Jerry Koosman was a young kid in the Army who was a good baseball player. With some connections he was trying to get a transfer to somewhere to play baseball. It didn’t seem to work out, so Koosman was thinking of trying to be a helicopter pilot. He got the transfer and played for the post team where he was discovered. Sometimes you just have good Karma.
After a brief call up in 1967, Koosman was a starter for the Mets in 1968. He won 19 games and was runner up for rookie of the year. He lost to Johnny Bench that year. It wasn’t a run away. In 1969 Koosman helped the Mets win their division. There were 4 Mets who standout that year. Along with Koosman were Tom Seaver, Tommy Agee and Cleon Jones. A lot of the other players had solid years, but this was the core that Gil Hodges depended on. Koosman won his two World Series starts including clincher. Life was good.
Now let us forward to 1977 and 1978 when the Mets weren’t as good. They finished last both years. Koosman who pitched OK had won-loss records of 8-20 and 3-15. Bill James did a study of the unluckiest seasons for pitchers, and these were two of the top 10. Koosman to the Twin, with one of the players being Jessie Orosco. So, the Mets benefited from the trade in the long run.
The Twins liked to do this. Koosman was from Minnesota. They loved to sign good to great players from Minnesota at the tail end of their career to help attendance. They did this with Dave Winfield (player 109) and Paul Molitor (player 107). Later they decided to draft some of that talent. They had Kent Hrbek (player 544) and later Joe Mauer (player 111). That is a lot of talent there and is the start of a good team.
The Twins wanted Koosman in part because he could still pitch and in part because he would draw fans after losing players to free agents. The Twins still had some talent. Roy Smalley remained with the team and Mike Marshall reunited with his old manager Mike Marshall Koosman pitched well, but I being a kid didn’t know how well.
I found out on August 12th, 1979. We did our family vacation that year as we usually did. We drove to the Twins Cities and took in a Twins game. It was their 124th game of the season and Jerry Koosman was the starter. He had won 15 games already and I was thing “Wow, he is on pace for 20”. I didn’t expect him to win as Boston those years had a stacked lineup led by hall of famer Jim Rice. Also in the lineup was Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans, Carl Yastrzemski (who was really old at the time), Rick Burleson, (who look like he was going to be great but was hurt by injuries) and Butch Hobson (he didn’t have the potential of Burleson, but injuries also hurt his career). I did not know this but the Boston pitcher that day was John Tudor. It was his second career start. It was not a good one.
The Twins won 7-2 with Koosman pitching a complete game. He had a game score of 68. John Tudor didn’t have a good start giving up 5 of the seven runs. He didin’t have a good year in the majors in 1979. Koosman did as he won his 20th on the last game of the season shutting out the White Sox. He was sixth in the AL Cy Young Award for the year.
Koosman had a solid season in 1980, but the Twins kept losing talent and Koosman was aging. He was 37 in 1980. He did pitch 5 more years, not great but never did embarrass himself. He ended up with a near hall of fame to hall of fame career depending how you look at it. He was a big contributor to the Mets miracle season in 1969 and that should be considered.