One of the few Harvard athletes to play major league baseball, Pete Varney had his biggest thrill in college sports not on the diamond, but on a November day in 1968.
Down 29-13 with 10 minutes remaining, the Crimson football team staged its famous comeback to tie Yale, 29-29, on a last-second, two-point conversion. Sophomore Varney caught the conversion.
"That was tops, that '68 game," Varney said from his home in Acton. "Making the College World Series would be second, but that's definitely number one."
Despite the fine Crimson squads since, Varney's name still appears in the baseball record book. His 10 home runs in 1970 have been equaled (by Mike Stenhouse) but not surpassed. His nine runs batted in against Washington and Lee the same year is still the Harvard mark.
The pistol arm and potent bat (.370 lifetime) that graced EIBL diamonds from 1969-71 were good enough to earn Varney a shot with the Chicago White Sox.
After moving up through the Sox system, he hit the big time in 1974, latching on as a backup catcher and utility man.
"I definitely enjoyed it," Varney says of the major league experience. "You have to pay a price originally, and it's a tough road--all of those bus rides in the minors. But I'm glad I did it."
After two and a half years in Chicago, Varney was dealt to the Atlanta Braves, and he spent the next summer in Richmond, playing for Atlanta's top farm club. But despite a .290 batting average. Varney couldn't interest any club in his services the following spring, and he decided to retire.
A year of substitute teaching later, he landed a full-time job in the Wayland school system, moving to his present position at Narragansett Regional High School in Gardner "because it gave me the opportunity to coach as well as teach."
But the only professional baseball player at Narragansett Regional may be looking for another job soon. His position is in danger of being eliminated because of Proposition 2 1/2, which removed funding for the job.
"You need three years for tenure and I've only got two." Varney says, adding that if he is forced to leave, he would like to land a job in the Harvard admissions office. "I've had some contacts before when I used to travel," he says, "and if I could do that full time. I'd really enjoy it."