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February 26, 2011

MIke Kekich and Fritz Peterson: those were the days


News that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are trying to make a movie about the wife-swapping N.Y. Yankees, Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson brought back memories of that wild period of the late 1960s and early 1970s. That was a time of wild Afros that barely fit under a cap, and pill-popping players who brought new meaning to the phrase "in the zone."

For all the kids out there who are busy Googling the names Kekich and Peterson -- players who swapped wives in 1972 -- there's no better introduction to the era than Jim Bouton's book, "Ball Four." It captured the craziness of our national game, as American society changed radically.

Later, steroids and other drugs would threaten to cripple the game and tarnish some of its greatest stars. But in the Ball Four era, which preceded the Kekich-Peterson deal by a

few years, the players seemed merely eccentric. Wife-swapping -- why not? Pitching while on LSD -- let's give it a shot. Hell, Doc Ellis claims he even pitched a no-hitter while tripping.

It's great reading as spring training begins.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 9:30 AM | | Comments (4)


Cry foul! How do two Red Sox fans get to make a movie about the NY Yankees?

The Kekich-Peterson wife-swap was explained in three pages of Philip Bashe's "Dog Days," which is the best book about the New York Yankees. It chronicled the team's history from 1964 to 1976. This time span included eleven straight seasons without making the postseason, a last-place finish in 1966 and a whole lot of losses to the Orioles.

News of the wife-swap broke during spring training in 1973, the last year of the original Yankee Stadium and the first under new owner George Steinbrenner. Both Kekich and Peterson were eventually exiled to the Cleveland Indians; the former in 1973, the latter one year later. Their baseball careers never recovered.

The Baseball Project - a quartet of rock superstars including Peter Buck from R.E.M. - released "The Ballad of Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson" as a bonus track on their first album a few years ago.

The chorus:

Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson
They're all right
They never hurt anyone
But you want to hear what the press had to say?
They brought the game to its knees
Four little words: Take my wife please
Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson brought the game to its knees

It's a really funny song, like much of their stuff. They have a new album out as well - a must listen for baseball fans who like rock music.

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About the blogger
Dave Rosenthal came to The Baltimore Sun as a business reporter in 1987 and now is the Maryland Editor. He reads a wide range of books (but never as many as he'd like), usually alternating between non-fiction and fiction. Some all-time favorites: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole; Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery; and anything by Calvin Trillin or John McPhee. He belongs to a book club with a Jewish theme.
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