Alvin Neil Jackson was born December 25, 1935 in Waco, Texas. The five foot ten inch left hander was originally signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1955, while attending Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. In 1956 while pitching in the Mexican League, Jackson went 14-10. He was soon back at A ball Lincoln in 1957 where he won 18 games which got him pushed up to the AAA level.
In 1959 he was 15-4 at Columbus which got him called up to the big leagues by the end of the season. Jackson made his MLB debut pitching two innings of relief on May 3rd, 1959, finishing a game against the St. Louis Cardinals. He was back in the minors over the next two seasons making three appearances with Pittsburgh in 1961 earning his first career victory.
By 1962, Al Jackson became an original Met when he was chosen in the 1961 expansion draft. He would become one of the most popular & recognizable original Mets having a life long association with the team.
Jackson made the starting rotation right away in 1962, getting the start in the third game in Mets history, taking a 6-2 loss to the Pirates at the Polo Grounds. Al was involved in many firsts for the Mets; on April 29th, he threw the first shutout in the team's history. It was only the Mets third win in their brief history, as Jackson beat the Philadelphia Phillies 8-0 at the Polo Grounds. It was an eight hitter, striking out eight & only walking one.
On June 22nd 1962, he pitched the first one hitter in Mets history, striking out nine Houston Colts in a 2-0 win at the Polo Grounds. The only hit came from future Dodger coach, Joe Amalfitano early on in the 5th inning. In July he beat the St. Louis Cardinals & future Hall of Famer Bib Gibson in a classic 1-0 pitchers duel at Sportsman's Park. He closed out August with a three hit shutout, beating the Phillies in Philadelphia in a 2-0 win. Jackson began September with another win, which gave him back to back wins which was very rare for a member of the ’62 staff.
It was a rough season pitching for the ’62 Mets, Jackson finished up at 8-20, leading the team in strikeouts (118) shutouts (4) and ERA (4.40). He was second in the league in losses (20) to team mate Roger Craig who lost 24 games. It was Jackson's first of his six straight seasons, pitching 200 or more innings. His efforts got him voted to the Topps All Star Rookie team, as he was surely one of the bright spots of a dismal 1962 staff.
Over the next three seasons he would lead the team (or at least be tied) for the lead in wins. In 1963 he pitched in the second game of the season, taking a loss as the Mets were shut out by the Cardinals Ray Washburn. On April 20th he got his first win, as he beat the great Warren Spahn & the Milwaukee Braves. He had a good May going 3-1 winning back to back games & tossing two complete games.
In June he was 2-2 even earning a save out of the bull pen. He rebounded after a terrible July where lost six straight decisions to have a strong September finish. That month Jackson won five of six games he pitched, four of them complete game efforts. He led the club with a career high 13 victories, going 13-17. He also led the team in starts (34) strikeouts (120) innings (236) walks (84) & runs allowed (128). He posted a 3.96 ERA with 11 complete games.
In 1964 Jackson got the honors for the opening Day start, although he took a loss to the Phillies at Philadelphia. His next outing was another first, as he pitched a fantastic six hit shutout against his old Pirates team mates, in New York. It came on April 19th in the new Shea Stadium, & was the Mets first victory in their new ballpark. At the start of May, Jackson threw a two hit shutout in Cincinnati, to bring his record to 2-3 with a 3.86 ERA.
He then lost seven straight decisions, not earning another win until he beat the Giants in San Francisco in a relief appearance, at the end of June. He went 3-2 in August, highlighted by a five hitter against the Houston Astros. Jackson was 3-3 in September which included another 1-0 pitching duel victory over the Cards & Bob Gibson, on the next to last day of the season. Gibson went on to win three World Series games that year as the Cards took the Championship title. Jackson finished the 1964 season, leading the team in wins (11) going 11-16 & complete games (11). He posted a 4.26 ERA, striking out 112 batters in 213 innings pitched & had three shut outs (10th in the league).
In his first four seasons in the Mets' rotation, he had 41 complete games, ten shutouts, and 43 victories which were all franchise records, until Tom Seaver came around.
1965 was rough year for Jackson as he went 8-20, third most losses in the league & second on the staff to Jack Fisher (24). Unbelievably his eight wins were tied with Fisher for most victories on the staff. Jackson also led the team in strikeouts (120) & shut outs (3). His highlights that year were a three hitter against the World Champion Dodgers in June and a two hitter against the Pirates in July, both coming on the road.
In 1966 he was traded along with Charley Smith to the St. Louis Cardinals for veteran third baseman Ken Boyer. In St. Louis, Jackson posted the sixth best ERA in the league (2.51) while tying a career best 13 victories (13- 15). He threw a career best 232 innings while striking out 90 batters and pitching eleven complete games & three shutouts. The next season he was used in the bullpen going 9-4 with a save and a 3.95 ERA. That year the Cardinals won the World Series but Jackson didn’t see any post season play. By 1968 he was traded back to the Mets in exchange for Jack Lamabe.
At this point in his career he was primarily a reliever, and under Gil Hodges in 1968 he made 25 appearances , nine of them starts. On May 8th he lost a 2-0 game to Steve Carlton followed up by another 2-0 shutout loss to Dick Kelly & the Atlanta Braves. On June 12th he earned a relief win over Don Drysdale & the Dodgers in Los Angeles, when Jerry Grote singled home J.C. Martin in the 9th inning.
In July he earned two wins, while making starts where he pitched seven innings in both outings. For the year, he was 3-7 with a 3.69 ERA, 59 strike outs 17 walks and three saves in 92 innings. Jackson was a brief member of the 1969 Mets, pitching in only nine games posting a 10.64 ERA with no decisions. On June 13th his contract was sold to the Cincinnati Reds where he finished his career, missing the Miracle Mets Championship. After all Jacksons good pitching through the losing days of the Mets early history it’s ashamed he couldn’t have been part of the 1969 Championship.
Lifetime for New York in six years, Jackson pitched in 184 games going 43-80, striking out 561 batters with a 4.26 ERA.
Overall is his ten year big league career he was 67-99 with ten saves. He struck out 738 batters walked 407 in 1389 innings, posting a 3.98 ERA. He pitched in 302 games with 54 complete games & 14 shutouts.
Retirement: After his playing days he became a pitching coach with the Boston Red Sox (1977-1979) & the Baltimore Orioles (1989-1991).
Through the years he has been a longtime employee in the Mets organization at various levels, including bull pen coach, Spring Training & minor league instructor, as well as big league coach under Bobby Valentine in the 1999 & 2000 playoff seasons.
Jackson was on hand for the closing ceremonies of Shea Stadium in 2008 as well as the 40th anniversary of the 1969 Championship team in 2009.
He is always with the club during Spring Training & Mets Fantasy Camps.