Blakely Field: A Short History  


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More than 2,000 McDowell Countians gathered on Sunday, August 21, 1927 for the formal dedication of Blakely Field. The crowd heard Colonel E. O'Toole, general manager of the Gary operations of U.S. Coal and Coke, praise Welch Mayor J.W. Blakely for whom the facility was named, and then watched the Welch Senators move into first place in the standings of the Coalfield League with a 4 - 1 victory over the Gary Coaldiggers. In the Spring of 1931 Work Progress Administration workers completed a stone wall around the park and added a clubhouse and a grandstand that could accomodate 1,500 fans.

In 1937 McDowell County's only professional baseball team, the Welch Miners, was organized and began play at Blakely Field. The Miners were inactive during the World War II years, but returned to play in 1946 as a member of the Appalachian League. They were unaffiliated during the 1946 season, but became an affiliate of the Philadelphia Athletics during the following year. The Miners' relationship with the Athletics lasted through the 1951 season. The team would spend the following season as an affiliate of the Boston Braves.

During the 1952 campaign the Miners would play a game that has become a part of baseball lore. On May 13 of that year, the team was in Bristol to face the Twins. On the mound for the Twins that day was 19 year old Ron Necciai. Necciai turned in the most dominant pitching performance in the history of professional baseball, striking out 27 of the 31 hitters he faced--including four in one inning. Necciai's 27 strike-outs established a professional baseball record that still stands. One of the baseballs he used that day rests in Cooperstown.

Following the 1952 season, the Miners resumed their relationship with the Philadelphia Athletics. During the 1954 campaign the Miners again entered the baseball record books--this time in a fashion a bit more to their liking. In a game on July 26 of that year, the Miners turned triple plays in back-to-back innings. They are the only professional team ever to do so.

The Miners left Welch during the 1955 campaign. The Appalachian League folded at the end of that season. When it reformed in 1957 it was without a franchise in Welch. Professional baseball in McDowell County had come to an end.

A fire consumed part of the park's stands in 1956, and on September 27, 1959 work crews began to dismantle them. On May 30, 1961 the W.E. Eubank National Guard Armory was dedicated on the site.

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