How Did Fritz Peterson Die? Former Yankees Pitcher Who Infamously Swapped Wives with Teammate Mike Kekich Dies Aged 82

On March 4, 1973, the athletes held separate press conferences to reveal that they had exchanged not only wives and children but even their dogs.

Former New York Yankees pitcher Fritz Peterson, who won 109 games for the team and was an All-Star in 1970, has died. He was 82 years old. Northern Illinois University, where Peterson starred before his professional baseball career, announced his death on Friday. However, the cause of death was not revealed.

In an interview with the New York Post in April 2018, Peterson revealed that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in September 2017. Prior to this, he had successfully overcome prostate cancer. In 1973, the 1970 All-Star and his teammate Mike Kekich made headlines by trading their romantic partners, completely altering their lives away from the baseball field.

A Life Worth Remembering

Fritz Peterson
Fritz Peterson X

"The Yankees are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Fritz Peterson, who was a formidable pitcher and affable presence throughout his nine years in pinstripes. Along with longtime teammate Mel Stottlemyre, Peterson was part of a devastating one-two combination at the top of the Yankees' rotation." the Yankees said in a statement.

"A known prankster and well-liked among his teammates and coaches, Peterson had an outgoing personality and inquisitive nature that brought lightheartedness to the clubhouse on a regular basis and belied his prowess on the mound — most notably his impeccable control, which was among the best in the Majors."

Fritz Peterson
Fritz Peterson X

Peterson was perhaps more famous for his off-field exploits, notably for swapping wives and families with teammate Mike Kekich, a story emblematic of the unconventional lifestyle of the 1970s.

The exchange took place 51 years ago in March, roughly a year after Peterson and his wife Marilyn, along with Kekich and his wife, Susanne, attended a gathering at the home of veteran Post writer Maury Allen on July 15, 1972.

"We did that and we had so much fun together, Susanne and I and Mike and Marilyn, that we decided, 'Hey, this is fun, let's do it again,'" he told the Palm Beach Post in 2013. "We did it the next night. We went out to the Steak and Ale in Fort Lee. Mike and Marilyn left early and Susanne and I stayed and had a few drinks and ate.

Fritz Peterson
Fritz Peterson and his team Mike Kekich with their wives X

"It was just really fun being able to talk to somebody. All of us felt the same way. We went on from there and eventually he fell in love with my wife and I fell in love with his.''

An Adventure That Left Fans Stunned

On March 4, 1973, the athletes held separate press conferences to reveal that they had exchanged not only wives and children but even their dogs. The tale was so extraordinary that Hollywood duo Ben Affleck and Matt Damon expressed interest in making it into a blockbuster movie.

Fritz Peterson
Fritz Peterson X

"Actually, it was a husband trade — Mike for me or me for Mike," Peterson said. "It's a love story. It wasn't anything dirty."

When announcing the news to the American media, Peterson, then 31, told the press: "Don't make anything sordid out of this."

According to different versions, Peterson found himself captivated by Susanne's outgoing personality, a former cheerleader, while the more reserved Kekich grew closer to Marilyn, who is said to have shared his quieter demeanor.

Peterson and Susanne tied the knot in 1974, while his teammate and former wife never pursued marriage and parted ways shortly thereafter.

"That's the only thing I feel bad for, that they didn't work out because we all figured it could all work out,'' Peterson said.

Fritz Peterson
Fritz Peterson and his former wife Marilyn before the infamous swapping X

The left-handed pitcher was traded to Cleveland before the 1974 season, ending his nine-season stint with the Yankees, during which he amassed a record of 109-106 with a 3.10 ERA.

He held an original Yankee Stadium-record 2.52 ERA in home games. His final season was with the Rangers in 1976, where he ended his career with a record of 133-131 and a 3.30 ERA, having seven seasons with 12 or more wins.

Following his baseball career, Peterson authored three books: "Mickey Mantle Is Going to Heaven" in 2009, "When the Yankees Were on the Fritz: Revisiting the Horace Clarke Era" in 2014, and "The Art of De-Conditioning: Eating Your Way to Heaven" in 2012.