Last summer I had the pleasure of interviewing former Yankee Fritz Peterson, who informed me of his involvement with a Ben Affleck/Matt Damon film project chronicling his famed wife swap with Mike Kekich. Now comes the news that Kekich will not give his approval to the project; in fact, one news report in the NY Post claims that the reclusive left-hander is “panic stricken” about the movie and “freaked out” that filmmakers actually found out where he lives.
I can’t say that I’m surprised to hear of Kekich’s reaction to the film. Ever since he retired in 1977, he has remained out of the baseball spotlight. I have never seen or heard him interviewed about his career, whether it’s talking about the Yankees or other stopping points in Los Angeles, Cleveland, Texas or Seattle. He has always been reluctant to talk about the wife swap, remaining so even with the passage of time. Unlike Peterson, I don’t think Kekich is planning any trips to Cooperstown in the near future.
So who exactly is Mike Kekich? Kekich the person remains a mystery, but Kekich the pitcher is very much the story of the highly touted left-hander who didn’t live up to his promise. Although he and Peterson are often mentioned interchangeably because of the wife swap, the reality is that Peterson was the far more accomplished pitcher.
Kekich came up in the Dodgers’ system in the mid-1960s, heralded as a talented left-hander with a blazing fastball. Some dared to call him the “next Sandy Koufax.” Unfortunately, the Dodgers at the time were just about the worst destination for a young pitcher because they were already bulging at the seams with talented hurlers; they had the actual Koufax, along with Don Drysdale, Don Sutton, Claude Osteen, and the up-and-coming Bill Singer.
Kekich could never gain traction with the Dodgers. After a terrible five-game stint in 1965, he went back to the minor leagues for two full seasons and didn’t return to Chavez Ravine in 1968. Kekich didn’t pitch particularly well, but he suffered from an unusual share of bad luck and poor run support, losing ten of 12 decisions while making 20 starts.