Jerry Koosman started out the 1973 season better than anyone on the staff or in the National League for that matter.
In the third game of the year in St. Louis he won his first game. In his next start he pitched a complete game five hitter, allowing one run in a 3-1 win over the Chicago Cubs. Two more complete games followed, including a four hit 1-0 shutout over the Braves in Atlanta. He started out the year 5-0 in his first six starts, posting an ERA under two while throwing four complete games. He won both the Player of the week & the Player of the month awards that April.
Then things went sour for him as he suffered two different five game losing streaks through the end of August. In 19 starts he allowed less than two runs just twice & allowed more than three earned runs ten times. By that time his record was 8-14 and the Mets were floundering in last place.
In late August through September he was back to being himself and would win six of his last seven decisions, helping the Mets capture the NL Eastern title. It began on August 19th when he allowed just one run on six hits at Shea Stadium, in a game against the Mets eventual NLCS opponent the Cincinnati Reds.
In his next start he matched zeroes with Juan Marichal & the San Francisco Giants for ten innings, before Felix Millan singled home Kenny Boswell with the walk off game winning run.
On September 3rd he shut out Steve Carlton & the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium, scattering seven hits in the Mets 5-0 win. In his next start he allowed just one run in six innings, taking no decisions in a 4-2 win over the Expos. He the took a loss & earned two no decisions.
On September 25th the Mets were 1 1/2 games in first place, as Kooz beat Steve Rogers & the Montreal Expos at Shea Stadium in a 2-1 classic that Tug McGraw came in & helped save. On the next to last game of the season he beat the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, pitching a complete game allowing only two runs, both which were unearned. The win guaranteed the Mets at least a tie for first place in the NL East.
He finished the season at 14-15, with a 2.84 ERA (9th best in the NL) 156 strikeouts, 76 walks in 263 innings pitched and three shutouts (both 7th best in the NL). At the plate he had 15 sacrifice hits (4th in the NL) batted .103 & drove in three runs.
1973 Post Season: NLCS: He got the start in Game #3 of the NLCS at Shea Stadium against the Cincinnati Reds. The series was tied at one game each & it was the second NLCS held at Shea Stadium in the past four years. This was the classic game in which Bud Harrelson & Pete had their famous bench clearing brawl in the fourth inning.
Earlier in the game Koosman claims Rose was cursing him from the dugout after he had thrown nothing but off speed pitches to get him to pop up. In his next at bat he tried to hit Rose but he singles, by that time the Mets had taken a 7-2 lead and Koosman had got Joe Morgan to ground into an inning ending double play. Rose slid hard into second with a cheap shot pop up slide into second base, Harrelson told him that he didn't like it & a fight broke out.
Rose was trying to get his team fired up, but instead it fired up the Mets & the Shea Crowd. The game had to be stopped and the Reds were removed from the field after the fans pelted Rose & the field with anything they could find. Koosman rolled along after order had been restored, he pitched a complete game, 9-2 victory, allowing eight hits, while striking out nine Reds. The victory gave the Mets a 2-1 lead in the Series.
1973 World Series: In the World Series vs. the defending champion Oakland A’s Koosman started Game #2 at the Oakland Coliseum against Vida Blue. He had a rough outing only lasting into the 3rd inning, giving up three runs on six hits. He got a no decision as the Mets went on to an extra inning 10-7 win.
He came back to pitch a gem in Game #5 at Shea Stadium. He held Oakland scoreless for 6 1/3 innings only allowing only three hits along the way, striking out four A's. The Mets won the game on RBI hits from John Milner & Don Hahn, as Koos & Tug McGraw combined for the 2-0 shutout. This victory gave the Mets a 3-2 lead in the Series heading back to sunny Oakland California.
Yogi Berra will forever be questioned as to why he did not pitch George Stone who had gone 12-3 on the season in any of the two final games of the Series. Yes, he did choose to go with Seaver (the Cy Young winner that year) & Matlack but they were both on three days rest. Koosman was ready to go in Game #7 telling pitching coach Rube Walker to let Yogi know. He was never called upon & the Mets lost the Series three games to two.
Overall in his Post season career, Koosman never lost a decision, in six starts he was 4-0 striking out 31 batters in 40 innings, posting a 3.79 ERA with two complete game wins. He may very well be the best All Time Mets Post season pitcher.
In 1974 he started out the year pitching into the 9th inning in the third game of the season beating the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2. He was 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA & two complete games by mid May. In two of those outings he struck out 11 batters, allowing only two runs in each game. In June he had a three game win streak, beating the Dodgers at home, then the Phillies & Cubs on the road. All three wins were complete games.
His best outing may have been a four hit one run, performance at Wrigley Field during that stretch besting his record to 8-4. From there he went on to go 7-7 as he & the Mets struggled not able to defend their NL Championship title, falling to 71-91 in fifth place.
Koosman finished the year at 15-11, leading the Mets staff in wins mostly due to Tom Seaver struggling with his mechanics & back issues. Koosman posted a 3.36 ERA, with 35 starts, 13 complete games (7th in the NL), 265 innings pitched (8th in the NL) 188 strikeouts (7th in the NL) & 85 walks. His strikeout totals over the next five seasons would put him in the top eight in the league each season.
In the third game of the 1975 season Koosmans first start went eight innings allowing three runs to the Pittsburgh Pirates, he earned no decision in the Mets 4-2 loss. His next start was horrible as he was removed in the second inning after allowing four runs to the Cards in St. Louis. After the two no decisions, it took two straight complete games to get him his first two victories. The second of those was a four hit 2-0 shutout against the Montreal Expos at Shea Stadium on May 2nd.
He would toss three five hit victories at home from mid May through June. On June 4th at Shea Stadium he pitched a 1-0 shutout against the Houston Astros pitchers Doug Konieczny & Jim Crawford.
On July 3rd Koosman had a another four hit shutout at Shea Stadium coming against the Chicago Cubs. At the All Star break he was 8-7 with an ERA of 3.60.
The Mets were hanging on at the .500 mark and the team had lost respect as well as faith, in manager Yogi Berra. Back in the days of Gil Hodges there were one set of rules, his. With Berra at the helm, if a mental error was made he'd say "next time it will cost ya", usually it was forgotten about. By now the inmates were running the asylum.
That season there was a highly publicized battle with Cleon Jones who had refused to come in to a game to pitch hit. The incident led to Jones' release, two weeks later Berra was also fired. Mets Coach Roy McMillan became the interim manager through the rest of the year, as the team finished third at 82-80.
After three straight losses Koosman went to the bullpen made two relief appearances, earning two saves. The first save came against the San Francisco Giants at Shea Stadium in relief of Tom Seaver & the next came two days later in Houston. He finished the year with a 14-13 record, second in wins behind Tom Seaver who won his third Cy Young that season.
Koosman posted a 3.42 ERA, with 173 strike outs (7th in the NL) a career igh 98 strike outs, with four shut outs (7th in the NL) & eleven complete games in 239 innings pitched.
Just before the start of the 1976 season, Koosman's father passed away & felt the spirit of his dad was with him all year. He later said that he never felt that level of concentration before or after again. He went on to have arguably his best season of his career.
After a 1-1 April, his season really began in May where he won all five starts.
Koosman was 6-1 at the end of the month posting a 2.77 ERA. In June he had a rough time going 1-5 with five straight losses, allowing three runs or more each time. But from July on through the rest of the year, Koosman was 14-4, doing everything right. His new manager that year, Joe Frazier just gave him the ball & told him to take care of business.
On July 2nd, Koos pitched a three hitter against the Chicago Cubs where he struck out 12 batters. In the middle of the month after the All Star break he threw two straight five hitters, allowing a run each time. He closed out July with a four hitter at Shea Stadium in a 3-2 win against the Philadelphia Phillies.
In August he began the month with a four hit shutout, striking out eight Expos in a 4-0 win at Shea Stadium.
Two starts later he pitched a five hit shutout over the Big Red Machine, striking out eleven batters, beating Gary Nolan 1-0. His next start was a six hit, one run victory in San Diego. In September he won four straight, all complete games, beginning with a three hit shutout against the San Francisco Giants, beating John Montefusco.
Then on September 16th at Shea Stadium with his wife & mother in attendance at Shea Stadium as well as a small crowd of just under 6000 fans, Koosman beat the St. Louis Cardinals. He pitched a complete game, for his twentieth win of the year.
Although he had won 19 games in 1968 it was the only time in his long Mets career he ever had a twenty win season. The joyous event got him the front cover of the 1977 Mets yearbook.
Koosman finished runner up to San Diego's Randy Jones for the Cy Young Award, although many feel it should have gone to Koosman. He went 21-10 (2nd in the league in wins) striking out 200 batters (3rd in the league). His strikeout per nine inning ratio was second best in the league at 7.2.
He posted a 2.69 ERA (4th best in the league) with 17 complete games (2nd in the league) & three shutouts. Randy Jones was 22-14 with a 2.70 ERA pitching a league leading 315 innings & 25 complete games.
In 1977 there were many changes in the organization, the Mets traded Tom Seaver and the whole team fell apart. Koosman struggled with the bad ball club, falling to 8-20, tied with Phil Niekro for most losses in the league. His ERA was a still respectable at 3.42 and he still threw four shut outs and completed eleven games.
He never pitched well through the year, allowing earned runs in all but two of his 32 starts, while allowing just one earned run only four times. He entered August 8-11 but then lost all nine of his final decisions including eight straight games. He made 32 starts striking out 192 batters, walking 81 in 226 innings pitched. That year his strike outs per nine innings (7.624) was the best in the league.
In 1978 Koosman became the first Mets pitcher since 1967 besides Tom Seaver to start an Opening Day. Koosman beat the Montreal Expos at Shea, striking out seven batters in the Mets 3-1 win. He lost three straight from there, then won his next game at the start of June in Atlanta, another complete game win putting him at 2-3. But from there he would win just one more games all year going, 1-12 from that point on.
In 38 starts that year he allowed two earned runs or less 16 times giving him a 3.75 ERA. In September he mostly pitched out of the bullpen, and was very unhappy in New York. In the dismal 1978 Mets season, he was 3-15 with 160 strikeouts & 84 walks in 235 innings pitched with the 3.75 ERA.
The Mets finished last that year 66-96 under manager Joe Torre. Koosman was one of the final players left since the miracle of 1969 & the pennant of 1973. He saw no signs of improvement for the team in the near future, and demanded to be traded. His wishes came through and he was dealt to his home state of Minnesota to pitch for the Twins in 1979.
Trivia: Interestingly the Mets received another pitcher who would get a final out in a World Series for them, although it would not come for another seven years (1986), a youngster named Jesse Orosco.
In his first year back in his home state of Minnesota, Koosman regained form, once again winning twenty games going 20-13 (3rd most wins in the AL) . He posted a 3.38 ERA (8th in the AL) with 157 strikeouts (5th in the league) and two shutouts.
He was sixth in the Cy Young voting. Jerry came back to win 16 more games in 1980 (10th best in the league) going 16-13 with 149 strikeouts. He signed with the Chicago White sox as free agent in 1981 winning eleven games two seasons in a row, before being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1984.
He made his return to Shea Stadium on April 29, 1984 pitching against the New York Mets who were now contenders once again in a new era. That night Koos allowed RBI singles to George Foster (1st inning), Mookie Wilson & his old team mate Rusty Staub. He also was called for a balk allowing a run to score, as he took the loss to Walt Terrell allowing four runs on seven hits pitching into the 6th inning.
He came back in June, this time beating the Mets & Ed Lynch 6-4, pitching seven innings. He then took another loss against the Mets at the end of the season.
In 1984 with the Phillies he went 14-15 (5th most losses in the NL) with a 3.25 ERA. He retired after going 6-4 in 1985 at the age of 42.
Honors: Koosman still ranks high on the Mets all time pitching list; second in wins (140) second in starts (346) innings pitched (2544) and complete games, (108). He is tied for second in shutouts (26) third in strike outs (1799) and fourth in ERA (3.09).
Koosman was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1989. He was at the closing ceremonies of Shea Stadium in 2008 and on hand for the 40th anniversary of the 1969 Championship team. His uniform number 36 should be retired by the Mets and hopefully the many voices that agree will one day be heard by the upper management.
Overall in his nineteen year career he is at #73 on the all-time win list with a 222-209 record (37th all time in losses). He had 2556 strikeouts (28th All time) with 33 shut outs (87th all time) with a 3.36 ERA pitching in 3839 innings (48th all time) in 612 games (179th all time).
Koos made 527 starts (36th all time) with 1198 walks (53rd all time) 71 hit batsmen (192 all time) 290 HRs allowed (56th all time) & a 2.134 strike out / walk ratio (210th all time)
Retirement: He served as a minor league pitching coach for the Mets in the late 1980’s before retiring from baseball. He had the original ball from the final out of the 1969 World Series locked away in a safe at his home until the 1990's when he sold it.
Drama: In 2009 he was sentenced to six months time for tax evasion.