In the 1960s, the hippie movement took the United States by storm with the help of millions of disaffected young Americans who embraced a mentality steeped in antiwar sentiment that saw its members embrace the concepts of peace and love (in addition to a wide variety of mind-altering substances).
While that particular counterculture crusade had begun to fizzle out by the time the 1970s rolled around, it still left an indelible mark on people who would be influenced by it for decades to come.
That includes professional athletes like Doc Ellis, who famously threw a no-hitter while under the influence of LSD in 1970.
While that remains one of the wildest stories in the history of Major League Baseball, I’d argue it’s still not as weird as another tale made possible by a couple of pitchers on the New York Yankees who took the “Free Love ” philosophy to a whole new level thanks to the very unique arrangement they came to in 1972.
Why Yankees pitchers Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich decided to swap families
Long before Wife Swap was the title of a reality television series, that term was used to describe a more intimate transaction that was all the rage with members of people who found themselves in the swingers community in the 1970s.
Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich were able to make it to the MLB thanks to their skills on the mounds as opposed to the bat, but you could argue they were also very proficient at a different kind of swinging based on what unfolded after they found themselves playing together on the Yankees in 1969.
At the time, Peterson was raising two children with his wife Marilyn while Kekich was doing the same with his spouse Susanne, and the two families spent plenty of time together while residing in New Jersey.
However, things took a very interesting turn when the Yankees arrived in Florida for spring training in 1973 and the two men held separate press conferences to announce a trade not a lot of people could’ve seen coming: Peterson and Kekich had opted to swap families.
The arrangement—which Peterson positioned as a “life swap” as opposed to a “wife swap”—had come to a head in 1972 when both players admitted they had fallen for the other’s wife. Their (soon-to-be-former) spouses apparently had similar feelings, and those confessions led to them deciding to file for divorce and trade places by moving into each other’s homes.
At the time, both men said they didn’t have any regrets about the decision and that they’d gone public with the news in the hopes their transparency would stop any salacious stories from appearing in the press.
While they’d originally asked Yankees GM Lee MacPhail not to trade them, Kekich got off to a brutal start that season and was shipped off to Cleveland in June after posting a 9.20 ERA in the five games he appeared in. While Peterson was also traded there the following season, his former teammate’s career had already come to an unofficial end (he’d eventually blame the swap for derailing it).
Kekich and Marilyn didn’t last for very long, as they decided to go their separate way after realizing they weren’t meant to be shortly after going public. With that said, it worked out a bit better for Peterson and Susanne, who had four children and remain together to this day.