Dec 23, 2019

Jerry Koosman: All Time Mets Left Handed Pitcher (Part Two-1973-1978)

Jerry Koosman started out the 1973 season better than anyone on the staff or in the National League for that matter.

He got the start in the third Mets game of the season, beating Reggie Cleveland & the Cardinals in St. Louis. In his second start he pitched a complete game five hitter, allowing one run in a 3-1 win over the Chicago Cubs at Shea Stadium.

Two more complete game victories followed, a 5-2 win at the Astrodome & an exciting four hit, 1-0 shutout in Atlanta, to out duel Carl Morton of the Braves. In April he was 4-0 with 1.06 ERA allowing just four earned runs in 34 innings. won both, Player of the week & the Player of the Month awards to start out the 1973 season.

On May 9th he beat the Braves again to get to 5-0. But then things went sour for him as he suffered poor run support from a weak offense & an injury ridden team. Koosman went through two different five game losing streaks through the end of August. In 19 starts from May 15th to August 15th, he allowed two earned runs or less eight times (half the outings). He went 3-14 in that stretch & by August 15th he was 8-14 with an ERA of 3.37 & the Mets were floundering in last place.

On June 16th, he struck out a season high nine batters, breaking a personal five game losing streak. On July 1st, he gave up five earned runs to the Cubs at Wrigley Field but still got the win. He took two more losing decisions & on July 16th, he had his worst outing of the year, giving up seven earned runs in an 8-6 loss to the Braves in Atlanta.

On July 21st, he beat Ken Forsch & Astros in Houston breaking a three game losing streak. He then lost his next five decisions, on August 15th he was 8-14 but had a very respectable ERA of 3.37. At this point the Mets were floundering in last place but only eight & half games out.

The Mets season started to turn around, all the main players who were out with injury were healthy again. In late August through September Koosman was back as well. He was himself again 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 Hall of Famer Juan Marichal & the San Francisco Giants for ten innings. In the bottom of the 10th,  Felix Millan singled home Kenny Boswell with the walk off game winning run.

On September 3rd, he shut out another Hall of Famer, Steve Carlton, as he scattered seven hits with not allowing anyone to score. The Mets beat the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium 5-0. In his next start, he allowed just one run in six innings of work, taking a no decisions in a 4-2 win over the Expos. 

Mets Scoreless Innings Record: In his last five games Koosman had allowed just one earned run. Koosman set a Mets record with 31 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings. A record that stood 29 years until R.A. Dickey broke it with 32 2/3 scoreless innings.

On September 11th, he was hammered for six runs, the third time of the year he allowed six runs or more. It was the only loss he took or that the Mets took in any of his starts from August 15th to the end of the year. At this pint they were three games out of first in a wild five team race.

On September 25th, the Mets were now just one & a half games out of first place, behind the Pittsburgh Pirates. Kooz beat Steve Rogers & the Montreal Expos at Shea Stadium in a 2-1 classic that Tug McGraw came in & helped save. 

Koosman's next start came in the next to last game of the season, at Wrigley Field in Chicago. He beat the Cubs pitching a complete game, allowing only two runs, both which were unearned. The Mets were now in first place, the win guaranteed the Mets at least a tie for first place in the NL East. They clinched the division the next day.

Koosman finished the 1973 Mets Pennant season at 14-15, with a 2.84 ERA (9th best in the NL) 156 strikeouts & 76 walks in 263 innings pitched (7th in the NL). He had three shutouts (7th best in the NL). At the plate he had 15 sacrifice hits (4th in the NL) & batted .103 & droving in three runs.

1973 Post Season: NLCS: Koosman got the start in Game #3 of the NLCS at Shea Stadium against the Cincinnati Reds. The series was tied at one game each at this point. 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 says Rose was cursing him from the dugout after he had thrown nothing but off speed pitches to get him to pop up. In Rose's 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 Shea fans pelted Rose & the field with anything they could find. When a whiskey bottle came whizzing by Rose's head, manager Sparky Anderson removed his team from the field. 

Quotes- Sparky Anderson: "Pete Rose has given to much to baseball to die in the outfield at Shea Stadium".

After order had been restored, Koosman rolled along, he pitched the entire game, getting credit for a complete game, 9-2 victory. He gave up two runs on eight hits, while striking out nine Reds. The victory gave the Mets a 2-1 lead in the Series. The Mets won the Series in five games advancing to the World Series.

1973 World Series: In the World Series vs. the defending World Champion Oakland A’s, Koosman got his first start in Game #2 at the Oakland Coliseum against Vida Blue. The A's had taken Game 1 with a 2-1 win. On this sunny Sunday afternoon, Koos had a rough outing, only lasting into the 3rd inning. He gave up three runs on six hits. He got a no decision as the Mets went on to an extra inning, 10-7 win to even the Series.

He came back to pitch a gem in Game #5 at Shea Stadium. He held the mighty Oakland bats scoreless for six & a third innings. He only gave up three hits along the way, but walked four, striking out four A's. 

The Mets won the game on RBI hits from John Milner & Don Hahn. 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 "I'm available". He was never called upon & the Mets lost the Game #7 & the Series four games to three.

Overall in his Mets 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 can be called the Mets best Post season pitcher in team history.

After the Pennant Season: Koosman joined the Mets on a good will baseball tour of Japan after the post season ended.

The '74 Mets were a big disappointment, they struggled & were not able to defend their NL title. The team fell to fifth place, going 71-91 with poor offense & a struggling pitching staff.

Koosman started out the year, making the start in the third Mets game. He pitched into the 9th inning, beating the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 at Shea Stadium. In his second start he earned a no decision but struck out 11 Phillies. On April 20th he pitched a complete game victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Shea. On April 25th, he matched his season high 11 strike outs, pitching another complete game victory in San Diego.

After beating the Cubs at Wrigley on May 10th, he found himself at 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA. He would then lose three of his next four & give up four or more runs in three of those games. On June 4th, he gave up a season high seven earned runs, taking a 11-1 loss at Houston. His ERA was at 3.73 the highest era he had had since 1972.

But from there 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 where allowed just one run each time. His ERA was now at 3.14, still a bit high for Koosman. 

On June 25th he may have had his best outing, it came at Wrigley Field where he allowed one run on four hits, issuing no walks. On July 5th, he took a win over Jim Barr & the Giants, in a 3-2 thriller at Shea. 

On July 25th he & Jon Matlack swept a double header in San Diego, leading to the All Star break. Yogi Berra was the NL Manager in that years All Star Game, he took Matlack with him (8-6 & 2.55 ERA) as well as catcher Jerry Grote. At the All Star break Koosman was 10-7 with a 3.36 ERA.

Later that year, he beat the Astros in back to back outings, getting his record to 13-8. 

On September 16th, he was out dueled 3-2 in Montreal by Mike Torrez. He then beat the NL Eastern Champion Pirates in Pittsburgh but they returned the favor at Shea, scoring six runs off Koosman for his 11th loss of the year. He finished up with a win over the Phils.

Koosman finished the year at 15-11, leading the Mets staff in wins mostly due to the fact, 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. 

Trivia: Starting in 1974m Koosman's strikeout totals put him in MLB's top eight in that category, for seven straight years.

1975: In the third game of the 1975 season Koosman's first start went eight innings, he allowed g three runs to the Pittsburgh Pirates, earning  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.

On May 14th he allowed just one run in a five hitter against the Giants at Home. He followed that with a victory over Don Gullet & the Big Red Machine in Cincy.

He then gave up five runs in his next two starts & took losses each time. On June 4th, he pitched a 1-0 shutout against Houston Astros pitchers Doug Konieczny & Jim Crawford. Three more losses came in the month, the only victory was a complete game one run five hitter against St. Louis. 

On July 3rd Koosman threw his second shutout of the season. It was a four hitter at Shea Stadium, coming against the Chicago Cubs. He then beat Carl Morton & the Braves in Atlanta, in a close 4-3 win. At the All Star break he was 8-7 with a 3.60 ERA.

By August, the Mets were hanging on at the .500 mark and the team had lost respect  in their 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 from the team. 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 August losses, Koosman went to the bullpen&  made two relief appearances, earning himself two saves. The first save came on August 17th, against the San Francisco Giants at Shea Stadium in relief of Tom Seaver & the next came two days later in Houston. 

He was back in the rotation by August 23rd, giving up just one run in eight innings at San Francisco, losing 2-1 to John Montefusco (8 innings) & Gary Lavelle (one inning). Koos then beat Rick Rhoden & the Dodgers in Los Angeles for his 11th win to get him to .500.

At the start of September the Mets were just five games out of first, in a tight four team race. Koos was pounded by the first place Pirates for seven runs, including three HRs, his worst outing of the year lasting just 3.2 innings. Next the second place Cards beat him as well, dropping the Mets to 6.5 back. 

On September 11th, he shut out those Pirates, his third shut out of the year, a 7-0 Mets win. It was then a tight 3-2 victory over the Expos at Shea Stadium. But the Mets had fallen to ten games back by mid September & would finish third on the year. 

Koosman would win his last decision, pitching 11 innings against the Phillies on September 26th. The Mets won the game when Felix Millan doubled in two runs off former Met Tug McGraw in the top of the 11th. 

Koosman 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 high 98 walks, with four shut outs (7th in the NL) & eleven complete games in 239 innings pitched.

Twenty Win Season: 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 the best season of his career.

After losing his first start, he pitched a complete game win in Pittsburgh, as the Mets scored a season high 17 runs.

After a 1-1 April, he won all five of his May starts. Although he gave up 11 hits & four runs on May 2nd, he earned the win over the Astros as the Mets won it 7-4. He then pitched a complete game win over the Padres at Shea Stadium. On May 12th he pitched 8.2 innings with a win in Atlanta. 

He then won twice more on the road, beating Montreal & Philadelphia. 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 from June 1 to June 21st. He would allow three runs or more each time. On June 26th he broke the streak with a win at Wrigley Field.

From July through the rest of the year, Koosman would go 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 at Shea Stadium. He struck out 12 batters in that game. He then beat the Astros even though he had given up ten hits. He even made a relief appearance before the All Star break.

In mid July, he threw two straight five hitters, allowing just a run in each game. 

After a loss in Montreal, he closed out July with a four hitter at Shea Stadium in a 3-2 win against the Philadelphia Phillies to get to 12-7 on the year.

From that win through August 21st, Koos would throw five straight complete games in a stretch where he won five straight. In those games he had two shut outs, the first as a four hitter on August 4th against the Expos. The second was on August 15th against the Cincinnati Reds. It was a 1-0 win over Gary Nolan, where Koos struck out 11. He followed up with a one run, six hitter in San Diego, earning his 16th win.

In September he won four straight, all complete games, beginning with a three hit shutout against the San Francisco Giants, beating John Montefusco. On September 6th, he beat the Cubs at Wrigley Field for win 318. 

On September 11th, he beat the Cards in St. Louis, matching his career high 19 victories set back in his rookie year 1968.

On September 16th, at Shea Stadium with his wife & mother in attendance at Shea Stadium, Koosman reached a personal milestone. With a small crowd of just under 6000 fans, Koosman beat the St. Louis Cardinals for his 20th win. It was another complete game, a one run four hitter, where he struck out a season high 13 batters. 

It was the only time in his long Mets career he ever had a twenty win season. He sipped champagne with his family in the clubhouse after the game. 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.

The Bad Years: 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 at 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.

His Last Mets Season: In 1978 Koosman became the first Mets pitcher in a decade, who wasn't Tom Seaver, since 1967 Seaver was the Mets Opening Day starter.
On this Opening Day. Koosman beat the Montreal Expos at Shea Stadium, striking out seven batters in the Mets 3-1 win. 

He lost three straight decisions from there, but earned a win on May 4th in Atlanta. Unfortunately for him, he would not see another win until July 13th, a good 2 1/2 months later. On July 13th, he beat the Reds 4-2 in Cincinnati.

 It was to be his final win in a Mets victory, as he would lose six straight decisions. He would finish the year in the bullpen with five relief appearances. On September 30th, Koosman finished off a 7-5 Mets loss in Chicago, it was his last game in a Mets uniform.

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.

Mets All Time Leader Board: Koosman still ranks high on the Mets all time pitching list; third in wins (140) first for left handers. He is second in starts (346) innings pitched (2544) and complete games, (108). He is tied for second in shutouts (26) third in strike outs (1799) posting a 3.09 ERA. 

Honors: Koosman was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1989.

 He attended the closing ceremonies of Shea Stadium in 2008. Koosman was on hand for the 40th & 50th Anniversaries of the 1969 Championship team at Citi Field.

Retire #36: It was finally announced in 2019 that Koosman's uniform number 36 will be retired by the Mets .

Overall in his nineteen year career he is at #75 on the all-time win list with a 222-209 record (37th all time in losses). He had 2556 strikeouts (30th 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 (38th all time) with 1198 walks (53rd all time) 71 hit batsmen (221 all time) 290 HRs allowed (70th all time) & a 2.134 strike out / walk ratio.

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.


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