F-M team never made it to the big leagues
As a Twin, Peck Welch never made it to the World Series. In fact, he never made it to the majors. Now 84 and living in Decorah, Iowa, Welch was a member of the first Twins team to capture Fargo-Moorhead's heart -- the F-M Twins. "I had th...
As a Twin, Peck Welch never made it to the World Series.
In fact, he never made it to the majors. Now 84 and living in Decorah, Iowa, Welch was a member of the first Twins team to capture Fargo-Moorhead's heart -- the F-M Twins.
"I had the greatest career in the minor leagues," Welch says.
Still, after spending much of his life in Fargo-Moorhead, Welch does have some attachment to the big league boys.
"I'm tickled to death that they're playing good baseball," he says.
Welch began his baseball career as a high school star in Toledo, Ohio. Playing center field, he hit .447 in his senior year, earning him a spot in the Cleveland Indians farm system.
He started in Springfield, Ohio, and -- ironically enough -- Welch, W.Va.
The next season, 1938, Welch was offered a contract with the F-M Twins, which also were affiliated with Cleveland. He started well in spring training, but by later in the season hit something of a slump.
Manager Jack Knight told Welch in August he had a week to start hitting.
Welch responded by getting hits in his next 11 at-bats. He stayed a Twin.
As a manager, Knight had his quirks, Welch recalls. Knight once ordered Welch to strike out in the bottom of the ninth with two out because the opposing pitcher was working on a no-hitter.
"He'll probably never have another one in his life," Knight told Welch. "If you don't strike out, you're on your way home."
It isn't just the games Welch remembers. In 1939, he met the king of Norway when the monarch's train was stopped next to the team bus; Welch jumped off the bus, approached the king and shook his hand.
In 1940, Knight became the manager of the minor-league team in Flint, Mich., and Welch wound up there. But spring training didn't go well and Knight gave Welch the choice of being shipped off to either Texarkana, Texas, or Fargo-Moorhead.
"I said, 'I'll go back to Fargo,'" Welch says. "The fans are good, I love the ballpark."
Barnett Field was where Fargo North High School now sits.
In his first at-bat for the Twins that season, Welch hit a triple to center field. "I got a great hand from the crowd," he says. "(They were) glad to have me back."
If the players loved the fans, the fans loved them back. "We drew good for a small town," Welch says. "On Sunday, we'd average 2,500 to 3,000 people. Maybe during the week we'd average 1,000, 1,200."
Of course, attendance was helped by ticket prices that are a distant dream by today's standards: 40 cents for adults and a quarter for kids.
Welch had a good year in 1940, leading the league in triples -- and marrying Dorothy Anderson of Moorhead.
His dreams for a big-league career fading, Welch took a job with the railroad in Fargo. He joined the Coast Guard during World War II, ending up spending the war playing baseball for a Coast Guard team formed to boost morale.
After the war, he resumed life in Fargo until 1946, when the Brooklyn Dodgers offered him a tryout with their AA team in Mobile, Ala.
"I'm figuring, boy, if I have a good year, I can maybe make it," he says. "I was really enthused."
But in his first game, he threw out his back trying to steal second base. The Dodgers offered to send him to another minor league team in Jackson, Miss., but Welch decided to head back to Fargo.
He played two more years, leading the league in hitting for five weeks of the 1946 season.
He fondly recalls youth clinics the Twins held for young baseball players. One of those he tutored was Roger Maris.
In fact, it was Welch who convinced Maris to switch positions.
"I told Roger, 'You don't belong in center field. You get over there in right field. With that arm you've got, nobody's going from first to third.'
"I was his idol. He sure liked me."
Welch stayed in Fargo until his retirement from the railroad in 1978, when he moved to Anaheim, Calif. -- home of the Angels, now battling the Twins for a spot in the World Series.
Welch is optimistic about the Twins' chances.
"They were going to dump the team, and look what happened," he says. "I look for them to win it."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Pantera at (701) 241-5541