February 27, 2024

The Big Train Rolls No More

May 14, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

I just learned that my pen pal, Ray Peters, died on May 4. He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Janis, and two sons.

Ray, who once pitched in the big leagues, was a Harvard grad. He played for the Crimson in 1967 and 1968. His former coach, Norman Shepard, thought so well of him that, in an article published on February 12, 1969, he told Al Brenholts of the Harvard Crimson student newspaper that “a pitcher like Ray comes along just once in a while. He was one that could throw the ball by the hitter,” continued Shepard. “You don’t get a real stopper like Ray every day.”

For that matter, you don’t get a real nice guy like Ray entering your life every day. A smart guy who could turn a phrase, he told me that getting the suits who run Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA) to change their minds on a topic was “like herding cats.”

Ray, who only started two games, had a lifetime Earned Run Average over 31.50. But if he was known for anything, it’s that he’s one of the 200 retired ballplayers who didn’t accrue 43 game days of service in MLB.

Why is that significant? Because effective April 2011, retired players who weren’t vested — who didn’t have four years of service but who had at least 43 game days of service — were awarded $625 for every 43 game days on an active MLB roster they did get credit for.

Harvard’s Pete Varney, a catcher who started for the Crimson team from 1968 to 1971, and who later played for the Chicago White Sox and Atlanta Braves, falls into the latter category. Varney would do okay for himself after his time in the Show—he retired as the winningest head baseball coach at Brandeis in 2015.

But men like Ray and Roy Gleason, a Purple Heart winner who the Los Angeles Dodgers trotted out before Game 2 of the 2017 World Series — don’t receive ANY monies for the time they played in the majors.

Ray was selected by the Seattle Pilots with the 22nd pick in the first round of the 1969 amateur draft. He had previously been drafted four other times, but didn’t sign with any of those teams. When the Pilots went bankrupt, former Commissioner Bud Selig formed the Milwaukee Brewers and the 6’5” Peters found himself pitching in the big leagues in 1970.

After he hung up his spikes, Ray went into real estate lending. But even though he made a comfortable living, Ray always felt the sport he loved didn’t love him back.

And now he has gone to his grave believing that. If you’d like to leave a memory of Ray on the website that his family has set up, feel free to visit www.bigtrainray.com.


Douglas J. Gladstone is the author of A Bitter Cup of Coffee

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