Nick Peters, longtime baseball writer for The Bee, dies at 75

Surrounded by baseball memorabila, former Sacramento Bee baseball writer Nick Peters, stands in the hallway of his home. Bee file photo, July 20, 2009.
Surrounded by baseball memorabila, former Sacramento Bee baseball writer Nick Peters, stands in the hallway of his home. Bee file photo, July 20, 2009.

Nick Peters, the Hall of Fame baseball writer who chronicled the Giants for nearly a half century, died Monday at his Elk Grove home after a lengthy illness.

He was 75.

Affectionately known to his many friends and colleagues as “The Greek,” Peters was the quintessential old-school baseball scribe whose devotion to the game was central to a life well-lived.

Peters covered the Giants from 1961 to 2007 – from the Civil Rights Era to baseball’s Steroid Era. That’s 47 seasons, nearly 5,000 games and five published books. From 1988 to 2007, Peters was the Giants’ beat writer for The Sacramento Bee.

Peters was present at every Giants Opening Day in San Francisco, the first in 1958 until more recently, when illness kept him from AT&T Park. He covered the Giants from the prime of Willie Mays until the final days of Barry Bonds’ career. He covered the Giants from the era of manual typewriters to the era of wireless laptops, which Peters was known to curse from time to time while on deadline.

“We used to tease Nick about his longevity by asking, ‘Was Babe Ruth a good quote?’” said Dan Brown, a San Jose Mercury News sportswriter and longtime friend of Peters. “But in truth, that wisdom was irreplaceable. ... The thing that amazed me about Nick was how much the (Giants) greats respected him – Mays, (Willie) McCovey, (Juan) Marichal.”

Peters earned that respect by being a straight shooter. He never sugarcoated how the Giants were playing, which was often quite dismal during the 1970s and ’80s. But Peters always respected the game and the men who devoted their lives to it.

“Nick connected with the players and they really took to him,” said Larry Baer, the Giants’ CEO. “Baseball was his thing and the Giants were his thing, and the organization felt very deeply about that.”

The room at AT&T Park where players and managers are interviewed is named after Peters, an honor bestowed on him several years ago.

Peters grew up near where AT&T Park sits, in what was then called “Greek Town” in San Francisco. Despite his Irish surname, he was a proud Greek who traveled many times to his ancestral homeland with his wife, Lise.

Drafted into the Army as a young man, Peters was stationed in Alaska and took up writing for his base newspaper. A legendary career was born. He was a proud San Jose State Spartan, and after starting his professional career as a general assignment sportswriter with the San Francisco Chronicle, he began covering the Giants for the Berkeley Gazette in 1961, the Giants’ fourth year in the Bay Area.

Peters knew Bonds from when Bonds was a child trailing after Mays, his godfather, and the late Bobby Bonds, Barry’s dad and a Giants outfielder in the 1970s.

Even when Barry Bonds was at his most contentious with baseball writers, he would talk with Peters. During those stormy years, Peters would stand by Bonds’ locker and other writers would often wait to approach while Peters and Bonds were conversing.

“Nick was always a pleasure to talk to on any subject,” said Dusty Baker, the Sacramento-reared former Giants manager. “The things that stood out after his illness was how much he was respected by his peers.”

Peters was bestowed the J.G. Taylor Spink Award in 2009. It is the highest honor given to a baseball writer and earned him entry into the writers’ wing of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

When he went to Cooperstown, N.Y., to receive the honor from the Hall, Peters smiled broadly the entire day in a stylish suit. With his trademark silver beard and hair, he cut a distinguished figure that day – one his family and friends remember as the pinnacle of his life’s work.

“It felt like Nick came West with the Giants from New York,” Baer said. “He didn’t, but it felt that way.”

Call The Bee’s Marcos Breton, (916) 321-1096.

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