NIU Hall of Famer, MLB pitcher Fritz Peterson dead at 82

Fritz Peterson

Northern Illinois University Athletics Hall of Fame pitcher Fred “Fritz” Peterson died recently at the age of 82, the school announced Friday.

Peterson was a two-year baseball letter winner for the Huskies in the early 1960s before playing 11 seasons in Major League Baseball with the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers.

A Mount Prospect native and a graduate of Arlington Heights High School, Peterson played baseball at NIU in 1962 and 1963 under head coach Darrel Black. In his first season, Peterson led the Huskies with 55 strikeouts and 65 1/3 innings pitched. As a senior, Peterson was 8-2 on the mound with a 2.45 ERA. He struck out 91 batters over 91 2/3 innings and was named the team MVP along with earning All-Interstate Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and All-Midwest honors.

In the summer of 1963, Peterson signed with the New York Yankees as a free agent. He made his major league debut April 15, 1966, against the Baltimore Orioles. Peterson threw a complete game, allowing two runs on six hits with three strikeouts as the Yankees won 3-2. He went on to win 12 games that season with a 3.31 ERA, tying for the club lead in wins.

Peterson won 20 games in 1970 and was an American League All-Star. He was fifth in the league in wins and fourth in the AL with a 2.90 ERA. Peterson won at least 10 games in seven of his 11 seasons. For his professional career, Peterson won 133 games in 355 appearances with 1,015 strikeouts in more than 2,200 innings pitched for the Yankees (1966-74), Indians (1974-76) and Rangers (1976).

During the final game played at the original Yankee Stadium on Sept. 21, 2008, ESPN reported that Peterson owned the all-time lowest ERA of any pitcher in the history of the iconic ballpark at 2.52.

Peterson earned his bachelor’s degree from NIU in 1965 and a master’s degree in 1967. He was inducted into the NIU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1987. During his career with the Yankees, Peterson lived in DeKalb in the offseason and did color commentary for NIU men’s basketball games on the Huskie Radio Network. His jersey was retired by NIU in 2018.

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