Wife Swap is more than an entertaining show produced by the ABC network…
A public wife swap happened about 35 years ago involving two young Yankee prospects, Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich. In 1973, these two players made headlines when they moved in with each other and swapped wives. The unexpected news traveled faster than a pitch thrown by either pitcher.
The wife swap news received bigger press attention than the recent purchase of the Yankees by a group headed by unknown Cleveland shipbuilder named George Steinbrenner. The wife swap news also traveled faster than the news that that Yankees journeyman Ron Blomberg would become baseball’s first designated hitter a few weeks later. The major story throughout baseball that spring clearly was Kekich and Peterson wife swap.
The ballplayers and their spouses, Susanne Kekich and Marilyn Peterson, had been friends since 1969. Both families lived in New Jersey, and their children were about the same age. Often they all would visit the Bronx Zoo or the shore or enjoy a picnic together. Friends and neighbors were shocked at how close they were. They were very close.
The rendevous began in 1972, when the two couples joked on a double-date about wife-swapping, a phenomenon that caught on in some uninhibited circles during the early ’70s.
According to one report, the first swap took place that summer after a boozy party at the home of New York sportswriter Maury Allen. The couples made the changes official in October, Mike moving in with Marilyn and Fritz with Susanne, but word of the switch wasn’t leaked until spring.
The story remained a hot topic for months, partly because most male athletes regard intimacy with a teammate’s woman strictly off limits. Look what a mess materialized when Karl Malone asked the young wife of Los Angeles Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant, “Do you like me?” And nobody in authority laughed when Anna Benson, the super hot wife of New York Mets pitcher Kris Benson, threatened to sleep with the whole team if he cheated on her.
The Yankees’ two new bedroom batteries led to very different results. The liaison between Mike Kekich and Marilyn Peterson flamed out after a couple of months. But following their divorces, Fritz Peterson and Susanne Kekich married, had four children and are still together.
“Neither Fritz Peterson nor I will ever make it into the Hall of Fame,” Kekich said years later. “But I know our names keep popping up in the Hall of Shame. I don’t lose any sleep over it, but I really don’t think it’s fair.”
Kekich seemed the biggest loser, in more ways than one. Previously noted mainly as the pitcher who surrendered Frank Howard’s home run in the Washington Senators’ last game two years earlier, he was traded early in the 1973 season to Cleveland, where he went 2-5 with a 7.48 ERA. The following year, the Indians cut him.
Of his short-lived fling with Marilyn Peterson, Kekich recalled, “Marilyn and I thought we were perfectly suited, just like Fritz and Susanne. Marilyn was all for the swap in the beginning, but then she backed off. All four of us had agreed in the beginning that if anyone wasn’t happy, the thing would be called off. But when Marilyn and I decided to call it off, the other couple already had gone off with each other.”
When Kekich ended his nine-year major league career in 1977, he had a 39-51 record. Long afterward, he remarried and had a daughter.
Understandably, both men have avoided the spotlight for years. Each went into business and endured financial troubles. A few years ago, Peterson and Susanne were living outside Chicago, where he worked as a boat dealer. Kekich, after failing to establish a career in medicine, was with his second wife in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Marilyn, according to one report, was existing in “Midwestern obscurity.”