NEW YORK - Archie Peck, one of the most celebrated players in a sport of cutthroat gentility - croquet - died Wednesday in West Palm Beach, Fla. He was 76.
His death, of cancer, was announced on the US Croquet Association website.
A champion player beginning in the 1970s, Mr. Peck was for decades a familiar presence in the croquet circles of Palm Beach and beyond.
With his rugged good looks, effortless athleticism, and aggressive style of play, he was widely described as having brought virility to a sport that had long been considered only somewhat less geriatric than shuffleboard.
This notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Peck, in his playing days, was commonly known as Silky Legs. As The Miami Herald explained in 1982, “Women say he has the silkiest legs around when he wears his Italian-made tennis shorts.’’
Mr. Peck, who ran a successful real estate business in Palm Beach, had already been a scratch golfer; skilled surfer; tennis player; snow and water skier; professional jai alai player; and US Marine when he took up croquet in his 30s. He became a six-time national champion in the sport, earning four singles and two doubles titles, and was inducted into the US Croquet Hall of Fame and the World Croquet Federation Hall of Fame.
He was also an ardent ambassador for competitive croquet, which, adherents say, combines the finesse of billiards with the strategy of chess. Official American-rules croquet is played with only six wickets, each so narrow that negotiating the ball through it is a test of skill.
John Archibald McNeil Peck was born in Norwalk, Conn., and reared in Palm Beach. He was the longtime president of John W. Peck Real Estate, founded in Palm Beach by his father.
Mr. Peck was divorced twice. He leaves four children, John Peck, Nina Noel, Alexandra Weary, and Amy Nelson; a sister, Lucie Peck Moffett; eight grandsons; and his longtime companion, Amy Weiss.
So passionate was Mr. Peck for croquet that he is known to have said only a single negative thing about it:
“It’s about the world’s worst spectator sport,’’ he told The Orlando Sentinel in 2006, “unless you’re a croquet player.’’