Fritz Peterson, Yankee Pitcher in an Unusual ‘Trade,’ Dies at 82

Fritz Peterson, who was a stalwart pitcher for the ineffectual Yankees of the late 1960s and early ’70s, but whose lingering renown derived more from one of baseball’s most notorious “trades” — his exchange of wives with a teammate — has died. He was 82.

His death was announced on Friday by Northern Illinois University, his alma mater, and the Yankees. Neither announcement said when or where he died or cited a cause.

Peterson had previously battled prostate cancer, and in 2018 he disclosed in an interview with The New York Post and in a Facebook post that he had Alzheimer’s disease.

Peterson had the misfortune of joining the Yankees in 1966, when the team finished last in a 10-team American League, near the start of one of the more miserable stretches in team history. Over his eight full seasons in New York, the Yankees never finished higher than second and managed to win more than they lost just four times. Mickey Mantle, the last vestige of sustained Yankee glory, retired; attendance in the Bronx slid to its lowest since World War II, just before George Steinbrenner and other investors bought the team from CBS, which sold it at a loss, for $10 million, essentially a pittance.

In this gloomy era, Peterson was a leading light. Sharing the top of the rotation with another unlucky Yankee, Mel Stottlemyre (who had at least gotten to pitch for the pennant-winning 1964 squad), Peterson won 109 games, including 20 in 1970, when he made his only All-Star team, and averaged more than 17 wins over a four-year stretch from 1969 to 1972.

In his eight seasons with the Yankees, Peterson won 109 games, including 20 in 1970.Credit…Bettmann Archive/Getty
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