Wednesday, June 15, 2005

 

June 15th, 1862

Peak-A-Boo Veach Born


William Walter Veach, as he would more properly be known, who served in the Spanish-American War ("Remember the Maine!" and all that) after his career, was from Indianapolis where he was--according to his obituary in the Sporting News--a "penniless orphan boy and bootblack on the streets" before his baseball career. That might sound more like something out of a Dickens novel, but then, if you merge Veach's nickname into one word, it could probably pass as a Dickensian character.

Veach made his initial impact in amateur baseball, which was common, probably ubiquitous in the era he played. He was signed by the Fort Wayne Golden Eagles for twenty five dollars a month and board. That was a relatively small sum, even in those days but if Veach's condition really was as dire as the Sporting News implies, it probably seemed like fantastic wealth. Veech started his career as a pitcher but was a superior hitter for that position and would eventually spend the last years of his career as a first baseman, retiring from the game in 1896 after which he would move on, as I mentioned, to military service; he died at age seventy five at a Veterans' Hospital in
Indianapolis.

As for the nickname, since I know you're wondering, it came about during Veach's time in
Kansas City. Veach was notorious for the trouble he had with runners on base. To help solve this, his manager Ted Sullivan came up with a plan. Veach was to keep an eye on the bench at all times, and when Sullivan threw up his hands, to fire the ball to first. After picking off two runners this way--this part of the story seems a bit apocryphal but there you are--the opposition figured out what Sullivan's "Peek-A-Boo" meant. To solve this, Veach was assigned to focus on a certain area of the grandstand to throw to first whenever a scorecard was raised. This system lasted a bit longer, but it too was eventually figured out by the opposing teams. From these incidents the Peek-A-Boo nickname was born, and would stick with him the rest of his career.





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