the national forest either in a helicopter or a plane or on horseback or by snowmobile into the back country or even hiking as well. You just get see a lot of unique lands in a lot of places that people don’t tread,” he said. In his new role as forest supervisor, his job is to help with the oversight of the management of PNF’s 1.25 million acres of public land located across north central Arizona. He said the biggest challenge for him is adapting to challenging conditions facing climate change. “Even in my career, fire season has gotten longer and fires have gotten bigger, and we are seeing its impact even in terms as snowpack and spring flow and that then presents a lot of challenges in long-term-sustaining management of national forests,” he said. Deiter said he’s happy to be in his new position with PNF and plans to finish out his career there. “I am planning to spend quite a bit of time there. There are a lot of challenges to deal with there, and it’s a really neat forest with great people, and so I will finish out my career there,” he said.