It happened on the same day last week that George Wallace, the former Alabama governor and champion of segregation, willingly wheeled his way along the route civil rights marchers took from Selma to Montgomery 30 years ago: Former Negro leagues star John (Buck) O'Neil (SI, Sept. 19, 1994) received an honorary diploma from Sarasota High, the school he wanted to attend during the 1920s while growing up in that Florida town but couldn't because of Jim Crow laws. "I shed a few tears," said O'Neil, 83, recalling the day his grandmother told him he couldn't attend the school. "But she said, 'Don't cry. One day—and I may not live to see it—everyone will be able to go there.' Here I am."
In fact, the former Kansas City Monarch star, who's now a scout for the Kansas City Royals, received more than just a sheepskin during the ceremonies last Friday. Principal Daniel Kennedy gave him a varsity letter too. In baseball, of course.
Stick and Stone, Cont.
Last week Portland district court judge Dale Koch granted the petition of Jeff Gillooly, the ex-husband of Tonya Harding and a conspirator in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan, to have his name legally changed to Jeff Stone (SI, March 6). The judge was apparently swayed by the argument of attorney Judy Snyder that her client needed the name change to "have an opportunity to start fresh and live a normal and obscure life."
Alas, the ruling disheartened several other Jeff Stones, who believe the normalcy and obscurity of their own lives is now at risk. Among those who went to Portland to state their case were the mayor of Temecula, Calif.; a Houston-based Mission Control worker with NASA, who mobilized a protest campaign on the Internet along with nine other cyber-Jeff Stones; and Paul Petersen, who played the artless Jeff Stone on The Donna Reed Show. Petersen called the ruling "another sorry stage in the history of American jurisprudence. We have lost our common sense. I feel for our country."
Less fazed was Philadelphia Phillie replacement player Jeff Stone. "I guess [ Gillooly] wanted to be associated with Sharon Stone," he said. "I don't think he wanted to be associated with me."
As one of college basketball's most prolific wits, Utah coach Rick Majerus is better known for his ability to snap off one-liners than to deliver stem-winding soliloquies. But before the tip-off of the Utes' final home game of the season last week, against BYU, Majerus gave a three-minute tribute to one of his players, Ma Jian, that caused the senior forward from the Chinese city of Tianjin to puddle up. "You've followed your dream," Majerus told Ma in front of a sellout crowd of 15,447. "You were a positive influence and never once a divisive player. I will do everything in my power to see you get an NBA tryout." Not extraordinary words, perhaps, except that Majerus delivered them entirely in Ma's native Mandarin.
After a promising first season as a junior at Utah, during which he averaged 8.2 points a game, Ma played in only 12 of the Utes' 29 regular-season games this season. Perhaps recalling the frustration he had felt as a bench warmer on Marquette's freshman team during the late 1960s, Majerus spent much of the week leading up to the BYU game drafting his speech with Utah senior guard Ryan Hunt, who had once served as a Mormon missionary in Taiwan. "I wanted [Ma] to know that I respected him and cared deeply for him," Majerus said after Utah's 87-79 victory. "Sometimes, in translation, those feelings can be lost."