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
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


Media Producer – @cp_rgraham
07/25/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee people make up the majority of contestants in this year’s Cherokee Nation All-Indian Rodeo set for July 29 at the Cherokee County Arena. Of the 190 contestants, 129 of them are Cherokee, and competitors must be citizens of federally recognized tribes. Prize money, jackets and custom saddles will be given to winners in the rodeo’s three divisions. One division consists of team roping and senior team roping. Another division consists of bareback, saddle bronc, breakaway, senior breakaway, calf roping, steer wrestling, bull riding, junior team roping and barrel racing. The third division consists of junior bull riding, junior breakaway and junior barrel racing. Also, peewee barrel racing for children 8 years old and under and mutton busting for children 6 years old are slated. The slack – which is for the “overflow” contestants of calf roping, team roping, barrel racing and steer wrestling who wouldn’t fit in the nightly rodeo performance, will begin at 8 a.m. The evening rodeo will begin at 7 p.m. and is free to the public. The arena is located 3 miles west of Tahlequah on Highway 62. For more information, call Bruce Davis at 918-453-5340 or 918-458-7438.
07/24/2017 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - Since 2014, the Cherokee Nation has hosted “Stories on the Square” to provide the Tahlequah community with traditional oral storytelling shared by Cherokee and other Native storytellers. This event helps pass down Cherokee oral traditions in downtown Tahlequah each Wednesday morning during the summer months. Tahlequah native Candice Byrd, 28, is Quapaw, Osage and Cherokee. She helps preserve Cherokee storytelling by participating in the event and telling stories such as “Mockingbird” to children and other regular attendees. Byrd earned a bachelor’ degree in film, drama and television from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa and earned a master’s degree at Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. She has been performing in theater productions since high school, and the subject of her thesis was Native American storytelling. “I created a one-woman show with three stories based on traditional Native American cultures. I took the Cherokee Spider Story, Osage Spider Story and the Wyatt people’s Spider Story,” she said. Byrd became interested in storytelling as a child in grade school. Cherokee storytellers Robert Lewis and Choogie Kingfisher had a profound influence on her storytelling, she explained. Her storytelling career began with the Cherokee Heritage Center. “In 2013 I started working as a villager by playing the flute, being a tour guide, and I began to tell stories there,” she said. Byrd also grew up with her grandmother who told her Quapaw and Osage stories that have helped shape her oral history of Native cultures. She explained that preserving the tradition of storytelling among the Cherokee and other Native tribes gives the people a purpose. “What I like about Cherokee and other Native stories is there isn’t necessarily always a happy ending. For example “Mockingbird” isn’t necessarily a happy story,” she said. “Someone makes a decision to upset the balance of something, and there are consequences to be paid.” To hear Byrd and other storytellers share a piece of Native history, “Stories on The Square” will be offered at 10 a.m. on the lawn of the Cherokee Capital building through July 26. For more information, go to <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
07/18/2017 09:15 AM
PORTLAND, Ore. – Robots and Native Americans usually don’t come to mind as a foundation for novels, but Cherokee Nation citizen and Oklahoma native Daniel H. Wilson has made this possible in his books. Wilson said he enjoys writing science fiction because it allows consistent motifs such as Native Americans, robots and technology to appear in new and creative ways. With his latest novel, “The Clockwork Dynasty,” he said he emphasizes ancient and new technologies. “Growing up in Oklahoma, I have always been fascinated by this idea of cultures clashing and how technology affects the outcome when cultures collide,” he said. “That novel (‘The Clockwork Dynasty’) is about countries and people that are modernizing and adopting new technological ideas on how to survive.” According to its overview, the book “weaves a path through history, following a race of human-like machines that have been hiding among us for untold centuries.” “Present day: When a young anthropologist specializing in ancient technology uncovers a terrible secret concealed in the workings of a three-hundred-year-old mechanical doll, she is thrown into a hidden world that lurks just under the surface of our own. With her career and her life at stake, June Stefanov will ally with a remarkable traveler who exposes her to a reality she never imagined, as they embark on an around-the-world adventure and discover breathtaking secrets of the past…,” the overview states. The book was set for release on Aug. 1 for $26.95 in hardback. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Wilson earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Tulsa and a doctorate degree in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University. He wrote “Robopocalypse” and other stories that utilize his childhood experiences in Oklahoma and in the CN. “What I find is my experiences with growing up and where I came from come into my writing naturally. You write what you know. I know Oklahoma because that is the experience I had growing up.” The novel “Robopocalypse” has a strong emphasis on incorporating references to Native Americans and their government, Wilson said. “The novel is basically robots and Indians who end up fighting in central Oklahoma in the Osage Nation, but there are Cherokee characters as well. I wrote it that way because if the federal government failed, there are sovereign governments who might not fail during a robot uprising,” he said. His interest in writing and science fiction novels began while attending Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa. During high school, he wrote and submitted science fiction stories to pulp magazines. “While studying computer science at the University of Tulsa, I was lucky to gain arts exposure through the honors college,” Wilson said. With “Robopocalypse,” which had its movie rights purchased by director Steven Spielberg, the robots were often futuristic, he said. Wilson changed this in “The Clockwork Dynasty” by looking at history. “Everyone associates robots with cutting edge and new technology, and I was sick of that because human beings have always been obsessed with building machines that replicate ourselves.” Wilson also has an upcoming short story novel called “Guardian Angels and Other Monsters” that contains 15 short stories that have never been published. The theme of the stories is technology being a protector and destroyer, he said. For more information about Wilson, view his social media accounts at Twitter (@danielwilsonpdx), Facebook (<a href="" target="_blank"></a>) or his website at
News Writer
07/17/2017 09:00 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – Dr. Charles Gourd, a Cherokee Nation citizen with a background in nonprofit fundraising and Native American affairs, was recently appointed as the Cherokee Heritage Center’s new director. Gourd is now responsible for overseeing the CHC’s operation as well as preserving the tribe’s collection of documents, artifacts, photos and books. He is also expected to uphold the CHC’s mission to preserve, protect and teach the Cherokee history and culture. “Our primary and major function is to be the archives,” Gourd said. “We have a responsibility to protect our most sacred documents and the preservation and teaching of those for future generations.” Before stepping into the role, Gourd retired from the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission, on which he served as the director. He has also worked on economic development projects with Native American tribes. But he said it has always been a goal to return to the CHC, where he worked as a tour guide and dancer in the “Trail of Tears” drama in the late 1960s. “One of the first jobs I ever had was here, and I have always maintained and retained an interest in the heritage center,” Gourd said. “I wanted to give it one shot as the director to make improvements and advance it to its best capabilities.” Born and raised in Tahlequah, Gourd said he became interested in history at an early age. That interest led to a bachelor’s degree in history. He later earned a master’s degree in public school administration from Northeastern State University. “At the time I wanted to teach history and coach basketball, so I immediately got a job teaching history and coaching basketball,” he said. “But I wanted to do more.” Eager to broaden his knowledge, Gourd earned a master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma and a doctorate from the University of Kansas in anthropology, as well as training in entrepreneurship from Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. In 2007, he received the lifetime achievement award for anthropology in non-academic settings from the American Anthropology Association. Gourd was one of only three Native Americans to receive the award. “For the acknowledgment that the award was for, anthropology in non-academic settings, to me was greater than any award they could give,” he said. “Because we didn’t teach anthropology in universities, we went out in the world and worked, and to see that being recognized was great.” He credits the experiences he’s had for eventually leading him to where he wanted to be. “I believe all my background and experiences I have had throughout these years has led me to be ready to take on the responsibility as the new director,” he said. “If I can take all the collected knowledge from the experiences I have had and make them work to make this a better place so we can show the world why we are the most unique people, then I can say I served a good purpose.” Gourd said he intends to work on business plans for the CHC that will create jobs, generate revenue and add more cultural activities to engage visitors. Gourd said one project he and the Cherokee National Historical Society are working on is a new archives building that will house and preserve all of the archives at the CHC. “We have a couple of designs for the building that we are looking at, but it will need all of the environmental controls,” he said. “Some of the stuff we have, like papers, are going to require contained rooms with special gasses to keep it from getting further in degradation.” Gourd said the project is in its planning stages and that the CNHS is working on funding. He said the main question he gets as the new director concerns the old amphitheater that was used for the “Trail of Tears” drama. “This is a project that needs to happen, but there is a lot of maintenance that needs to done,” he said. “The amphitheater was the crowning jewel for the heritage center and Cherokee Nation for years, so our goal is to identify and figure out how to make that a viable function again.”
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
07/13/2017 08:15 AM
SALLISAW, Okla. – Micah Katelin Harvey recently signed a letter of intent to play basketball for Bacone College in Muskogee in the fall. The 18-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen is the daughter of Neoma Flynn and Gary Flynn, of Sallisaw, and James Harvey Jr. and Kristie Harvey, of Muldrow. She played forward or post on the court at Sallisaw Central High School in Sequoyah County. However, in college, the 5-foot-7-inch freshmen will play guard. Micah said she has always been a good 3-point shooter, but playing post in high school she didn’t have as many chances to shoot from the outside. She said other people have told her another one of her strengths is her toughness. “I’ve always gotten awards for toughness and most charges and my rebounds,” she said. Another one of her strengths, she said, is her free throw shooting. She believes she “got way better” at shooting free throws this year. She thanked Ronnie Duncan, coach of the traveling team War Hoops, for “making her better” as a basketball player. Harvey also has played for the traveling teams NEO Warriors coached by Vince Wofford and the Cherokee Stars coached by Myron Bolin. She also thanked Bolin for “helping her stay on the court” and learning how to be a calmer player. “I also want to thank my mom (Neoma Flynn) for always pushing me,” Micah said. She also will dedicate the upcoming basketball season to her aunt Norma Eli, who is fighting a “long and hard” personal battle. Micah said she began playing basketball in preschool and playing competitively in the fourth grade. After finishing college, her dream is to play in the WNBA. “I want to get stronger and better in college, so maybe someday I can go to the WNBA,” she said. After she finishes playing basketball competitively, Micah said she wants to work for the CN as a physical therapist. She said she plans to work toward a health and physical education degree at Bacone College and then transfer to the University of Oklahoma to study physical therapy. “I’m going to try to work for the (Cherokee) Nation because I know that Redbird (Health Center) in Sallisaw has one physical therapist, and my mom told me we actually need more physical therapists,” she said.
07/12/2017 12:00 PM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Bayleigh Warren is asking the public to cast their votes and help get her ahead of the competition for the Miss Rodeo Oklahoma 2018 title. To support Warren in the People’s Choice Award category, voters must first “like” the Oklahoma Rodeo Pagents Council Inc. Facebook page at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. After doing so, voters must then “like” Warren’s individual contestant picture in the People’s Choice 2017 album. Voting ends at 5 p.m. on July 17. Should Warren win the overall Miss Rodeo Oklahoma 2018 title, she will represent Oklahoma at December’s Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.