Meade County Times-Tribune
Sturgis, SD, USA

Key City man joining Hall of Fame

Jason Gross, Sports Editor

Friday, June 27, 2008

It’s “all about the people” for one of the South Dakota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame’s newest members. Jon Graves of Sturgis is one of five who will enter the Hall this September. The special feeling he has for his 40 years’ experience is evident as he speaks.

The 58-year-old was an Ethan High School senior when he started his amateur career in 1968. He played there until 1973, when he graduated from Dakota State University and joined the Renner Monarchs for a year.

Graves came to Rapid City and played for the famed Macy’s from 1975 through 1993. Those last four years (1990 through 1993) found Graves managing the squad after founder Ralph Macy moved to Sioux Falls. Graves has served as Black Hills Amateur League commissioner for the last nine years and loves attending state tournaments and visiting with many people.

The baseball influence began with Jon’s father. Chuck played amateur ball in Ethan and enjoyed a career so solid that the New York Yankees drafted him.

“Growing up in a small town, most kids did that,” Jon said about baseball. “It was a lot of fun, traveling around and meeting new people.”

It is that small-town experience that Graves recalls most fondly. “It’s a lot different than playing out here in the Hills area,” he explained.

“In a lot of small towns you travel to, you play your games and socialize afterwards.” Things are much different here, he said, as Rapid City hosts all of the games.

Graves recalls Macy, who passed away in 1993, as great to play for and a man who excelled in sponsorship.

The Macy’s played in the Kansas Jayhawk League, and Graves got an up-close look at a future baseball legend.

Clarinda, Iowa, was one of the Jayhawk League entrants. One of the players was future Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith, who stole bases in 21 consecutive attempts before catcher Steve Herz threw him out on two pitchouts.

The Macy’s joined the Mens Senior Baseball League in 1988. Sioux Falls resident Dave Midlin answered a Sports Illustrated letter about joining the circuit. Twenty-one teams competed for top honors in Phoenix, Ariz., and the South Dakota team prevailed. Graves attended this tournament from 1988 to 1995 and saw South Dakota squads win three titles.

Graves truly appreciates how much amateur baseball has extended the playing time of so many. He said many of the players are in the upper 30s and 40s.

Mens Senior Baseball League teams from South Dakota play several games after the amateur season ends. They then go to tournaments in Florida, Nevada, and Arizona, and Graves said they compete very well.

“It’s very humbling,” Graves said of the honor. “I’m not one who enjoys the spotlight.” He added the honor is also very gratifying to his family and takes pride in his peers’ nomination of him.

Induction will occur in September. The hall of fame is located in Lake Norden.