The 2023 Class of the USC Association of Lettermen’s Hall of Fame will be inducted on Thursday, October 12. Those needing tickets to the event can still take advantage of a discount if purchased by October 1, 2023. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets!
College baseball has changed a lot since Wallie Jones patrolled the middle infield for South Carolina in the late 1960s, but the 76-year-old’s love of the game continues to keep him connected with it long after he hung up his spikes. Now Jones is being immortalized as one of eight inductees into the University of South Carolina Association of Lettermen’s Athletics Hall of Fame.
“I was really surprised,” said Jones, who lettered for the Gamecocks from 1967 through 1969. “I was humbled. I was appreciative. I just have to give God the glory. It’s something I didn’t expect, especially because I was so far removed from my playing days. During the time I played, college baseball was such a secondary sport compared to today. It was a lot different.”
Jones earned first-team All-ACC honors as a second baseman and remains the Gamecock record-holder for most putouts (13) by a second baseman in a game. He led the team in stolen bases in 1967, in runs scored, doubles and triples in 1968, and in runs scored and stolen bases in 1969. Following his playing career, he began a 40-year career as a dentist. He wasn’t just a baseball spectator during that time as he spent the last couple of years helping out with the baseball program at USC Sumter and was previously a very successful American Legion Baseball coach in his hometown of Sumter, S.C., for 25 years.
“Working with kids one on one is an amazing thing,” Jones said. “Building relationships with kids, that’s what sports are about. The players have always given me the utmost respect.”
His best memories from his playing days with the Gamecocks tell great stories from an era when college baseball programs were in their infancy compared to the resources and crowds of today.
“I played behind a pitcher named Bill Reitmeier in a game where he pitched fifteen innings,” Jones recalled. “That was pretty special! He also threw a no-hitter. I got to play with Bobby Bryant, who was also a football star. He could have been a Major League Baseball star.
“One year, they were re-doing part of Sarge Frye Field and putting in some more seats, so we ended up playing at Capitol City Stadium. One year, we had to play Clemson over at a field by the V.A. hospital in Columbia. We went to Duke one time, and we didn’t usually stay in hotels. We stayed in a room with a bunch of bunks in the gym. At night, we saw some bats flying around in the room, and they weren’t baseball bats!
“When we went to other schools, we would often eat in their cafeteria. We didn’t get meal money. We didn’t have any weight training back then either. You were either strong, or you weren’t. Of course, we used wooden bats, and we didn’t have batting gloves back then.”
“I felt like the game was a much tougher game back then because of the slide rules.”
Jones noted that the way the game was played was different as well.
“I felt like the game was a much tougher game back then because of the slide rules,” Jones said. “There were no slide rules. I played second base, and people would come in there, spikes up! You had to get in and get out.
“At Sarge Fry Field, there was a railroad track behind the right field fence. They would let you call a time out when the train was going by because it was so loud.”
While college baseball in his day didn’t enjoy all that is available to the student-athletes now, he is glad to see such great growth in the game.
“I think it’s a growing market,” Jones said. “They had to put resources into the teams. It’s a national thing. It’s big time. They build these nice stadiums, and the players get so much exposure now. The pro scouts used to have to go all over, and now they can look online and watch. It’s been an amazing growth.”
Jones still lives in his hometown of Sumter. When baseball was over, he practiced dentistry for more than 40 years before retiring.
“I was like every kid who played in college. I wanted to play pro ball,” Jones said. “A few guys said they were going to sign me when I was through with baseball, and I waited and waited and never heard back. I had majored in biology, while a lot of other guys on the team majored in P.E. So, I had to miss some practices because I had labs. I was fortunate enough to get into dental school, and it was a wonderful profession for me.”
Jones enjoys seeing the success of the South Carolina baseball program and tries to catch a game whenever he can.
“I come over pretty regularly,” Jones said. “I’m fortunate to have a good relationship with Coach (Mark) Kingston. I’ve enjoyed getting to know him. I went to the Super Regional in Gainesville (Florida) this year. That was a fun experience.”
Jones and his wife Marcia have been married for 55 years and have two children, Jay and Mary, and five grandchildren. He’s looking forward to getting back on campus for Hall of Fame Weekend to create more memories.