In 1962, 11-year-old Greg Peterson accompanied his father, Lyle, and his grandfather, Otto, to what was then known as Municipal Stadium on Jamestown’s east side.
It happened to be “Oldtimers Day.”
One of the special guests was Hugh Bedient, the former Boston Red Sox pitcher and 1912 World Series hero, who just happened to be the grandfather of Hugh Imus, Peterson’s Little League teammate. Bedient, born in Gerry and a graduate of Falconer High School, could often be found watching his grandson and that VFW team from behind the outfield fence.
But while Peterson knew of Bedient, he didn’t realize upon arrival there would be two other former Major Leaguers at the ballpark that afternoon. Swat Erickson of Jamestown and Ray Caldwell of Onoville were there, too. So at the urging of Peterson’s father and grandfather, he asked the former Big League pitchers for their autographs.
“It didn’t mean much at the time,” Peterson said last week. “The point is my dad and grandfather introduced me to (people) who really had a significant career. They said, ‘You should shake their hands.’”
Peterson has been “gripped” by America’s pastime ever since.
“Everybody has a story to tell,” he said, “and if you can find a way to capture that, I’ve always respected that, revered it.”
At 6:30 p.m. April 25 at the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown, Peterson, the area’s ultimate sports historian, will share stories of some of his best baseball moments with Mike Billoni, the former general manager of the Buffalo Bisons, who also served in that same capacity with the Jamestown Jammers of the New York-Pennsylvania League in 1994.
The evening — entitled “Greg Peterson Unplugged” — will include videos of interviews that Peterson has produced, with Billoni serving as the master of ceremonies.
To anyone who knows Peterson and his pursuit of preserving the sports history in our neck of the woods, it should be a special evening.
“Mike Billoni and I go back to the 1980s when I was trying to get on the field to pretend I was a news guy,” Peterson said. “I got a press pass and was exposed to the Rock Pile (War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo), and Oldtimers Days. I was living out a fantasy.
“Through all these years, (Billoni) looked at my body of work, which has found its way on to YouTube. For the last three years he has called me incessantly and said, ‘We have to do a night, we have to do a night.’”
Peterson ultimately agreed.
“Knowing that the (Jamestown Tarp Skunks) season is coming up, and if you want to launch it, alright, you win. I’ll do it,” Peterson said.
There won’t be a lack of stories to tell.
Peterson has videotaped countless interviews through the decades that are now archived on his YouTube channel. He has a playlist prepared for his 90-minute program next week. When asked for some “teasers,” he offered a few. They include:
¯ Answering the question, “Who is the only person in baseball to strike himself out?”
¯ Pulling back the curtain on the Goose Gossage-George Brett 1983 pine tar incident, and the home run the Hall-of-Fame reliever surrendered to Kirk Gibson in the World Series a year later.
¯ Concluding with and, according to Peterson, “well worth staying around until the end” for the recounting of the most important day in Jamestown’s baseball history, which is the 1990 “Candid Camera” episode at College Stadium.
“It’s time to reflect on the long, often funny, history of baseball in our community from the voices of many who went on to big fame and fortune,” Peterson said.
By the way, for the record, “unplugged” can mean “accessible,” “clear,” and “free.”
All apply in this case.
“How do you really boil it down to one- or two-minute soundbites and make them entertaining?” Peterson asked rhetorically. “I have done that, knowing that there was a lot that was left on the cutting-room floor, but we’ll have fun that night talking about the people and personalities who have been through Jamestown.”