It wasn’t a trade between the two teams, though. It involved the families of two left-handed pitchers for the Yankees, reliever Mike Kekich and starter Fritz Peterson. In the summer of 1972, each of these men fell in love with the other man’s wife. Since both families had children to think about, this was a delicate situation, but everyone involved seemed to handle it to the best of their abilities. The players kept things a secret from their teammates for the remainder of the season. But once the season ended, as Peterson explained to a reporter: “When we did it, we figured the kids should stay with their mothers. [Kekich’s wife] Susanne flew back from California with her two daughters and my wife [Marilyn] flew out to California to meet Mike’s family with our two sons, and that was it.”
Once the New York press found out about this unusual situation, they immediately identified it, in the parlance of the time, as a case of wife-swapping, although “husband-swapping” more accurately described what actually happened. Although both men continued to be friends with one another, it can be safely assumed that Yankees president George Steinbrenner was none too thrilled to have the media attention that went with this arrangement. As Peterson was by far the more valuable of the two pitchers—he’d won 17, 20, 15, and 17 games for the Yankees in the years 1969 through 1972—it was Kekich whose days were numbered with the Bronx Bombers, and on June 12, 1973, Kekich was traded to the Indians for pitcher Lowell Palmer.
Kekich pitched poorly for the Tribe in 1973, making no starts and 16 relief appearances, while posting an atrocious 7.02 ERA. The Indians released him in March of 1974.
Peterson also had a disappointing 1973 season, going from 17-15 in 1972 to 8-15. His ERA went from 3.24 in 1972 to 3.95. After pitching in three games in 1974 for the Yankees, they traded Peterson to the Kekich-free Indians. The trade saw the Yankees give up Peterson along with pitchers Fred Beene, Tom Buskey, and Steve Kline in exchange for first baseman Chris Chambliss and pitchers Dick Tidrow and Cecil Upshaw.
Peterson went 9-14 for the Indians in 1974 with an ERA of 4.38. He took a pay cut to come to the Indians following his lackluster 1973 season, and took another cut in 1975. But he bounced back that year, leading the Indians pitching staff with 14 victories against 8 losses. He’d hoped to receive a raise in 1976, restoring him to what he’d been earning in 1973, but Indians general manager Phil Seghi, never one to throw money around at players if he could help it, offered a lesser raise. Peterson accepted the lower figure, but made his displeasure known, and publicly asked that he be traded. On May 28, Peterson got his wish, as he was traded to the Texas Rangers for pitcher Stan Perzanowski. Perzanowski never pitched for the Indians, who traded him to the California Angels the following year.
Peterson pitched in only four games for the Rangers before injuring his shoulder. The Rangers released him before the 1977 season, and although the Chicago White Sox signed Peterson, he never pitched for them.
Peterson is still married to Suzanne. Kekich and Marilyn ended their relationship within a few years of the swap. Kekich later married another woman.
As for the trade which brought Peterson to the Indians in 1976, the other pitchers the Indians acquired never amounted to much. Chambliss, on the other hand, became the starting first baseman for the Yankees, a job he held with that team until he was traded to the Atlanta Braves after the 1979 season. Chambliss went on to have six decent seasons with the Braves. The trade is generally considered to be one of the worst in Indians history.