One of the most memorable baseball events that I recall from my years living in Manhattan took place off the field. In 1973, two New York Yankee pitchers, Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich traded families.
Peterson traded his wife, Marilyn, his two kids and a poodle for Susan Kekich, the two Kekich children and a Bedlington terrier. “We didn’t trade wives; we traded lives,” said Kekich at the time.
As strange as this may sound nearly 40 years later, the incident didn’t make that much of a splash. The ten years between 1965 and 1975 were characterized by liberal, uninhibited sexual attitudes. Wife swapping, although normally limited to an evening or weekend, was not unheard of. And the 1970’s were the days before the 24-hour news cycle. Tabloids covered Peterson-Kekich but mostly through the daily newspapers. After a month, the story gave way to traditional journalism.
The revised marital arrangement worked out much better for Peterson than Kekich. Peterson remains married to Susan and had four children. Kekich and Marilyn split after a couple of months. Eventually, Kekich remarried and had a daughter.
Now suddenly, with the leading protagonists in their mid-60s, Peterson-Kekich is in the headlines again.
A new movie starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, The Trade, is in its second rewrite. Producers hope to release it next year. Kekich, who thinks hanging out his dirty laundry again after all these years is “unfair,” is working hard to block the film. According to an inside source: “Kekich is panic-stricken. He has moved away and has a new identity. He is freaked out that those working on the movie found out where he is. He isn’t too keen on having the scandal dredged up again after all this time.
Peterson, it should be remembered, was an outstanding lefty for the Yankees in the years leading up to the scandal. His 2.52 ERA is the best ever posted at Yankee Stadium. Hall of Famer Whitey Ford is second with a 2.55 ERA. During his 9 seasons with the then-mediocre Yankees, Peterson posted a 133-131 record with a 3.30 ERA and one 20 game season. Notoriously stingy with bases on balls, Peterson issued an average of only 1.7 during his eleven year career.
Peterson’s career fell off after the swap but not as dramatically as Kekich’s who said that his life became “a black hole” after the ill-fated affair. Kekich’s lifetime stats: 39-51, 4.59 ERA
On this one, I’m with Kekich. I doubt if Affleck, Damon or anyone else associated with the movie would like a full length account of their most ill-conceived personal decisions turned into a fictionalized, full-length movie.