One of baseball’s most unusual trades happened 47 years ago.
New York Yankees Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich held separate press conferences during the 1973 spring training season announcing they had traded wives. Actually they had swapped entire families, including dogs.
“Unless people know the full details, it could turn out to be a nasty type of thing. Don’t say this was wife swapping, because it wasn’t. We didn’t swap wives, we swapped lives” – Kekich
The two men didn’t think their lives were particularly interesting but they were wrong. The story quickly gained attention. Newspapers around the country were writing headlines about the “Wife Swapping Yankees” and news channels adorned pictures of the two new couples.
“I saw my picture on the tv when I woke and said “uh-oh, its a big one”” -Peterson
Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich had very different careers with the Yankees but took a liking to each other anyway. Peterson was well-known and thought highly of in the baseball community. He was an All star in 1970 and had finished the previous season with 17 wins. Kekich wasn’t as impressive; the left hander found himself bouncing around the league rather frequently, and he had just finished his best career season going 10-13, not exactly impressive. Both men and their families lived close to each other in New Jersey and had frequently gotten their families together since the 1969 season when Kekich had joined the team.
“It just happened, it wasn’t planned”- Peterson
Although the announcement was made in March of ’73 the conversation started at a party Maury Allen was throwing in summer of ’72. At some point during the summer the arrangement was called off for a week. Both pitchers returned to their wives and settled back into their lives but Peterson just wasn’t happy.
‘I told Marilyn I just have to have Susanne and Marilyn said she was in love with Mike” – Peterson
After Peterson’s revelation the couples made the plan final and in December of that year, both men packed up their belongs and switched lives completely. After deciding the children should stay with their mothers and in their own homes, Paterson moved in with Susanne Kekich and her two young daughters while Kekich constructed a new life with Marilyn Peterson and her two sons.
“There are degrees of love involved. We tried something with a common understanding. It was completely a four way thing”-Kekich
The two ultimately chose to make the announcement for a few reasons. Since the swap had been going on for quite some time, many people had become aware of the situation and the families thought it was best to clear the air. They also wanted to make the situation clear to GM Lee MacPhail and manager Ralph Houk. Both men asked MacPhail not to be traded in order to keep both families close together.
“I want to be where Fritz is. Thats the only way I can be sure of seeing my daughters”- Kekich
Neither MacPhail or Houk had any real problem with the pitchers’ new set up. MacPhail made a joke about potentially having to cancel family day that year but otherwise seemed unfazed. Houk backed up his players choices in press confrences telling reporters:
“They live their own lives and they’ve got a lot of years to live. If you’re not happy, you only go through the world one time and why go through it unhappy? Some people say you have to stay together for the sake of the kids. We’ve seen people living together and they’re practically separated”
The all around support for such a weird decision seemed rather odd to me but then I remembered it is the 70’s.
How it ends
Neither pitcher made the move expecting an unhappy ending but these types of things never work out for everyone. Fritz and Susanne were extremely happy after the complete swap in December but Mike and Marilyn couldn’t say the same. After they moved in together in December, the new couple realized they might have made a mistake and continued an on-again off-again relationship for some time.
“The only way I could justify giving up my daughters was for a love far greater than any I have ever known. By American standards, Susanne and I had a good marriage. But I wanted a great marriage. I was idealistic, I guess” -Kekich
In the end Mike and Marilyn couldn’t find happiness that lasted and broke things off rather quickly. Fritz and Susanne on the other hand are still together to this day.
“I didn’t steal anybody’s wife. I’m not ashamed”-Peterson
After the ’73 season, Mike and Fritz went separate ways finishing up their careers. By 1978 both pitchers were finished with baseball and with their friendship.
“We just went our own ways. I don’t have anything against him and I don’t think he has anything against me” -Peterson
In 2011, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck started working on a movie about the scandal entitled The Trade. Peterson was happy to help with the project but Kekich wasn’t particularly excited about having his wife swapping past dredged up in a movie. He refused to cooperate with the film and even threatened to sue the production. As of now, the movie still hasn’t been made and seemed to be all but a dead idea.
In the end, Kekich got the short end of the stick. Eventually he moved himself to New Mexico trying his hardest to avoid all conversation and memory of his wife swap scandal of 1973.