By Maury Allen
This was in 1972 in the old Yankee Stadium, the one where Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle had played, long before the 1974-75 refurbishing and a dream location across from The House That Steinbrenner is building for 2009.
I walked on that green grass again as I had for a dozen years or so as a sportswriter, looked out at those monuments, examined that façade above the third deck and waited for my pitching pal.
Fritz Peterson, the left-handed anchor of the bad Yankee pitching staff of the late 1960s and early 1970s, was on the field now, a smile on his face as always, his baseball cap tipped back, his eyes wide with glee and amusement.
“I got another Tugboat post card,” he said, with that wry smile. “I put it in his locker.”
Peterson had a habit of collecting post cards of big boats or even bigger women and dropping them off in the locker of Thurman Munson, the best Bronx Bomber catcher since Yogi. It irritated the surly Munson no end.
Sparky Lyle, another laughing teammate, had once described Munson as not really moody.
“Moody is when you can smile some of the time,” Lyle once said of his unfortunate batterymate, later to lose his life in a 1979 plane crash.
We chatted a while about Peterson’s next start in another strong season (17-15 in 1972 after 20 wins in 1970) and then I asked him if he was available on the next Yankees off day for a barbecue at my suburban home.
“Sure,” he said. “Can I bring Kekich?”
He had become pals with another Yankee lefty, Mike Kekich and the two couples, Fritz and Marilyn Peterson, Mike and Suzanne Kekich had spent a lot of time together.
The four of them arrived at my home on a beautiful summer night. My wife Janet had gone all out with her best cooking, our best dishes and a beer-filled refrigerator. A good time was had by all.
Soon, the information was out. Peterson and Kekich had arranged that night to swap wives, kids, cars, dogs, houses and hearts.
Marilyn and Mike never lasted as a couple. Fritz and Suzanne are going on some 35 years together.
Some people will always remember the giant home runs at the Stadium hit by Mickey Mantle or the clutch World Series shots by Yogi Berra or the brilliance of Whitey Ford on the mound and Elston Howard behind the plate.
Me? I just remember standing on that famous green grass and simply asking Fritz Peterson to join us for a barbecue. Who knew what evil lurked behind that question.
Maury Allen, a veteran newspaperman and author, writes for The Columnists.com.