IT is with an extremely heavy heart that the Waverley Baseball Club notes the passing in 2018 of Tony Peek, a legend of our wonderful club, an architect of our marvelous Junior program and a pioneer of the Australian Baseball League.
Few people have made a bigger impact on the Waverley Baseball Club and indeed Victorian and Australian baseball than ‘Peeky’.
A well known sports administrator, who recently retired from the AFL where he was an Assistant to CEO Gil McLaghlan, Tony was a past player, president and served on the WBC Board for a record 21 years.
While his prowess as a player never rose to any dizzy heights, ‘Peeky’ stands Everest-like as an administrator in forging baseball as a prominent sport not only in Victoria but Australia.
During his record 10-year tenure as President of the WBC, the club won six premierships.
One of the pivotal planks in Tony’s time at the WBC was a strong emphasis on Junior development.
It was during that period the club nurtured some of the finest players of its generation – Phil Dale, David Clarkson, Matthew Sheldon-Collins, David Buckthorpe and Andrew Spencer, to name but a handful.
Tony was also instrumental in the formation of the inaugural Australian Baseball League in the late 1980s, and, in fact, he was the first chairman of the ABL.
Significantly, Tony was a key player in the formation for the Waverley Reds, who played in the inaugural season of the Australian Baseball League.
The Waverley Reds were basically the Waverley Baseball Club topped up by a bunch of other players.
Think about that for a moment: Tony took a suburban club and made it the most recognised club in Australian baseball.
It should not be lost on anyone that the Waverley Reds owned a 34-6 record and won the inaugural ABL Championship.
It’s worth noting that achievement still stands as the best ever season of an ABL club.
Tony paved the way for the ABL to gain exposure in The Herald Sun, the largest selling newspaper not only in Victoria, but also Australia by arranging for the sport to receive a full page coverage each Thursday during the season as well as the sport having a dedicated baseball writer.
I was fortunate to be that journalist and that re-ignited a friendship that began at The Sun in the 1970s and would continue for close to another 30 years.
Such media coverage played a significant part in the Waverley Reds attracting considerable crowds at Waverley Park – 11,444 on one night – and regular crowds of 5,000 plus. Measure that against the numbers today.
Interest in baseball in the late 1980s and 1990s was at a premium. Tony can claim to have directly contributed to such a surge.
And, it’s no coincidence that the popularity in the sport at the grass roots level, particularly at Waverley boomed during this period.
Tony displayed the leadership that saw the sport enjoy a prominence like never before and sadly never since.
Last February, the WBC recognised the stunning contribution ‘Peeky’ made to our great club by naming the Clubhouse in his honour at a Club 3150 lunch.
It was a moment that caught him totally unaware and his genuine love for the club and all the special people involved resonated during his acceptance speech.
Later, he wrote to the Club expressing his sincere appreciation.
“Being involved with the club has given me and our family a great deal of enjoyment and I was delighted to see so many of our former players and board members that we worked with in attendance on the day – it was a day I will never forget,” Tony said.
Waverley Baseball Club president Terry Fitzgerald and Board extends its heart felt sympathies and deepest condolences to wife Anne, son Matthew and daughter Amy and extended family.
Gone way too soon, but your legacy at the Waverley Baseball Club lives on forever.
A tribute to Tony’s wide-ranging contributions to the AFL can be found in this article published in The Age by Caroline Wilson upon his death.