Today—March 31—is opening day for Major League Baseball, but the story you really need to know about went down 38 years ago. The year: 1973. The location: Tampa, Florida. The players: relief pitchers Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson. The happening: a trade involving two women, four children and two dogs.
Let's set the stage. It was the spring of 1973. The Yankees had just been purchased by The Boss—George Steinbrenner—for a reported $10 million. Rules had been instated regarding the length of players' hair. The commissioner had decided to thumb his nose at convention and commit the unforgivable baseball sin of allowing the American League (the junior circuit) to use a designated hitter to bat for the pitcher. Baseball was changing.
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But before all that happened, Mr. Mike Kekich and Mr. Fritz Peterson decided they needed their lives to start going in another direction. And to jumpstart things, instead of running away from their families (which was easier back then but still tough for a pro ballplayer), they decided to swap wives (and children... and pets... ). In fact, addition to swapping wives, the two pitchers actually moved into one another's homes (likely a precursor to the show Wife Swap).
Peterson and Kekich, both Yankees southpaw pitchers, were close pals, and their families spent a ton of time together. Somehow, this led to the pitchers moved their bowling shirts, colognes and various medallion-ed necklaces (it was the '70s... they were swapping wives) into each other's homes. Open Marriage Is Not A Fad
The move wasn't made public until spring training of that year, and caused some amount of discomfort. Both players were off the Yankees within two seasons, and baseball fans booed the pitchers at American League stadiums throughout the land.
Surprisingly, the wife swap seems to have worked out in Peterson's favor, as he and the former Mrs. Kekich are still married, and he finished his career with a much lower career ERA. They say baseball is a game of inches, and you have to wonder if the wives agreed to the switcheroo because of this.
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