Montana Greats From A (Absarokee) to Z (Zurich), the greatest athletes from 264 Montana communities

ByJeff Welsch


Every community has a sports hero, but do you know who they are? Author Jeff Welsch, the Montana sports editor for Lee Newspapers, researched the record books; interviewed athletes, coaches, and local sports fans; and travelled across the state to determine each community’s best athlete. The result is a one-of-a-kind sports book, Montana Greats: From A (Absarokee) to Z (Zurich), the greatest athlete from 264 Montana communities.

These athletes—men and women, historic and contemporary—are the best in more than a dozen sports: football, basketball, rodeo, track, skiing, and more. Included are well-known “greats” such as World Series pitcher Dave McNally, who Sports Illustrated said was the best athlete to come from Montana, but the book is rich with lesser-known stories of local legends and high-school heroes.

In fact, the book is being praised for its celebration (and remembrance) of small-town sports heroes: “What I love about Montana Greats is how it memorializes the small towns in Montana [where] the identity of the community is strongly connected to their teams. Thank you, Jeff Welsch, for honoring their best athletes and for ensuring we never forget their legacies.” —Joe Puckett, Peerless (Montana) native and author of The Dream.

The text (and Contents) of the book is organized alphabetically by community name, hence the subtitle: From A (Absarokee) to Z (Zurich).

Each athlete is profiled on a single page. There is a description of the athlete's accomplishments and a brief biographical update. Each profile includes a black and white photograph, usually an action photo of the athlete participating in his/her sport.

Although the Contents is a list of community names, the book features two useful indexes for quickly finding an individual athlete. One index is an alpha list of all the athletes; the other is the athletes listed by the sport they are known for (football stars under Football, etc.).

Montana Greats is a record of sports heroes and where they came from. It is a winning book for sports fans, historians, and all Montanans.


Publication Date: March 2021
ISBN: 978-1-60639-129-7
Format: Trade Paperback
Size: 5.5 x 8.5 inches
Author: Jeff Welsch
Pages: 296


Jeff Welsch’s passion for all things Montana was born during a family station-wagon vacation in 1975, nurtured on frequent trips to the Big Sky State to cover Boise State basketball and Idaho football for The Idaho Statesman in the 1980s, solidified on regular fly-fishing adventures, and ultimately realized with a move to Bozeman in 2004 to become sports editor at the Daily Chronicle.

Welsch has been in sports journalism in the western United States for nearly four decades, aside from a six-year hiatus to work for a conservation organization dedicated to protecting the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. In 2014, the addictive aroma of newsprint and ink lured him back as sports editor of The Billings Gazette, and since August 2016 he has been executive sports editor for the website and Lee Montana’s four daily newspapers—The Gazette, Missoulian, Montana Standard (Butte) and Helena Independent Record.

His numerous state, regional and national reporting awards include first place in the 2006 Associated Press Sports Editors national competition for his burled-arch to burled-arch coverage of one of Montana’s Greats: Ennis musher Jessie Royer in Alaska’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Welsch has co-authored five books—among them Backroads & Byways of Montana, with his wife, Sherry, an endeavor that took them from border to border and heightened their appreciation for their adopted home state. It was the people, places and stories experienced along the way that helped provide the spark for Montana Greats.

They have lived in the same home outside of Belgrade for the past 17 years.

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