Poor Peters. It is one thing to rewrite the record books. It is another to have to make a carbon.
Could he win 17 more straight? Peters told a friend, Kevin Picone, he didn't think so. But Peters had underestimated his remarkable unhittability. In the remainder of his junior year, he reeled off eight more en route to Brenham's third straight 4A baseball title. He opened his senior season this year with seven wins, including two no-hitters. On April 21 he won his 50th with a dicey 3-1 win over Taylor High of Katy. Now, just over a year since he broke the unrecord, Peters was back, ready to write his name in the books. This time, in ink.
Already, the sequel was playing even bigger in Brenham than the original. So many wanted to be witnesses to history that the city donated extra bleachers. Folks brought lawn chairs the day before and placed them anywhere the benches weren't. Four Sante Fe Railroad security deputies, armed, were brought in to keep people off the nearby railroad tracks. Six porta-potties were imported and allotted: four for women, two for men. The Girl Scouts cooked up 2,000 hot dogs and 100 apple pies. The Future Homemakers of America served up nachos and Brenham's own Blue Bell ice cream. Businesses closed at four o'clock. As dusk approached, most people in town were fully expecting the moon to come up Cub green.
Stage set, the town ached for a most unlikely looking god. Jon Roland Peters has size XL ears and a country face that has barely grown out of its freckles. His walk is late Walter Brennan. His dress consists mostly of extra-long jeans (the way Opie Taylor used to wear them), gray T-shirts and running shoes. He says "sir" a lot, has a 92 grade average, and can throw a baseball past any high school kid alive.
Never mind what the scouts say, that he doesn't have big league stuff yet—his fastball is timed in the low 80-mph range—he has a big-league head. If you set him 60'6" from a French door, you could name the windowpane and he would put his fastball through it. He'll throw his changeup or his neck-breaking curve on 3 and anything. He has almost 560 strikeouts in his career and less than 100 walks.
But most of all he has a bull-backed will, like that of his role model and idol, alltime major league strikeout leader Nolan Ryan. Didn't Ryan too come from a small town in Texas (Alvin)? And hadn't Ryan pitched right here in Brenham once (1965)? Like Ryan. Peters is nothing if not stubborn. In the four-year life of the streak, he has won in the rain, won with the flu, won with his best stuff and won with his worst. Says Brenham assistant coach Harry Francis. "He never learned to lose."
He has been good and he has been good and lucky. Three times in the streak he left a game losing, and three times his teammates scraped up enough runs to get him a no-decision. Brenham's other starter, James Nix, knows something about the luck of the draw. As of last Friday, Nix had his own 25-game winning streak going, including four no-hitters. The last one, a perfect game, was seen by 400 people. Nix's problem is that he decided to cross the Atlantic the day after Lindbergh.
When asked what it takes to put together a great streak, Peters answers, "Great teammates." But as this game drew closer, Peters felt mostly alone. It has been his custom on most pitching days to go to his girlfriend's house to relax. He and Brenham tennis team star Jill Becker had been steadies for two years. But with their recent spat and all, Jon had been going home instead.
Still, the rest of his good-luck machinery was in place—the ritualistic pool game with buddies the night before, the wearing of the lucky gray T-shirt to school, the trip to McDonald's for his lucky Big Mac, the donning of the lucky green jersey, complete with his lucky number, 21.
So pregnant with promise was Fireman's Park that six fans had backed up a forklift behind the wooden rightfield fence, stuck a huge crate on the lift, got inside and elevated it to mezzanine height. Moore, flown in from Kings Mountain, N.C., to throw out the first pitch, was impressed. "This is the first high school game I've ever seen with sky boxes," he said. If Moore was impressed, imagine how the visiting team, A & M Consolidated, must have felt. They had been invited to a luau only to find out they were the pig.