The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

March 24, 2014

Like father, like son

Jim Welty — Sr. and Jr. — will enter ACBF HOF together

The Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation will do something it has never done before at its banquet on April 13 at the Conneaut Human Resources Center.

It will induct a father-son combination into its Hall of Fame.

Jim Welty Sr. and Jim Welty Jr. will both enter the hall, Jim Sr. posthumously. In fact, Welty Sr. might already been in had he not been so humble.

But Welty Sr.’s qualifications are unquestionable. The leading point-scorer on a powerful Ashtabula Panther team (1953-1956) coached by ACBF Hall of Famer Bill Ball as a junior and senior, the elder Welty (known hereafter in this story as just “Welty”) was the only unanimous selection for the Star Beacon’s All-Ashtabula County first team in 1956.

Among the 594 points he scored in three years for the Panthers were 241 points as a junior and 247 as a senior for a team that went 17-3 in 1954-55 and 20-4 (11-1 in the NEC) in his senior year, 1955-56. He scored 21 against Conneaut (using what one newspaper called “his highly-regarded one-hand shot”) while sick in a 62-50 victory that made Ashtabula 15-1 at the time.

After lauding the Panther defense that had overcome an early Trojan lead in that game, Star Beacon sports editor Jim Noyes wrote, “the second paramount factor in the Ashtabula win was a slim 5-foot-11 inch senior basketball player named Jim Welty. If there was any question in anyone’s mind as to the ability of the 1954-55 All-County hoopster, it was erased by Friday’s display. And to top it off, Welty was sick with a cold throughout the week and was listed as a doubtul starter.”

The 21 points Welty scored that night were only four off the school record at the time. That year the Panthers averaged 58.1 points per game while holding opponents to 44.2. At that time, Ashtabula’s games were played on the gymnasium at West Junior High School.

In fact, Welty scored those 21 in the first three quarters and could have easily set a new mark except for the fact that he started passing off to teammates.

“Welty scored the first two baskets in the second half, then was content to feed teammates and uphold his end of the fabulous Panther defense,” one article said at the time.

The unselfishness of that Panther team can be seen by the fact that Welty’s 247 points were followed by Ken Kovacs’ 246, Tim Johnson’s 161, Bob Gilchrist’s 147, Dave Corts’ 117, Phil Carlo’s 105 and Cosie Patrick’s 104.

After Ashtabula won the sectional tournament that year, Welty was selected the most outstanding tournament player. When that happened, he said he wanted to put his teammates’ names on the trophy because “they helped me win it.”

During his senior year (1955-56), Welty’s teams twice broke the school scoring record, the second time by beating Edgewood (at the time called the “Bulldogs”), 80-54. Ball’s Panther team of that year also came within one game of tying the consecutive-win record of 15 before being beaten by Geneva.

When the season was over, Welty was the only unanimous choice for the All-Ashtabula County team and was joined by teammate Kovacs, Jefferson’s Chuck Naso and Geneva’s Dave Peterson on the first team. Welty, Hinkle and Naso had also been first-teamers as juniors.

“Fans will long remember the one-handed sets and drive-in layups,” the article that accompanied the announcement of the all-county team said.

Kovacs, who started as a senior forward when Welty was a junior, remembers his former teammate well.

“The first thing that comes to my mind is that he was very unselfish,” Kovacs said. “He was an excellent basketball player, not just as a shooter, though he was a darn good shooter. But his passing was impeccable and he had good hands. When need be, he could score points.

“I recall that Jim would dribble down the floor. He didn’t run down the floor; he glided down the floor. He had eyes in the back of his head when it came to passing. His assists were always there, the scoring was always there, the rebounding was always there. He was the consummate basketball player.

“He was always very level-headed. I don’t think I ever saw him excited about anything. You could see the intensity in his eyes and when he needed to, he would ratchet it up a bit.”

Welty’s son sees many parallels to his and his father’s career.

“In my dad’s senior year, (the Ashtabula Panthers) were 20-4,” Jim Welty Jr. said. “My senior year, we were 20-3. That’s unbelievable.

“When my dad played in 1954-55, they lost three games by six ponts. We lost our first game by two, to Riverside by two and our district game by two.”

According to Welty Jr., his dad had several offers to play at small colleges, including Muskingum, but turned them down.

“He played baseball and earned three varsity letters (in high school),” Welty Jr. said. “He was a good hitter with a good glove.”

A year or two after graduating from Ashtabula High School, Welty joined the army and was sent to Fort Ord in Monterery, Calif. He spent most of his service time (1957-59) in Bamberg, Germany.

He married Kathleen (Paulik) in 1959. The couple gave birth to twin daughters Colleen and Corinne in 1960, Jim Jr. in 1961 and Glen in 1965.

Jim Sr. went to work at Kroger’s in the Saybrook Mall (now Giant Eagle) and Moses General Store on State Road, working in the grocery business for two or three years.

He then went to work for the New York Central Railroad (which later became Conrail) as a brakeman and worked there nearly 40 years before retiring in 1999.

“He worked different shifts,” Jim Jr. said. “A lot of time, he was working when we were in sports. Most of his life was dedicated to working and supporting his family. We did take vacations. He’d visit old army buddies in Kansas or Minnesota.

“He was a big handyman around the house, also. He always had a project going. That was an incentive for me to go play ball.”

Kathleen Welty worked for a while at Carlisle’s as a saleswoman then settled down to be a housewife for the growing family.

“They had a long, happy marriage,” Jim Jr. said.

Of the children of Jim Sr. and Kathleen, Colleen went to the University of Akron and then became a flight attendant for United Airlines. Corinne worked for TWA for many years, gave it up to raise a family, then got back into it a couple of years ago with a United subsidiary. She also has her teaching certificate. Jim Jr. starred for Edgewood and played for Lakeland before becoming interested in flying. He now is the pilot for the DeBartolo family, owners of the San Francisco 49ers. Glen, who also played at Edgewood, now works for Progressive Insurance. Jim Sr. and Kathleen have six grandchildren.

Larick, a retired Star Beacon sportswriter, is a freelance writer from Geneva.

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