Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Happy Birthday, Chris Peters

Hey, Chris Peters turns 37 today. You might remember the lefty from the Pirate teams of the late 90's; he was a member of that 1997 gang that was called the Freak Show, the closest thing Pittsburgh has seen to a contender since the Jimmy Leyland days.

Peters was born in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, and quickly moved into the area, parlaying his pitching skills at Peters Township High into a scholarship to Indiana University. He did OK by the Hoosiers, with a career record of 11-9 and a 4.75 ERA in 119-1/3 innings pitched. In his senior season, he had a 6-3 record with a 3.77 ERA, and the hometown team picked Peters up in the 37th round of the 1993 draft.

The first couple of years on the farm were a struggle for him, working out of the bullpen, but in 1995, when he was let loose to start again, he put up some pretty nice numbers.

Peters was 13-5 that year with a 2.32 ERA between high A Lynchburg and AA Carolina, and then was solid again in 1996, going 8-4 between Carolina and AAA Calgary with a 2.25 ERA. That work got him his ticket to the show.

The Bucs put in him the rotation, and the rook got rocked. The next year, they worked him out of the pen, and he looked a little more respectable. In 1998, Peters looked like he had finally figured it out.

He made 39 appearances, 21 as a starter, and had an 8-10 record with a 3.47 ERA. His control was good, he missed a few bats, and kept the ball in the yard - and all three of those areas had been sore spots for him in the past.

But as quickly as it fell together, it fell apart. His ERA soared to 6.59 in 1999, and he was sent back to AAA. That's where he started 2000, but he was called back up and was effective in a few outings with the Pirates. But it was too little, too late, and they released him.

The Expos claimed him for 2001, but after a couple of brutal outings, they let him go at the end of May. In the next several months, the Reds, Yankees, and Blue Jays would took a shot on him, but he never made it back to the bigs.

Peters had his last pro hurrah with the Tigers organization in 2002, pitching for the AA Erie Seawolves. He was cut free after that, and spent his last campaign with the independent Atlantic League's Pennsylvania Road Warriors, Newark Bears, and Camden Riversharks in 2003. He decided that he had enough of the bus rides and got on with his real life after his extended indy road trip.

Peters now lives in Mount Washington and has three children, 10, 9 and an infant, and manages Downtown parking lots for his daily bread. But he's back in baseball, and in a familiar situation.

He signed on as Point Park University's pitching coach during the off-season. PPU, like the Pirates, has a rich tradition of baseball success - John Stuper of the Cards and Reds, and now Yale's manager, led the Pioneers to the 1978 NAIA World Series - but have hit on hard times this decade, much like Peter's MLB club.

Along with manager Al Liberi of Mount Lebanon, a renowned hitting coach, he's hoping to infuse the Downtown nine with the knowledge and confidence to dominate regionally again. And he's depending on his Bucco days to provide that influence.

"Just because I played in the big leagues, immediately I gain a little respect from the kids," he said to Steve Hecht of the Post Gazette in a recent interview.

You should recognize his pitching philosophy: "Keep it as simple as you can, work fast, change speeds and throw strikes," is how he explained his mound credo.

And hey - if it was good enough for Spin Williams, it's good enough for Chris Peters. Who knows? His kids might actually listen.


WilliamJPellas said...

Good story, but wasn't it Ray Miller and not Spin Williams who always said, I will throw strikes, work fast, and change speeds?

Ron Ieraci said...

You're probably right, Will - I thought they both used that philosophy, but in my dotage, they all kinda morph together, hehe.

WilliamJPellas said...

Fear not, O Meister Of The Weenie. I'm right behind you, spitting up my dentures staring off into space!!! :-D

Ron Ieraci said...

As they say, Will, three things go when you get old - first your memory, then, uh, um...I forget the other two!