Eddy Peach was a young baseball coach at Arlington High School in the late 1960s when he was beckoned by the words most coaches dreaded to hear, “Coach Workman wants to see you in his office.”
Workman was Sterling Workman, then the athletic director for the Arlington Colts. Peach hustled over to his boss’s office following baseball practice, and found a small welcoming party waiting for him. In addition to Workman, the high school principal and Arlington ISD superintendent sat expectantly in the office, clearly eager to speak with Peach.
“It was a conversation that completely changed my life,” Peach said.
As a man might’ve feared, the group indeed wanted Peach to leave his post as the Colts’ baseball coach. But that wasn’t a bad thing. They offered a new job – that of head football coach at the brand-new Arlington Lamar High School, which was set to open in the fall of 1970.
Peach spent the next four decades as the Vikings’ head coach, achieving all manner of success. Among his milestones – in 2008 Peach became the first Class 5A head coach in Texas history reach the 300-win plateau.
As a boy growing up in Oklahoma, Peach didn’t dream of being the next Bud Wilkinson but rather the next Mickey Mantle. He spent nearly every waking hour on the baseball diamond, hopeful of one day reaching the big leagues, just like Mantle, a product of Commerce, Oklahoma.
After high school, Peach joined the Oklahoma Sooners baseball team. He starred as a slugging outfielder, earning third-team All-America honors in 1963. But during his time in Norman, Peach experienced a cold dose of reality as it pertained to his pro baseball dreams.
“I came to a time in my life where I realized I wasn’t a Major League Baseball player,” he said. “But through that disappointment came a greater opportunity – in Arlington, Texas. At the time, I didn’t know anything about Arlington, Texas, didn’t even know it existed.”
A friend’s father helped foster a meeting with Arlington ISD officials, and soon Eddy took on the title of “Coach Peach.”
After he moved from Arlington High to Lamar in 1970, Peach quickly gathered that he had landed in a “good situation,” as he called it. The school teemed with hard-working, willing student-athletes. Constructing a program from scratch generally takes a bit of time, and that was certainly the case at Lamar.
In Peach’s first season, the Vikings played an outlaw schedule, competing against smaller schools or JV teams. The following year they logged their first varsity schedule, and took their lumps to the tune of an 0-10 record. But in 1971 the Vikings went 4-4-2 and the year after that they improved to 9-1, and “the rest is history,” Peach said. They were on their way.
What Peach probably most appreciated was a group of parents and students who were willing to devote the time and energy needed to build Lamar into one of premier programs in Texas.
“I would tell people – ‘We’re the only city in Texas that has a pro football team within our city limits, a pro baseball team, Six Flags Over Texas, Hurricane Harbor, and yet the thing that people care about most is Lamar High School,’” Peach said.
Peach’s teams claimed 16 district championships in 39 years, and buzzed through a 13-year stretch from 1988 to 2000 without missing the playoffs. The Vikings plundered their way to the Class 5A Division II state final in 1990, losing to Aldine, and made trips to the state semifinals in 2000 and 2003.
Peach retired following the 2010 season, leaving a brilliant record of 309-124-6. Yet the Peach coaching legacy lives on in his sons – Scott, who is head football coach at Arlington High, and Shawn, who completed his first season as head coach of the Moody Bearcats last fall.
Remember that old meeting that led to Peach getting the job at Lamar? He experienced a bit of déjà vu last fall, when Eddie Wolski with the UIL left a voicemail message on Peach’s home phone. “I need to ask you a question,” the message declared, rather ominously.
Peach’s curiosity was piqued, and just like that day in Workman’s office he found himself delighted, as Wolski passed along the news that the coach was headed to the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame.
“My reaction was one of shock and surprise,” Peach said. “It’s something, I guess, you never really think about, and then when it happens you realize you’ll never forget it. I’m a person who believes that we have some special moments in our lives, and this is definitely one of those special lifetime moments.”