In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
Spring Training for the New York Yankees in Fort Lauderdale turns scandalous when pitchers Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson reveal they swapped wives during the offseason. The news shocks and stuns those in the baseball community. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn expresses outrage but is powerless to carry out any punishment. As with many baseball trades, it only worked out for Peterson, and he and Susanne Kekich remained married while Kekich and Marilyn Peterson split up quickly.
It was an era in which the New York Yankees dynasty was in decline; under the ownership of CBS, the team had gone from perennial contenders to mediocrity. As 1973 began, the Yankees were under new management after purchasing an ownership group led by George Steinbrenner in January. The season was one of transition for the Yankees as they were shutting the stadium down at year’s end to begin a two-year renovation project.
In 1972, the Yankees finished in fourth place with a record of 79-76. Two of their five starting pitchers, Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich, both left-handed pitchers, became best friends on and off the field. Peterson, born on February 8, 1942, in Chicago, had been one of the Yankees' top pitchers since making his debut in 1972. His best season was 1970, when he made the All-Star team and recorded a career-high 20 wins. Kekich, born April 2, 1945, in San Diego, was more a back end of the rotation pitcher. Mike Kekich joined the Yankees in 1969 after beginning his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers. His best season was in 1971, when he produced a record of 10-9.
Late in the 1972 season, at a party, the two pitchers and their wives decided to participate in a wife swap. A part of the sexual revolution in the late ’60s, wife swapping, was the subject of a popular movie “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.” The arraignment was simple, Mike Kekich moved in with Fritz Peterson’s wife Marilyn and their two sons, while Fritz Peterson moved in with Suzanne and Kekich and their two daughters. Both players had lived in New Jersey for years, and the arraignment continued throughout the offseason. However, as trades often do, it only worked out for one party. Fritz Peterson and Susanne remained together, while Kekich was left bitter as his relationship with Marilyn Peterson ended swiftly.
While Major League Baseball was powerless to punish the pitchers, the news was embarrassing to most involved in the game. Yankees General Manager Lee MacPhail joked he had to cancel family day. With Kekich feeling some lingering resentment, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians for Lowell Palmer on June 12th. Peterson’s life with Susanne was a success off the field, but his career on the field had ebbed as he suffered the worst season of his career at 8-15. Mike Kekich would eventually move on and pitch in Japan and Mexico, briefly pitching with the Texas Rangers in 1975 and with the expansion Seattle Mariners in 1977 before ending his career. Meanwhile, Fritz Peterson was traded to the Cleveland Indians in a multiple-player deal in 1974 that saw the Yankees land future playoff hero Chris Chambliss. Peterson would pitch with the Rangers in 1976, where shoulder troubles ended his career.
Fritz Peterson and Susanne Kekich remain married 45 years after the swap, which remains a sore spot in the Yankee organization as they have blocked several proposed film adaptions of the affair, including a movie that would have starred Ben Affleck and Matt Damon as Kekich and Peterson.