Phil Welch Stadium
St. Joseph, MO
Review by Mike
Phil Welch Stadium in St. Joseph, Missouri is the home of the collegiate summer league St. Joseph Mustangs, whose popularity and residence has been instrumental in preserving this 80+ year-old WPA ballpark. The history, however, that this venerable stadium has seen is much grander still. A barnstorming stop for the Negro Leagues Kansas City Monarch and home to minor league teams in the 1940s and 1950s, Phil Welch has seen many of the games greatest players grace its field.
Satchel Paige, Mickey Mantle, Buck O’Neill, Yogi Berra and many others, including a kid named Dizzy Dean who posted a 17-8 record in St. Joseph in his first year of professional baseball. There is a marker on the concourse to note the history and the stadium itself has a presence about it, echoes of the past reverberating around its large grandstand.
The main structure is pretty big, with a sweep of bench seating running from 1st base to 3rd, mostly covered by a massive wood and steel roof to protect patrons from the brutal midwestern sun. A few rows of widely spaced fixed back seats are found at field level, separating from the playing surface by a low brick wall. Everything is clean and solid, with no chipped paint or sagging benches. It’s clear that a lot of care and work has gone into maintaining this historic structure.
A nice-looking press box stands at the top of the seating, tucked under the roof, looking well maintained, which isn’t always the case in older ballparks. A brand-new office/clubhouse building takes up the first base line, while a grass berm allows for picnic seating down the third base line. The pitch of the berm is quite steep, so it would be wise to hold onto those kids tightly lest they roll on down to the field.
Beyond the left field fence is a party deck with picnic tables and canvas sunshades. It is from this deck that you can travel back in time a little. Beyond the outfield fence you find the original concrete wall that would have been the distant target for the likes of a young Mantle trying to prove his power. This wall is engraved with a stylized “SJ” on each concrete panel, with one of them spelling out “St. Joseph” in large, block letters.
Phil Welch Stadium is a gem, tucked into its neighborhood, still serving the community with fun family entertainment for more than three quarters of a century. With distinctive erector set light towers, an immaculate field and a grandstand that looks as good today as it likely did in the first half of the 20th century, the future of baseball in St. Joseph looks secure for years to come.