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Kent State massacre left indelible mark on Stone

By Barry Rozner
Chicago Daily Herald Sports Columnist

Posted Thursday, May 03, 2007

They are the phone calls that become the postholes in your life.

They’re not simply life-altering moments, but an instant that makes every ring from that point forward cause you to pause and fear the voice on the other end.

For Steve Stone, Friday will mark one of those indelible moments. It is the 37th anniversary of the Kent State shootings.

“It was May 4, 1970, and I was in Amarillo, Texas, playing for the Giants in the minors, when the call came,’’ Stone recalls. “I remember the words ‘Sandy’s dead.’ That’s what I remember most.’’

Sandy Scheuer was a “sweetheart’’ of Stone’s fraternity at Kent State, and the girlfriend of one of Stone’s buddies.

She was one of 13 wounded and four killed by National Guardsmen during a Vietnam War protest which Stone almost certainly would have been at had he not graduated six weeks earlier and left the campus to resume his minor-league baseball career.

“Her boyfriend was in jail for breaking curfew, but somebody in the apartment I lived in suggested that they go down and check out the demonstration,’’ Stone remembers. “As I heard the story later, there were guys on either side of Sandy, two of my frat brothers, but they were facing up the hill and toward the guards, and she was facing down the hill, and they shot her through back of her neck.

“She never saw it, never knew it was coming. She was dead before she hit the ground.

“You hear something like that and it’s one of those times when you’re truly speechless. You try to talk but you can’t, because there are so many things going through your mind.

“The first thing you think is what a waste of a great, young life. How can that be right? That can’t be right. Not her. There’s no reason. She didn’t hurt anyone. What did she do?

“It was so sad and such a waste. You wonder why you weren’t there and wonder why her and not you. Things like that.

“You remember who she was and the parties you were at together and her smile and the good times.

“It’s the same thing the people who were at Virginia Tech are suffering with right now. All the families and friends of all those victims, they’ll never get over the thoughts about what great lives these kids would have lived and the things they would have done, the people they might have helped and the lives they would have impacted.

“You get over the pain, but you don’t ever get over that part about wondering what their lives would have been like, and what a waste it is.’’

There’s no doubt the May 4 Massacre, as it is often referred in Ohio, will garner more attention tomorrow in light of the horrific events at Virginia Tech a few weeks ago.

“Obviously, the situation was much different, but for those involved, it brings you face to face with your mortality, which for a young person is very difficult to do,’’ Stone said. “At that age, you feel immortal, and when something like this happens, it forces you to take a look at how fragile life really is, and how quickly all your plans can be decimated by a random act of violence.

“A few weeks’ difference for me and maybe I don’t spend the next 40 years of my life in baseball. Who knows?

“The clichés are all true about how every moment of your life counts and that you should make the most of every day because it can be gone in the blink of an eye, and then you lose everything.

“For me, for the kids at Kent State who were 12 inches away from dying, for the kids at Virginia Tech who lived, you realize it’s just plain, random luck that it wasn’t you. That’s not easy to handle when you’re 20 years old, the randomness of it.

“It forces you to give up that feeling of immortality, and it makes you think of all the kids who are gone, who never had a chance.

“Those images are always with you. I know it always stayed with me. The idea that it could have been you never goes away.’’

Stone, who will turn 60 in July, has returned to The Commons — the patch of grass in the center of KSU, used as a gathering place for rallies — where his friends were shot at in 1970, and it always has the same chilling effect.

“I’ve been back to the spot, sure,’’ Stone says quietly. “I had been to that spot many, many times before that.

“You have this snapshot in your mind of exactly where it happened. You wonder what it sounded like, what it smelled like and felt like, for those that were there.

“It’s graphic. It’s painful.

“You can’t help but think about how things might have been different for you as you stand there.

“And then you go live your life and make the most of every day.

“How can you not do that? How do we all not do that?’’