by Harold Friend
The first indication occurred for Mets fans on April 4, 1968 in the desert. Jerry Koosman hurled six scoreless innings in an exhibition game against the Giants, striking out three, walking none, and allowing only two hits. It wasn't an illusion.
Jerry Koosman Shut Out the Dodgers
Jerry Koosman started the second game of the season against the highly favored Dodgers, who started Bill Singer. All Koosman did was shut out the Dodgers on four hits. Yes, in 1968. 24-year-old rookie pitchers were allowed to pitch nine innings.
Electrical Engineering Student
The Mets' rookie left-hander was raised on a 100-acre farm in Minnesota, He studied electrical engineering for two years at the University of Minnesota before becoming a professional pitcher. Jerry Koosman was not mentally challenged.
Jerry Koosman Helped Protect Our Freedoms
In 1964, Koosman was in the army at Fort Bliss, helping to defend freedom, when New York's other team received its first recommendation about him. A former Polo Grounds' usher's son had played baseball with Jerry. The usher's son told his father about the left hander, who told the Mets.
Shea Stadium Home Opener
After his brilliant shut out in Los Angeles, Koosman started the home opener at Shea Stadium against the Giants' Mike McCormick before a crowd of 52,079 fans. All Koosman did was pitch another complete game shutout, allowing seven hits, walking two, and striking out 10.
A Rough Start
Things started out poorly for Koosman, but he showed grit and guts when he was young. Former Met Ron Hunt greeted Jerry with a ringing single to center. Jim Davenport hit what appeared to be a double play grounder to short, but Al Weis messed it up, putting Giants at first and second with no outs. Willie McCovey walked to load the bases, bringing up Willie Mays.
Koosman Wasn't Frightened
Mets' manager Gil Hodges spoke after the game about the first inning situation. "I was thinking that he better get him (Mays) out." Of course, Gil knew that if Koosman succeeded, it would build the young left-hander's confidence greatly.
Koosman said that he wasn't frightened facing Willie. "I was thinking that Mays was a tough hitter. I wasn't scared, though. I just tried to remember how I got him out in Phoenix two weeks ago."
The First Run Koosman Yielded
The Houston Astros finally scored a run off Koosman in his third start when Denis Menke singled and Bob Aspromonte doubled him home. That was all they would get off Jerry, as he allowed only the single run, four hits, and one walk. He struck out 11 Astros as the Mets won, 3-1. It was his third consecutive complete game.
The First 1968 Loss
Jerry won his fourth game against the Reds at Cincinnati, but he was less than brilliant, allowing four runs (three earned), two walks, and a home run over seven and two-thirds innings. He finally suffered his first defeat next time out, losing to Ferguson Jenkins and the Cubs, 3-2. Koosman was taken out in the bottom of the eighth for a pinch hitter.
Jerry Koosman Is Not Naive
Jerry Koosman was never naïve. He was and is a shrewd individual who things independently. During the winter, the Mets had offered Koosman $9,000. He pointed out that the major league minimum salary was being raised to $10,000. He wanted $12,000. The Mets agreed that his logic was as sharp as his curve ball. They paid him $12,000.
By JOSEPH DURSO, & Special to The New York Times. (1968, April 5). Mets Send Giants to First Shutout, 6-0; :BOSWELL CLOUTS HOMER OFF PERRY. New York Times (1857-Current file),60. Retrieved September 5, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 90666544).
By JOSEPH DURSOSpecial to The New York Times. (1968, April 13). HODGES REMINDED OF BROOKLYN DAYS :Rookie's 4-Hitter, Memento Lift His Managerial Spirit . New York Times (1857-Current file),34. Retrieved September 5, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 77083704).
By JOSEPH DURSO. (1968, April 18). Mets Beat Giants, 3-0, as Koosman Hurls Second Shutout :52,079 FANS SEE OPENER AT SHEA Koosman Allows 7 Singles, Escapes Bases-Loaded, No-Out Jam in First . New York Times (1857-Current file),59. Retrieved September 5, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 79937990).
By JOSEPH DURSO. (1968, April 24). Mets Subdue Astros, 3-1, for Koosman's 3d Straight; :PITCHER FANS 11, GIVES FOUR HITS Run Is the First Scored Off Rookie -- Four Errors by Houston Aid New York . New York Times (1857-Current file),34. Retrieved September 5, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 77085682).