The Peter Brock Story
Peter Allen Brock
May 2, 1951 – January 3, 1987
Peter’s rugby career began in the early 70’s after his graduation from City College, coinciding with the beginnings of the Chesapeake Rugby Club. He and his brother, Andy Kay joined the fledgling club, becoming regular fixtures.
Peter eventually became our Captain and spurred us on to victory when he was on the pitch. When he wasn’t there, we inevitably lost. If he was, we won.
He was that good and that inspirational. And, it wasn’t only on the pitch that he led us.
He was the first one on the dance floor.
He was one of the first to join in song.
He was always willing to lend a helping hand.
He was an environmentalist and nature lover before it was expected.
He was also a good guy, a loyal friend and a great family member who would be embarrassed by how we have lionized him. Hopefully, he would also be proud that we hold him up as a legacy.
He was the face of Chesapeake Rugby and represented the club the PRU, ERU and as a reserve Eagle against France. He then retired to get married and dedicate himself to converting a barn into a home, we missed him greatly. Luckily for us, that only lasted about a season.
For years, Peter had been the standout representative of rugby in Baltimore, and as such was determined to see it flourish. For that reason, he banded with his buddy, Tom McCormack, of Towson Rugby to energize the city with what, after further mergers, is now known as Baltimore-Chesapeake Rugby. These changes required savvy, grit and perseverance. Even though both clubs were floundering, the politics was overwhelming. Peter wanted to play on McCormack’s team. We merged – and got Tom, the only capped Eagle to come from our ranks, in the process
Peter was a tough competitor with a reenergized commitment to the game reached his playing pinnacle in his 30’s, yet was unable to breakthrough to the US Eagles team because of their newfound youth movement. This was a great disappointment to him, but did not diminish his love for the game, his teammates or his home team, now Baltimore-Chesapeake.
One fateful night in 1985, Peter, Dave West, his roommate and fellow rugger, his sister Mardi and his sister-in-law Mary found themselves at Sisson’s on Cross Street. Peter had been experiencing a headache earlier in the day and thought some food and a couple of Miller Lights would help. It did not, and as the pain increased he had Dave drive them to Mercy hospital. It was a mad dash, yet the surgeon on call was not quickly available. Mardi and Mary left to grab some sleep when Peter’s other roommate, Jack Gordon, a physician himself, showed up. The aneurysm had burst and there was devastating injury to Peter’s brain. He was in a coma and the doctor’s expected little in the way of recover.
But, being the man that he was, he fought against all odds to overcome the near vegetative state to which he had succumbed. It was with immense hard work and determination that he willed himself to the point that he could be released from the hospital and moved to a cutting edge rehab facility in Boston.
There were no miracles for brain injuries then. Peter was one of the pioneers who proved, however, that there was hope and possibilities. As we had come to expect, with his incomprehensible determination, willed himself to be able to observe the world around him, eventually communicating in measured, yet meaningful ways.
Our club arranged a match in Boston against the powerful Beacon Hill Rugby Club. We brought Peter to the match, in his wheelchair, to watch. He sat on top of a hill at one of our try zones and observed. Our boys played hard, but the game was not about the score. It was our turn to show him what our best looked like – even against the odds. That day was clearly not measured by the score (and in fact, few matches really are), but to compete against ourselves, to be the best that we could be and by the opportunity to reconnect with a teammate we so greatly missed. PS – we won…
Peter again inspired each of us to push forward through whatever strife we endure. And, he did, as well, eventually reaching a point where he was able to return to his family’s home in Baltimore, where he was an integral part of their lives until his death a year later.
Now, it should be noted that Peter’s injuries were overwhelming. He had limited movement and was 100% dependent on others for his physical needs – yet his will to live and his dogged determination rarely subsided. Most importantly, his love for his family and friends was forever obvious.
This is a man who consistently epitomized the will to succeed – however small or large the success may be – regardless of the insurmountable obstacles.
Play is about to restart in the waning moments of the match. Our boy’s have their backs literally up against their own tryline. Captain Tom McCormack takes the 22-meter drop-out. Tony Wolf – Wolfie!! – sprints off after the high ball. Screaming, he and the ball arrive together – he gathers in the ball and roars down the near touchline and over he goes for the score. It’s converted. The whistle goes for full-time. Our boys are cheering and jumping like they’ve won the championship. And you know, they had. They all look over to Peter and for the first time since his fall, they see it, his smile! They gather around him and wheel him to his home, singing into the night.
We wanted to honor him and developed the Peter Brock Award. There was a great deal of discussion about what this award should represent. We knew that is was not a player of the year award, nor an outstanding rugger award. We knew that it didn’t have to be given annually, but rather when a player showed the courage of his convictions to succeed repeatedly, to the best of his ability. It represents, a member who strives to attain beyond their God-given gifts, on or off the pitch.
Peter Brock’s legacy is perpetuated by the continued existence of the Baltimore-Chesapeake Rugby Club and the memory of his singular determination and willpower, against all odds.
I have compiled this information from a number of sources, and will never forget where I was when Mike MacIntyre called with the news….
President of Baltimore Chesapeake Old Boys
Wade David Gowl
Peter’s front row mate and friend 1977-1985
“Inspiration, because when the other selectors didn’t have faith, Peter did…he just wanted to have fun and play the game. Peter gave me that chance, and I am very grateful.”
Congratulation to this year’s winner…And I hope it will be true for you as it has been for me. That with every year that passes since winning the Award, the value and its meaning multiplies immeasurably. Cheers to the BC Rugby Club for remembering Peter Brock. And for keeping the Peter Brock Memorial Award alive.
Throughout my 23 (or so) seasons I knew several players who had traits similar to Peter’s. Some played with Peter’s tenacity, some had the same training discipline, some had that 6th sense to understand the game at a higher level, some were gregarious off the pitch, some were good coaches and mentors for younger players, some made you play harder to impress them and some were just always fun to be around. Peter was the only one I ever played with who had all those traits.
“What I do know about Peter Brock is that he was an exceptional human being by any standard…Peter was a Renaissance man in the front row. He could give and take a punch or boot with the best…off the field his preferences were bird watching, symphony music and ultimate frisbee.”
-Chris Doherty, ERU & Washington RFC
“It was a “hot as hell” Sunday in September of ’80, we were playing the Lancaster RFC. Their backline continued to have us overlapped. The extra man was breaking through the mid-field with regularity. It wasn’t even my man. It was one of my first A-side games. It was nearly my last, because Peter came up to me, looked me in the eyes and in a loud and emphatic voice said, “Steve Elliott, if you don’t tackle that guy, you will never play A-side rugby for this team again.”
Peter Brock was playing and coaching rugby with Chesapeake when I first started playing. It was probably his interest in the beginners, like myself, that kept me coming out. I had played in about 2 or 3 games and we were up in Wilmington and they needed a second row for the B-side game and I went to Peter and said that I would love to try and play with the B-side. In the C-side games I made a lot of the beginner mistakes. Well, he gave me a chance and coached me along. I don’t remember if we won or lost but I was very excited about being able to play and have someone notice and help to better my play.
Peter loved bird-watching. We had a home game against a tough opponent. The pre-game intensity level was high. As I walked onto the pitch before kickoff, I was looking up at this large bird floating above the field. Peter walked up to me, identified the bird (a Turkey buzzard) & went on to compare and contrast said bird with it’s look-alike cousin, the brown buzzard.
His smile! And the contradiction of that smile when you looked into his eyes as he walked onto the pitch. Peter was all business in the field and his eyes were the windows to his soul. During a match they told you that he was ROCK HARD! He trained and played to WIN!
Two of the strongest emotions to contend with in rugby and in life are ‘love’ and ‘fear’. And Peter Brock commanded both of them on the pitch. I remember as a college player, Peter would show up. Everybody would get quiet and stop screwing around, even on the sidelines at tournaments. Nobody wanted to look foolish around him. but I don’t think he even noticed. He was totally in his element, and you could see it in his face. You know that look. It’s the look that says, “This place is mine!”
As you may know , our eldest son is named after Peter. I frequently think about as well as tell stories of him. He was an amazing friend to me. Not only that, but his generous spirit and belief in folks was particularly relevant in my rugby journey. These attributes ( along with many others learned from him) are guideposts for me in how I conduct myself to this day. One of the many highlights I’ve been fortunate to experience in my life was the time I spent with Peter.
RUGBY FOOTBALL CLUBS
The following clubs have had the pleasure of playing the game with Peter:
- Potomac Rugby Union
- Eastern Rugby Union North
- Eastern Rugby Union
- US Eagles