Dec 22, 2020

Jerry Koosman: All Time Mets Left Handed Pitcher (Part One: 1967-1972)

Jerome Martin Koosman was born December 23, 1942 on a farm in Appleton, Minnesota. As a child he left hander went ice fishing and played baseball in their family’s hay loft with his brother.

He was drafted into the army in 1962, & there was no baseball team where he was stationed. Lucky enough his dentist, who was a general in the same unit helped Koosman get to El Paso Texas where they did have a baseball team. 

After a few warm up pitches at the try out, he was told he was in the starting rotation.

Koosman was serving at Ft. Bliss, Texas and made a friend who was from Queens, New York. He also was the son of an usher at Shea Stadium. John Luchese wrote to his dad telling him the Mets team should check this Koosman guy out, he could sure throw. The scouts came and offered him a contract right away after seeing him pitch.

Quotes: Koosman said “It seemed every time we spoke they lowered the offer by a hundred dollars. I figured I better sign before I owed them money.”

At the start, Koosman was struggling so badly in the farm system, he was almost traded away. On a road trip with two other guys named Jerry, their car was damaged in an accident in Georgia. They called for money to get a new car.

Jerry sent word out to future Mets General Manager Joe McDonald, who was working at the minor league level at the time,  asking if he could send over an additional $500. The organization gave him the loan, and Club president George Weiss figured he’d trade the Koosman kid away once his loan was paid back. But soon, Koos began pitching well and his future with the Mets was secured.

In 1966 he was 12-7 at A ball Auburn in the New York/ Penn. League posting a 1.38 ERA. In 1967 the Mets staff in 1967 as one of it first pitching stars. 

Big League Career: On April 14th, Koosman made his MLB debut in a relief appearance, reliving Jack Fisher at Philadelphia. He struck out two Phillies & walked two in 2.2 innings of work. He would make five appearances through the end of May, before going back down to AAA Jacksonville.

There he was 11-10 leading International League in strikeouts & (183) while posting a 2.43 ERA. 

He came back to New York in September & after a relief appearance, made his first career start. On September 17th, he pitched seven innings, allowing two runs at the Astrodome taking no decision in the Mets 4-3 loss. At Shea Stadium, he pitched one inning to Houston, giving up three runs to get his first career loss. 

Overall in his first season, he made nine appearances, going 0-2 with a 6.04 ERA.

1968: This is the year Gil Hodges arrived in New York as the Met's manager. Gil mostly observed his young talent, along with pitching coach Rube Walker. They knew they had something special in Seaver, Koosman, Nolan Ryan & an incredible young staff.

To start out 1968, he pitched the second Mets game of the season & was spectacular, shutting out the Dodgers on a four hitter in Los Angeles. 

In his second start, he struck out ten San Francisco Giants at the Shea Stadium home opener, in front of 52,079 fans, while pitching a seven hit shutout. In those days the Giants & Dodgers still drew huge crowds, after having left New York in 1958.

In his third start, he struck out eleven Houston Astros, allowed one run on four hits pitching his third straight complete game. Now, the baseball world was noticing, as were the New York fans. This kid was special.

He started out at 4-0 after a win, in Cincinnati. From May 10th to June 4th, Koosman allowed one run or less in four of six starts. On May 20th, he beat out Bob Veale in a 2-1 matchup, that was won on Ed Charles walk off HR. Charles had homered earlier in the  game as well. 

In a mid June home stand, he beat the Giants, to earn his 10th win. 
Koosman was on a six game winning streak going into late June. He was 11-3 & kept his ERA under 1.50 through June 24th. At the All Star break he was 11-4 with a 1.94 ERA.

1968 All Star: "In the Year of the Pitcher" Koosman made his first All Star team, pitching in the game at the Astrodome. He came in the game &pitched a scorless 9th inning,  striking out Carl Yastremski for the final out of an exciting 1-0 National League. Koosman earned himself the save on the big stage.



He returned from the break pitching a four hit shut out at Wrigley Field. After getting knocked out of the game in the 2nd inning, while taking a loss to the Pirates, he would pitch back to back four hit shut outs. 

First, he beat Nelson Briles & the Cardinals in St. Louis where struck out a season high, 12 batters. Then on July 26th, he beat the Cincinnati Reds & Tony Cloninger, 2-0 at Shea Stadium, striking out eight batters. to get to 14-5. 

He then suffered two losses, followed by two complete game victories, where he allowed just one earned run both times. He was now 16-7 with a 87 ERA. On August 19th, he matched zeros with the San Francisco Giants Bobby Bolin, at Shea Stadium. Koosman lasted 12 innings, then gave way for Ron Taylor. Taylor, gave up a 17th inning RBI single to Ron Hunt, as the Mets lost 1-0. 

On September 13th, he threw a three hit shutout at Shea Stadium, against the Pittsburgh Pirates, winning his 18th game.

After two rough outing, where he gave up five runs each time, Koosman closed out the season with a three hit, one run performance, against the Philadelphia Phillies. Koosman just missed out being a twenty game winner due to a 3-3 September, as he finished up his rookie year going 19-10 leading the team in wins, (4th best in the NL).

He posted an incredible 2.08 ERA (4th in the NL) still the fifth best Mets single season ERA, for starting pitchers, in their team history. 

He struck out 178 batters pitching in 262 innings, throwing seven shut outs (3rd most in the NL) & 17 complete games, which is the second best mark in Mets history. He pitched seven shutouts which was third best in the NL.

He set franchise records that year in wins, shutouts & ERA. Koosman was named to the Topps All-Star Rookie Team and finished runner-up to Johnny Bench for the Rookie of the Year honors, missing by just one vote.

Trivia: During a game that season, Jerry Grote fired a ball back at Koosman from behind the plate, tying him up around the belt area. Koos called him to the mound & said “if you ever throw a ball back at me like that, I’ll break your freaking’ neck”. Grote never did it again, and Koos earned his catchers respect in a relationship that would last another decade.

Koosman was generally the number two starter for the Mets in the coming years behind Hall of Famer Tom Seaver. Seaver and Koosman became one of the league's top righty/lefty starting combos, sometimes known as “The Tom & Jerry Show”. 

Koosman would be the victim of low run support, something Seaver & the rest of the pitchers would also suffer from through the years. But the good-natured Koosman never complained, he always went about his business & pitched his best.

1969 Championship Season: In 1969 Koosman started out slowly, taking losses in his first two starts. On April 16th, he gave up five runs to the Pirates at Forbes Field, getting knocked out in the 3rd inning.

On April 23rd, he beat the Pittsburgh Pirates with a five hit shut out, striking out six, for his first win. He only made two starts in May, a no decision & a loss at Houston, to the pesky Astros, who were the Mets toughest opponent in the regular season that year. 

On May 28th, he struck out a season high 15 batters, pitching ten shut out innings, against the Padres at Shea. The Mets won it in the bottom of the 11th, on a Bud Harrelson walk off single.

From June to mid July, Koosman would go 7-2 . In that stretch he threw seven complete games. 

On June 2nd, he pitched an exciting 2-1 win at Shea Stadium, beating Claude Osteen & the Dodgers. Jerry Grote & Al Weis supplied the RBI hits. On June 7th, he struck out 11 Padres in San Diego, giving up just one earned run, in another complete game effort. This got him to .500 at 3-3.

In his next outing at Dodger Stadium, he took a heart breaking 1-0 loss, as a Mets error led to the unearned run scoring. He pitched seven innings in that game. 

Then, in his next two starts, he pitched complete game shut outs. First he blanked the Phillies & Rick Wise, in Philadelphia. Next, as Shea, he beat Mike Torrez in a 1-0 battle, where Tommie Agee's double was lone run.

Over the three games, Koosman had not allowed any earned runs in a stretch of 25 consecutive innings pitched. By now the Mets were getting noticed, as possibly being a real contender. There were still behind the Chicago Cubs by eight games, but soon the Cubs had to take notice.

On July 8th, the day before Tom Seaver's classic Imperfect game, Koosman beat the first place Cubs 4-3. In that game he sent a message  that these Mets are for real. 

In that game, the Mets scored three runs in the bottom of the 9th inning, off future Hall of Famer, Fergie Jenkins. The Mets had some help, by two misplayed balls by outfielder Don Young. Ed Kranepool provided the walk off, game winning single.

On July 13th, he won the first game of a double header with the Montreal Expos at Shea Stadium.
The Mets then went up to Montreal & Koos beat the Expos again, striking out seven in both games, to earn his 8th win.

1969 All Star Game:
On July 25th 1969, Koosman & Tom Seaver represented the Mets at the All Star Game in Washington D.C. The NL won the game 9-3.
Koosman came into the game in the 7th inning, with the NL ahead 9-3. He gave up a lead off double to Boston's Rico Petrocelli, then got the next three outs, including striking out Brooks Robinson.

In July the team did give him some nice run support as he went 3-1, with three straight complete game winning decisions. Although in the month, he allowed three runs or more in five of six games. 

On August 4th, he lost another 1-0 heart breaker, this one to Jim Maloney & the Reds in Cincinnati. Pete Rose scored the only run on Alex Johnson's sac fly. 

On August 8th, he earned his ninth win, after
allowing just one run to the Western Division leading Braves, in the first game of a double header at Fulton County. In his next start he got beat up the those tough Astros again, this time giving up six earned runs at the Astrodome.


Koosman found himself at 9-8, but had a 2.24 ERA. From there to the end of the regular season, he was a very important part of the Mets winning the NL Eastern Division. From mid August through the end of the season, he won eight of his last nine decisions. 

Koos started out winning three straight games, all against California teams. First he beat, Joe Niekro & the Padres 3-2 at Shea Stadium. On that same homestand, he beat the Dodgers before heading west, to pitch a two hitter in San Diego.

On September 1st, the Mets were still five games behind the Cubs, Koos took the only loss he would suffer for the rest of the year. That included the regular & post season. He never got out of the 1st inning, as L.A. collected four runs with four hits.

He then threw five straight complete game victories in the month of September. There was none bigger than on the night of September 8th, 1969. 

The Mets went up against the first place Chicago Cubs at crazy, sold out Shea Stadium. The Cubs divisional lead had dwindled down to just 2 1/2 games. 

Koosman went up against on of the Cubs  top pitchers, Hackensack, New Jersey's own Bill Hands. Hands already had 16 wins. Cubs manager Leo Durocher ordered Hands to knock down the Mets lad off hitter Tommie Agee & to send a message,. Hands did as instructed, Agee hit the dirt.

Koosman was never one who sat back & let his players get knocked down or hit without retaliating back. In the next inning the Cubs slugger Ron Santo came up to bat. Koosman drilled him in the hand sending the message back to the Cubs- don't mess with us. 

Later when Kooz came up to the plate Hands threw at him as well. Koos quickly shouted back at him. After it was all over, the Mets won the game 3-2. Koos took the victory, his 13th, giving up two runs on seven hits & striking out a season high 13 batters.

The offensive hero of the game was non other than Tommie Agee. Agee homered & drove in two runs in the 3-2 Met win. 

In the three game series with those Cubs, the Mets got within a half game. This it was the series that included, the famous Black cat running onto the field & in front of the Cub dug & the Shea crowd later waving handkerchiefs singing "Goodnight Leo" to the Cub manager. The Mets took over first place the next night & went on to win the division.

In his next start, coming at

Pittsburgh, Koos pitched a three hit 1-0 shutout in the first game of a double header. He also drove in the only run with a base hit off Pittsburgh's Bob Moose. 


In the second game Don Cardwell pitched a one run shut out & dove in the only run of that game, making it a strange afternoon. On September 10th, the Mets took over first place.

On September 12th, Koosman & Bob Moose went at it, with Koos taking the 1-0 win. 

In the 5th inning, with two men on, Koosman's single drove in the only run of the game. It was his 14th win of the year. 
On September 17th, Koosman came out & threw a six hit shutout in Montreal against the Expos. 

In his next to last outing of his season he pitched a four hit shutout in Philadelphia, striking out seven batters. 

He finished the year at 17-9 with a
2.28 ERA (5th best in the NL) 180 strikeouts & 68 walks in 241 innings pitched. He had 16 complete games (9th in the NL) and six shutouts (4th most in the NL) in 32 starts. 

1969 Post Season-NLCS: In Game #2 of the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves, Koosman was shelled from the mound, giving up six runs in 4.2 innings of work, three of those runs coming on Hank Aaron’s fifth-inning home run. 

The Mets were already ahead 9-6; they added two more runs to win the game giving Ron Taylor the victory.

1969 World Series: Koosman was the pitching star of the 1969 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles and certainly could have won the MVP award himself. 

World Series Game #2: In Game #2 he had a no hitter going until the 7th inning against the mighty O's line up at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. Paul Blair led off the inning with a single, he stole second & would score the tying run 1-1. 

But the Amazing Mets went ahead in the 9th inning with two out singles from Ed Charles Jerry Grote & pinch hitter Al Weis who drove in the game winning run.

In the bottom of the 9th after getting the first two outs, Koosman walked Frank Robinson & Boog Powell. Gil Hodges removed him, and the Oriole fans gave him a huge ovation for his performance that afternoon.

Ron Taylor came in getting Brooks Robinson to ground out to save the game. Koosman got the win pitching 8.1 innings, allowing one run, on only two hits, with four strikeouts and two walks.

World Series Game #5: The Mets won the next two games, and Koosman took the mound at Shea Stadium, for Game Five which could wrap up the whole series. 

He fell behind 3-0 giving up two HRs in the third inning one to the opposing pitcher Dave McNally & the other to Frank Robinson. 

 He got back into the dugout angry and told his team, “I’ll hold them here, get me some runs”.

In the 6th inning Cleon Jones took a pitch that may have hit his foot, no call was made at first. The ball rolled into the dug out, next Gil Hodges comes out of the dug out with a ball with shoe polish on it as proof it hit Jones. 

Umpire Lou Dimuro agreed & gave him first base. The Orioles manager Earl Weaver went nuts, years later Koosman admitted Hodges had told him on the bench to rub the ball on his shoes so the polish would be visible. 



The next batter, Donn Clendenon followed with a two run HR. In the bottom of the 7th, the light hitting, Al Weis also homered, to tie the game. In the 8th, Cleon Jones doubled & Ron Swoboda followed with another double, putting the Mets ahead for good. Jerry Grote reached on a Boog Powell error & Swoboda scored an insurance run 5-3. 

Koos went on to pitch the 9th inning, with an excited Shea Stadium about to erupt. He walked Frank Robinson to start things off, then got Boog Powell to ground out. Then Brooks Robinson flew out to right field. 

With two outs & the anticipation level boiling over, Davey Johnson hit a fly ball to deep left field. At first Koosman worried as the ball left the bat, but he saw Cleon Jones fall to his knee & he knew it was over. The Amazing Mets were world champs. For Koosman, he tossed a complete game five hit victory, walking only one while striking out five Orioles. 
In the World Series, Koosman pitched two games, going 2-0 while pitching 17.2 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits, posting a 2.04 ERA. He struck out nine & walked four. An incredible performance. He was 3-0 in the post season.

One of the most memorable pictures in Mets history is Koosman leaping into catcher Jerry Grote's arms the Amazing Mets won the 1969 World Series against all the odds in the world.              




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