Fritz Peterson, Mike Kekich, and the film their wife swap has inspired

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.

9 Replies to “Fritz Peterson, Mike Kekich, and the film their wife swap has inspired”

  1. I remember the wife swap well. They even swapped dogs. Kekich was an average major league pitcher while Peterson was very good at times. That 1970 Yankee team had some real arms on that pitching staff but couldn’t score runs. How can a team let a guy play a whole season at 3B and hit uner .200?

  2. Is Damon or Affleck left-handed? Maybe they won’t have any re-created game footage in the movie. I always hated “Field of Dreams” for having a right-handed batting Joe Jackson or when Archie Graham is naming off the players and somehow the movie decied to put Gil Hodges in the same era as the players in the movie. The Deadball Era web site has some video of the 1919 World Series as well as other old films. Note the number of pitchers throwing sidearm.

  3. I saw Gil Hodges play, he was so good at the game. Joe Jackson batting right handed in that movie is kind of bizarre, isn’t it? I still like “League of Their Own”. So what if it is a girl movie. I like the story line. Maybe somebody could check this out, but, I think the girls league was a softball league the first couple of years before they played hard ball. I am old enough to sort of remember that it was around but I never saw any games. I think “The Natural” with Redford is a strange flick.

  4. “I think ‘The Natural’ with Redford is a strange flick.” The reason for that accurate conclusion is that Redford doesn’t look right in the uniform. Moreover, to stoop to the vernacular of my 1950s Brooklynese, “he throws like a girl.” But the most bizarro of all “baseball” movies is, “Fear Strikes Out,” a story of the weirdo Red Sox outfielder, Jimmy Piersall. If ever there was a miscast actor in a baseball flick, Tony Perkins gets an Oscar, for his visible inability to run, field or hit is unmatched to this day.

  5. Gary Cooper and William Bendix get nominations for this Oscar as well. But Tony Perkins is the winner.

    “The Babe Ruth Story” is so bad, it’s actually entertaining, like a Mystery Science Theater 3000 flick.

  6. All of the contributors have, with justification, raised legitimate points about Hollywood’s absurdity vs. baseball’s reality. There is something approaching that reality in Bendix’s portrayal of Ruth, or Coop’s version of “the Iron Man,” but one has to view Tony Perkins in action. After that is done, none will question by academy award nomination.

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