In December of 1978, Shea Stadium was a already a sad place. Then one of the last pieces of the 1969 Championship team; Jerry Koosman was traded away to his home state of Minnesota. Koosman went to the Twins & a young Jesse Orosco came to the Mets. Little did anyone know that the player sent over in exchange for Koos would help be another piece to a future Championship.
In 1979 Orosco made the team out of Spring Training. He made his debut on Opening Day 1979 pitching to one batter at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Orosco relieved Dwight Bernard in the 9th inning, closing out Craig Swans 10-6 Mets victory. He earned the first victory of his career on April 22nd at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, pitching one inning of relief. But after taking a loss & seeing his ERA rise to 4.89, Orosco was sent to AAA Tidewater in early June . There he went 4-4 as a starter & was demoted to AA Jackson the next season. He converted into a relief pitcher that season under manager Bob Wellman.
In 1982 Orosco was up for good, making 54 appearances going 4-10 with four saves while posting an ERA of 2.72 on the sixth place club.
In 1983 Orosco was a most pleasant surprise for the Mets, as he turned into one of the best pitchers in the NL. He racked up three early wins & was 3-0, with three saves, and an ERA under one (0.92) by the end of May. Orosco was even named to the NL All Star team. Later in summer, over a span of nine games, from July 31st until mid August he went 5-0 with four more saves . He won two Pitcher of the Week Awards & Pitcher of the Month Award in that August.
Overall for the ’83 season, he was the best pitcher on the staff, leading everyone including veteran Tom Seaver who had returned to New York. Orosco led the team in wins (13) going 13-7, winning % (.650%) saves (17) & topped the staff in ERA (1.47) which would also be a career best for him.
He made 62 appearances (second to Doug Sisk) pitching in 110 innings while striking out 84 batters & allowing just 13 earned runs. He made the All Star team, & finished third in the Cy Young voting.
In 1984 he started out the season strong, not allowing an earned run until May 5th. By that time he had five saves & was 2-0. The Mets had become contenders again in 1984 & Orosco was their main weapon out of the bullpen.
By the All Star break he was 7-2 with 18 saves and had an ERA under two (1.89) as he made his second straight All Star team. He had another strong August closing out six games with six straight saves a personal season best. On the year he went 10-6, with 31 saves (3rd best in the NL) posting a 2.59 ERA in 60 appearances.
In 1985, he began sharing the closing duties with right-hander Roger McDowell. Davey Johnson who loved righty lefty matchups now had an awesome combo to close games. That year Orosco made 54 appearances going 8-6, tying McDowell for the team lead of 17 saves (9th in the NL) while posting a 2.73 ERA. He struckout 68 batters in 79 innings while allowing just six HRs with 34 walks. In the final two months he had six saves went 5-2 but also blew three wins & took two losses.
In the 1986 Championship season, Jesse earned his first save in the second game of the year. Although he allowed three walks in his next outing & blew the save no runs were charged to him. He went until May 16th before allowing an earned run & earned his 10th save on June 9th in Pittsburgh.
Through the final two months he was 3-1 with eight saves, & allowed six earned runs in 32 innings. All those runs came in just three outings, as he shut out the opponent in 19 other appearances. He finished the year with 21 saves (9th in the league) posting a strong 2.33 ERA. He made 58 appearances allowing just 21 earned runs in 81 innings with 62 strikeouts.
Post Season: Orosco's clutch relief pitching in the 1986 postseason was one of the key reasons the Mets were world champions. He was on the mound for the final pitch of the final game of both the 1986 NLCS against the Houston Astros, and the 1986 World Series against the Boston Red Sox.
Orosco ended both series by striking out the final batters. In the NLCS he made baseball history becoming the first and only relief pitcher to get three wins in one playoff series.
He got his first victory in Game #3 at Shea Stadium when Lenny Dykstra hit his famous walk off HR in the bottom of the 9th inning. He earned another win in Game #5, when Gary Carters base hit won the game in extra innings at Shea as well. Finally he was the winning pitcher in the epic Game #6 at the Houston Astrodome.
It didn’t come easy, as he allowed three runs in three innings pitched, but did strikeout five hitters including Kevin Bass for the final out. Houston had scored two runs to come within one run of tying the game, Manager Davey Johnson came to the mound & told Orosco he was sticking with him the rest of the way. That confidence meant everything to Jesse.
In the final at bat, Orosco was struggling a bit on Bass. Keith Hernandez came in from first base & said to Jesse “I don't care what Gary calls, If you throw a fastball I'm gonna kill you”. Orosco then struck out Bass swinging, clinching the pennant.
Overall Jesse was 3-0 in the NLCS, appearing in four games allowing three runs in 8 innings pitched with ten strikeouts.
In the World Series Orosco would save two games, allow no runs on just two hits in 5.2 innings pitched. The image of Jesse flinging his glove in the air and kneeling down on the mound in victory is now one of the most classic scenes in Mets history. He earned his first save in Game #4 at Fenway Park pitching 1 .2 innings of solid relief, as Ron Darling got the win.
He came back in the classic Game #6, getting the final out of the 8th inning, Bill Buckner was the only batter he faced. In Game #7 he came in relief of Roger McDowell in the 8th inning with two on & nobody out. He reared back & retired catcher; Rich Gedman, Dave Henderson & pinch hitter Don Baylor to bring the Shea crowd to a near frenzy as the Mets were only three outs away from the Championship.
In the 9th he retired the side in order & struck out Marty Barrett to close out the 1986 World Series. Jesse threw his glove in the air & was mobbed by his team mates in a ecstatic Shea Stadium, on a historical night that centerfieldmaz can proudly say he was there.
In that game he also came to bat got a base hit & drove in a run in hs only post season at bat.
In 1987 he tailed off a bit going 3-9 with a 4.44 ERA, although he still saved 16 games (9th in the league). That winter he was traded away by the Mets in a huge three team, seven player deal that brought Kevin Tapani & Wally Whitehurst to the Mets.
Mets History: Orosco is third all time in Mets history in saves (107) &fifth all time in in appearances (372).
Jesse Orosco landed near his home town of Santa Barbra in Southern California with the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1988 he was no longer the main closer, pitching behind closers Jay Howell & Alejandro Pena at Dodger Stadium. In 55 appearances, he posted a 2.72 ERA & went 3-2 with nine saves. He went to the post season as his Dodgers surprised the Mets in the NLCS & then went on to shock the Oakland A’s by winning the World Series.
In 1989 he signed with the Cleveland Indians and stayed there for three years. By now in his later years he became a journey man middle reliever, going to the Milwaukee Brewers for three years, saving eight games in 1993.
He went to the Baltimore Orioles in 1995, under his former Mets manager Davey Johnson. He pitched there for five more years, making it to two more post seasons (1996 / 1997), appearing in four games with 12 innings pitched. He was the AL top fielding pitcher in 1994 & 1998.
In 1995 he led the league in appearances (65) at age 38. At age forty the ageless Orosco posted a 2.32 ERA, among the best of all AL relievers.
In 1999 he was actually traded back to the Mets but never pitched for them as he was soon traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Super Joe McEwing. From 1999 through the next six seasons he would be baseballs oldest player.
As the years went on he became strictly a left handed specialist which kept him pitching a few more years. Orosco went back to the Los Angeles Dodgers (2001-2002) San Diego Padres (2003) AL New York club (2003) & Minnesota Twins (2003)before finally retiring at age 46 in 2003.
He also led the league in fielding two more times, posting perfect fielding %.
Honors: Orosco was one of the best middle relievers of his time, and had one of the game’s best sliders as his main pitch. In his long 24 year career he holds the all time MLB record for pitching appearances with 1252.
Life time he was 87 –80 with 144 saves (82nd all time) with 501 games finished (40th all time). He posted a 3.36 ERA with 1179 strike outs & 581 walks in 1295 innings pitched. Orosco only committed four errors in 1,295 career innings pitched for a .985 fielding percentage.
He has been on hand to throw out ceremonial first pitches at Shea Stadium on various occasions. He attended the 20th anniversary of the 1986 team & the final ceremonies of Shea Stadium in 2009.
There Is a strong argument & many supporters for his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.