A very happy birthday to one of my all-time favorite Mets players, Jerry Koosman, who turns 64 today. For some reason, every year I always remembered that his birthday was on December 23 (as dates always stick in my head).
Jerome Martin Koosman was born in Appleton, Minnesota in 1942. "The Kooz" was one of the big reasons the 1969 Mets went all the way and won the World Series. He won two World Series games that year, and had a no-hitter going into the seventh inning of Game 2. He easily could have been MVP but Donn Clendenon's three HRs got him the award. (The picture of Jerry on the right is from the cover of Life Magazine on September 26, 1969 as the Mets were charging for the pennant.)
I'll never forget the immortal Mets announcer Lindsay Nelson describe him as "One of the ten best dressed men in Morris, Minnesota." The Kooz was also a great gentleman and very well liked by his teammates and the press. He finished second to Johnny Bench for the NL Rookie of the Year in 1968, winning 19 with a stellar 2.08 ERA. He won 17 on the 1969 Champions. He also won 14 games in 1973, and was the Game 5 winner in the 1973 World Series against Oakland. His best season was 1976, when he won 21 games and finished second that year in the Cy Young Award voting to Randy Jones. He pitched for the Mets from 1967-1978, before being traded to his home state Minnesota Twins for an unknown rookie named pitcher named Jesse Orosco. Kooz eventually was dealt to the White Sox in 1981, and then to the Phillies in 1984, and retired following the 1985 season.
He completed a 19-year career with 222 wins, 2556 strikeouts and a 3.36 ERA. He was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 1989. I'll never forget, as a seven-year-old, watching the 1969 NL East division clinching win over St. Louis, and in the wild locker room celebration, Kooz got shot with champagne in the face by Tom Seaver. He walked over to Ralph Kiner and said, "This stuff burns!"
A few years ago, I heard that Kooz had bypass heart surgery, but I hope he's doing well. There are some ballplayers you never can forget, and Jerry Koosman, for me, is one of them.
Have a great birthday, Kooz!