For the Love of the Game
Thursday, April 09, 2020
“Ball in the summer has always been big in Redfield for as long as I grew up,” said Brent Osborn, one of four brothers to start on the same team. “My dad played fast pitch softball, which kept us kids all you know involved, watching him play and then getting our games together. We went through the little league and then played college baseball. My mom played softball. Ball was very ingrained in everybody in the area it seemed like. Everybody played.” Former Redfield DQ pitcher Lonni Stover, taking a break from fixing a fence, agrees. “I just think it came from our early childhood. That's all we did in the summers. Kids got together in the neighborhood, I guess, and we played in somebody's backyard or we played down in some open lots. That's where it all started” Keith Gall, Redfield’s most recent Hall of Fame inductee, recalls the same memories from his childhood, “If we weren't swimming, we were playing baseball, you know. That's kind of what we did back then.”
For the love of the game. That’s the reason we all play. Very few of us ever go home thinking we will be in any kind of Hall of Fame, let alone the Hall of Fame. That’s right, the South Dakota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame, in Lake Norden. We just play because it’s fun. Ask someone lucky enough to ever put on a Redfield uniform what it’s like to play before the home crowd on a hot summer night. If you’re one of the unfamiliar, you can download a map with the location of the field, because it actually is sort of out near a field.
It’s a competitive, dog-eat-dog world at the amateur baseball level. Town Ball and American Legion are two of the most popular forms of amateur baseball. It’s a sport with a revolving door of corporate ownership with team sponsors like Aberdeen Wendy's Coke, Sioux Falls Silver Bullets or the Redfield Dairy Queen. These were the teams that Keith Gall, a player from Ellendale (ND) wore the uniforms of for 30 years on the summer circuit. Keith was recently inducted into the South Dakota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame.
Keith Gall played amateur ball from 1986 to 2015 — two years in Sioux Falls, five in Aberdeen and his final 23 in Redfield. He played on 25 district champions and four state championship squads, playing a different position on each title team — centerfield for Aberdeen Wendy's Coke in 1988, shortstop for the Sioux Falls Silver Bullets in 1990 and third base (2000) and first base (2006) for Redfield Dairy Queen.
Gall joined nine other former Redfield players and coaches already in the Hall. The latest inductee was honored during the semifinals of the state tournament on Aug. 10 in Mitchell. An induction banquet was held last fall at the William Janklow Community Center in Flandreau.
Gall attended college at Northern State University in Aberdeen, where he earned All-Northern Intercollegiate Conference honors and All-NAIA District 12 honors twice.” He was a threat at the plate, and equally as dangerous from the mound, where Gall pitched his teams to victory 117 time while only losing 33 games. As a batter for Redfield, Gall hit .412 over 23 seasons with 130 homers, 875 runs batted in.
“I had 12 RBI’s in one game in Huron. I don’t even remember what year that was. I don't even remember anymore how it happened,” laughs Gall. “I know I hit one home run for sure, it might have been two home runs and a couple doubles. I had the record for a while. I think the bases were loaded about every time.” Gall has seen a lot from his days as a player, to afterward when he coached high school ball, legion ball, midget ball. Now he’s content running the concession stand at the ballpark, but he knows being in the Hall with such select company is a special honor.
“It’s kind of humbling. When people talk about you being included with people that, when I was younger, I admired so much, and then I’m there at the banquet talking and they're all sitting out there.” He has a hard time believing he’s in the Hall. Gall said his long career made it possible to play against a lot of good players that were in the Hall of Fame. “I don’t know if it's ever going to sink in. I really have a hard time looking at myself in that light, I guess. I don’t know how else to put it. I really admire those guys.”
In 2018, Lonni Stover, the pitching ace of the Redfield Dairy Queen for 18 seasons, won a total of 520-118 over his 25-year career. A native of Webster, “Pipe” Stover notched 30 consecutive wins from 2000 through 2002. The right-hander helped Redfield win the Class B state championship in 2000 and 2006. “I loved pitching and I really didn't figure things out until I came to Redfield and started, maybe really in my mid 30s really, to figure out how to pitch,” said Stover.
Stover pitches more hay now than curveballs working on his farm, his right arm shot from so many curve balls. He his proud about his achievement, and humble. “I played with a lot of good players too. Because you can't have the stats that I had pitching without having good teammates and good players.”
Redfield is proud of their hometown heroes in the Hall of Fame. The first Redfield player inducted was Floyd Bradley, for the year 1961. He was followed five years later by three players in one class, the class of 1966.
Edmund “Steady-Eddie” Carter, “pitched for Redfield in 1954, the year Redfield won the state championship,” A. B. “Gil” Gilbertson, “played with the Roslyn team while still in high school and had 5 brothers on the same team,” and Roy E. Pearson, “was a catcher and in later years filled in for outfield and 1st base. He played baseball for over 20 years.” Sandwiched between the early inductees and the latest were three other Redfield stars, Vern Roeber in 1974, followed by his brother Paul “Crooked Arm” Roeber in 1994, and Don Hardie in 1999, who coached Redfield Legion for 14 year and Redfield VFW Teeners for 16 years. The new century saw Daryl Dubois, pitcher-catcher for 30 years inducted in 2001.
The South Dakota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame was founded in 1977 in Lake Norden. The admission to the museum is free. It’s an incredible deal. “The primary purpose of the museum is to relate the history of baseball in South Dakota through permanent exhibits of photographs, uniforms, bats, balls, gloves, and other memorabilia.” Exhibits explain “the development and accomplishments of South Dakotans who have participated in a number of different types and levels of amateur baseball including,” High School Baseball, College Baseball (NCAA and NAIA), American Legion Baseball, and Town Team Baseball.
Lake Norden is a rural farming community with a modest population. The area’s largest employer is the Agropur Dairy Cooperative, or Agropur, a leading North American dairy producer. Agropur ships many food ingredients, including whey protein products and cheese. Lake Norden’s motto is, “Cheese Is Our Whey.” Come see for yourself, and catch a ball game while you’re at it!
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