February 8 – Happy Birthday Fritz Peterson
Fritz Peterson, who was born on this date in Chicago in 1942, was a lot of different people rolled into one pinstriped uniform. I guess first off, he was a very talented left-handed starting pitcher who won 20 games for the 1970 Yankees, won 109 games during his nine seasons in New York, pitched over 1,800 innings, threw eighteen shutouts and compiled an impressive 3.10 ERA for a string of Yankee teams that were not exactly known for their offensive or defensive prowess. He loved pitching in “the House that Ruth built” and I was surprised to discover that he had the lowest career Yankee Stadium ERA (2.52) of any pitcher on New York’s illustrious all-time roster.
Fritz was also one of the whackiest guys in the Yankee clubhouse. His first Yankee roommate, Jim Bouton once confessed to Peterson that he pitched better when he was really nervous about something. Before Bouton’s next start, Fritz walked up to him and told him that if New York didn’t win the game, Bouton’s infant son was going to die.
Peterson was super intelligent and after retiring from the game, he became a devout born again minister and sometimes insurance salesman. Regardless,in spite of all his accomplishments on the field and all of the wild and diversified things he did off of it, the first thing about Fritzie that comes to mind for Yankee fans like me who remember watching Peterson pitch will always be the wife swap he and fellow Yankee pitcher Mike Kekich made during the 1973 preseason. I’d never seen anything like it happen to a Yankee team before and I doubt very much I will ever see a similar exchange take place among Yankee teammates again.
Peterson shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee utility player.