The late Gene Peterson from the Class of 1948 was a three-sport star at Linfield, earning a total of nine varsity letters in basketball, baseball and tennis.
His academic and athletic pursuits were interrupted by the spread of World War II. He left Linfield in 1943 to enter the Navy and spent three years in the service of his country before returning to school in 1946.
Peterson was a four-year letterman in basketball and was a part of three Northwest Conference championship teams. As a junior in 1946-47, he led the league in scoring at 15.6 points per game and was a unanimous selection on the all-league team. Peterson led the Wildcats to the national tournament, where he scored 18 points against the nation’s No. 1 team. That season, he was the sixth-leading scorer among NAIA basketball players with 439 points.
He also enjoyed a fine baseball career at Linfield. He started out playing shortstop before moving to the pitching mound. As a junior, he was Linfield’s No. 1 pitcher, compiling 5-1 record. He was also the Wildcats’ third-leading hitter that season with a .292 average.
Peterson proved to be a great leader, taking over coaching responsibilities when head coach Henry Lever was hospitalized during the season. The Wildcats won the league championship that year, and he pitched all 13 innings in the conference playoff.
He was also a two-year letterman in tennis, playing singles.
Peterson was honored as Linfield’s Outstanding Male Athlete in 1947 and has been inducted into the NAIA District II Hall of Fame.
He left Linfield midway through his senior year to attend spring training with the Portland Beavers and launch his professional baseball career. After playing four years in the minor leagues, he returned to McMinnville.
Aside from running his own business for 25 years, Peterson taught math and coached baseball and basketball at Clackamas Community College. He also helped bring the Little League, Babe Ruth and American Legion baseball programs to town.
Sadly, Peterson died unexpectedly in August of 1997.