Fritz Peterson, ninth all-time Yankees starter and infamous for wife swap, passes away at 82

Ex-Yankees pitcher Fritz Peterson died on April 12, 2024.

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Fritz Peterson, a former Yankees starting pitcher who won 109 games for the team and was an All-Star in 1970, passed away at the age of 82 on Friday.

The Yankees issued a statement mourning the loss of Fritz Peterson, expressing profound sadness. They lauded his pitching prowess, describing him as a “formidable pitcher” and emphasizing his successful collaboration with Mel Stottlemyre. The statement also celebrated Fritz Petersonn’s upbeat personality, noting his reputation as a prankster and beloved teammate who brought a cheerful ambiance to the clubhouse, all while showcasing remarkable pitching skills, notably his exceptional control.

The infamous tale of wife swapping

AP

Fritz Peterson, a baseball player who faced battles with prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, had an off-field story as intriguing as any curveball. In a move reminiscent of the 1970s era, Peterson and his teammate Mike Kekich made a daring decision to swap families in an unconventional trade.

This extraordinary arrangement began 51 years ago, sparked by an apparently routine party. On July 15th, 1972, Peterson and his wife Marilyn, along with Kekich and his wife Susanne, attended a gathering hosted by sportswriter Maury Allen. Little did anyone know, this social event would lead to a life-altering change unlike any other.

In a 2013 interview with the Palm Beach Post, Fritz Peterson recounted the origin of the unusual arrangement. He shared that after a delightful outing with their spouses, which included Peterson, Susanne Kekich, Mike Kekich, and Marilyn Peterson, they all decided to reconvene the following night. They dined at a restaurant in Fort Lee, but Mike and Marilyn departed early, leaving Peterson and Susanne to enjoy each other’s company for a longer period. Peterson described this as a pivotal moment, a chance for genuine connection that resonated deeply with all of them. He further explained that these feelings eventually evolved into love, with him falling for Susanne and Mike reciprocating those feelings for Marilyn.

Fritz Peterson clarified the situation between two Yankees pitchers, emphasizing that it wasn’t a trade but a matter of the heart. “Think of it more like a husband swap,” he explained, “Mike for me or vice versa. It was all about love, nothing scandalous.”

While Peterson and Susanne found their happily ever after with a wedding in 1974, the same wasn’t true for his teammate. Mike and his former wife never tied the knot, and their relationship fizzled out shortly after.

“That’s the one part that stings,” Fritz Peterson admitted, “We all naively thought it could work out for everyone. But at least for Susanne and me, it did.”

Fritz Peterson’s baseball legacy

Bleeding Yankee Blue

Fritz Peterson concluded his tenure with the Yankees after nine seasons when he was traded to Cleveland before the 1974 season. He left behind an impressive record of 109-106 and a notable 3.10 ERA. Particularly remarkable was his record at the original Yankee Stadium, boasting the lowest home ERA of 2.52, highlighting his dominance in that ballpark.

Continuing beyond 1974, Fritz Peterson pitched until 1976, wrapping up his career with the Rangers. Throughout his 11 seasons in the Major Leagues, he achieved a solid 133-131 record, maintaining a consistent 3.30 ERA. Notably, he recorded seven seasons with 12 or more wins, demonstrating his reliable pitching skills.

This Yankees hurler etched his name among the franchise’s elite workhorses, ranking ninth on the all-time games started list and tenth in innings pitched. From 1969 to 1972, his left arm was an ironman, authoring a staggering 52 complete game gems over that four-year stretch. The pinnacle came in 1970 when he ascended to 20-win brilliance, earning his sole All-Star nod. A model of durability on the Bronx mound, this southpaw’s relentless innings-eating prowess cemented his Yankees legend.

Following his retirement, Fritz Peterson pursued a new path as an author. He wrote three books: “Mickey Mantle Is Going to Heaven” (2009), “When the Yankees Were on the Fritz: Revisiting the Horace Clarke Era” (2014), and “The Art of De-Conditioning: Eating Your Way to Heaven” (2012). These works revealed a different facet of Peterson, showcasing his interests in baseball history, self-improvement, and a touch of whimsy with the title of his last book.

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