Off Beat: To Hudson’s Bay grad, Ali was heavyweight scamp

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter



It’s too bad Ron Zollo is not with us anymore to recall that limousine ride with Muhammad Ali.

Friday’s funeral service for the former heavyweight champ capped a week of tributes, reminiscences and analysis from people across the sports world.

Since his death on June 3, Ali has been remembered as a boxer, activist, draft resister, global citizen and an example of a person living with Parkinson’s disease.

Zollo probably would be remembering Ali as a heavyweight scamp.

Zollo, a 1961 graduate of Hudson’s Bay High School, died in 2013 after a long career on the business side of sports.

Zollo was assistant general manager of Tacoma’s Pacific Coast League baseball team for more than 20 years. That branched into a side career as a memorabilia and autograph dealer.

Five years ago, Zollo was preparing to sell some of his inventory to help raise funds for the Clark County Historical Museum. Zollo talked about some of the living legends he met while promoting card shows and celebrity appearances.

The legends didn’t get any livelier than Muhammad Ali.

As we wrote in a 2012 story, Zollo recalled when Ali was booked for an appearance in the Puget Sound area. After they picked him up at the airport, the limo driver was on the way to Ali’s hotel. Along the way, they drove past a lone boy kicking a soccer ball.

Ali shouted, “Stop!” — then got out and kicked the ball around with the kid, Zollo said. You have to wonder, Zollo mused, if the boy even knew who Ali was.

And if he did, try to imagine the conversation when the kid got home and told his parents: “I just kicked a soccer ball with Muhammad Ali!”

Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.