Jerry Koosman admits that he was terrified about being in New York at the outset of his 19-year Major League career. He had spent the better part of two decades growing up and working on a farm in rural Minnesota and life in the nation’s largest and busiest city proved to be a bit overwhelming at first.
The anxiety about New York slowly subsided, though, and Koosman, 78, went on to become of the most dominant lefties in the Major Leagues from the late 1960s through the early 1980s. He was one of the stars of the 1969 Miracle Mets and filled that role again in 1973 when ‘Ya Gotta Believe’ became the rallying cry at Shea Stadium.
Koosman, who had 222 career victories, was a gutsy, big-game pitcher who spent the first half of his career working as Tom Seaver’s wingman. While he never drew the same accolades as his Hall-of-Fame teammate, he was no less important to the Mets in terms of what he provided them for a dozen years. He was brilliant in the 1969 World Series, winning both his starts and followed that with two victories in three outings during the 1973 post-season.
So while New York may have been more than he expected early in his career, he showed time and time again that he was more than up for the challenge. He remains second in innings pitched [2,544 2/3], starts , complete games , shutouts  and batters faced [10,157] on the Mets’ all-time list. Koosman’s 140 victories are the most in club history by a lefty [third overall]. He’s also third strikeouts [1,799] and sixth in ERA [3.09].
His time in New York proved to be a wonderful run for the man known as Kooz, especially when considering the trepidation he experienced early on about the Big Apple.
“I had come from the rural area of Minnesota,” Koosman said. “When I came in there, I didn’t know anything about it [New York]. It was terrifying to go to a big city. I didn’t know anything as far as where to live, where to look; everything was new to me. You tried not to make mistakes and took a lot of advice from the people around you that knew the environment. I listened with open ears to everybody.”
“I thought I deserved the Cy Young but it’s out of my control. Seaver had won the year before and the same thing happened with Rookie of the Year. I know there were some writers that didn’t think one organization should win two in a row. I’ve heard that comment.”
The mistakes Koosman made with the Mets were few and far between. The club will honor him for what he meant to the organization by retiring his No. 36 in a ceremony at Citi Field on Aug. 28. Koosman will join Seaver, Mike Piazza, Gil Hodges, Casey Stengel and Jackie Robinson as the only people to have their number taken out of service by the club.
While Koosman’s departure from the Mets in the late 70s was a bit of a sour note, it did provide him the opportunity for a splendid second half of his career, one in which he would get to pitch in his home state. He won 39 games in three seasons for Minnesota before closing out what was an excellent career with two double-digit victory seasons for the White Sox and one for Philadelphia.
FARM BOY TO FORT BLISS TO THE MAJOR LEAGUES
Koosman grew up on the family farm and the hard work he put in there left him in excellent shape for playing sports. He loved baseball and was a big fan of the Washington Senators after they moved to Minnesota in 1961 and became the Twins.
“I listened to them all the time on the radio,” Koosman said. “I liked watching Camilo Pascual pitch. I liked the good arm that Bobby Allison had in left. I loved watching Earl Battey behind the plate tagging runners out. There were a lot of things the Twins did that were fun to watch.
“I’m watching these guys and I’m saying holy smokes, if I’m going to do that [for a living] I have a lot of work cut out for me. I said the same thing watching Robin Roberts on TV. I was amazed at his control. I thought I have a lot of work to do if I want to control the ball like he does.”
Koosman wrestled a bit, swam for a short time and even played some basketball. He tried out as quarterback for his high school team but got cut from that spot when he couldn’t attend workouts because of his responsibilities at home. He did make the team as a tackle, though, playing both sides of the ball.
He decided on going to college and started at the University of Minnesota-Morris but the school had no baseball team. While Koosman was busy deciding what his future would look like, he was drafted and ultimately wound up at Fort Bliss in Texas. Koosman’s catcher in the Army, John Luchese, was the son of a Shea Stadium usher, who informed the Mets about the hot young prospect in Texas in what has become an oft-told tale. The Mets sent scout Red Murff to watch Koosman throw but he was not the only scout there.
“We were heavily scouted by all the clubs but the ones that spoke to me were the Giants, Twins and Mets,” Koosman said. “The other teams had scouts there but those are the ones I remember that spoke to me personally. The Twins actually offered me the better contract but I turned them down. They were pennant contenders and the Mets finished 48 games out of first place. I figured that if I had the talent, I could make it quicker with the Mets. They needed the pitching more.”
He signed in late August of 1964 and the following spring he was sent to Greenville of the Western Carolinas League, where he struggled, going 5-11 with a 4.71 ERA. He was bumped up to Williamsport of the Double-A Eastern League for a pair of starts and lost them both. Still, the traits that Murff saw in him at Fort Bliss were evident and they would begin to become more obvious in 1966.
Koosman spent 1966 at Auburn of the Class-A New York-Penn League, where he went 12-7 with a league-leading 1.38 ERA. He also struck out 174 in 170 innings, developing a slider that would serve him well for two decades.
“The talent got tougher each step up,” Koosman said. “You have to be able to get the good hitters out. In the minors, there are probably three or four guys that are good Major League prospects and the rest are there to fill a team’s roster. But as you go from A to AA to AAA it gets tougher and tougher and you have to improve along with it to survive. There was a lot of difference between amateur and the military and there was a lot of difference between the military and the pros.
“Pro ball and learning the professional way was serious, things like don’t laugh when you’re losing. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know in the amateurs. In Auburn, I started to put together the stuff I learned that first year. I took what I learned and used it in Spring Training right from the beginning of the next season. I had a good year and was able to apply what I learned and the next year I was in the big leagues.”
Koosman would indeed be in the big leagues the following year. Though he had already learned a great deal, Koosman is quick to point out that he didn’t know it all, even after he broke camp with the Mets in 1967. The club was allowed to carry 28 players through the first 30 days of the season and Koosman was one of the extras.
(Original Caption) If the New York Mets have any chance to overtake the Pittsburgh Pirates, (who put a big crimp in their plans with an 8-4 win on September 2), it all rests with their pitching staff. Starters Jon Matlack, Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, (L-R), will bear the burden. Matlack goes against the Pirates on September 3rd.
He made his Major League debut in Philadelphia on April 14, throwing 2 2/3 scoreless innings while striking out a pair. He got Clay Dalrymple to ground out to first and then, after an intentional walk, he fanned opposing pitcher Chris Short to get out of the jam he inherited from Jack Fisher.
“I was in the bullpen at Connie Mack Stadium and I can still picture that little pen,” Koosman said. “It was dark and gloomy down there. I remember the phone rang and our pitching coach Harvey Haddix said for me and Ralph Terry to get up. I’m excited as heck and I was probably loose already from all the blood flowing before I even got on the mound.
“It wasn’t long before I was throwing hard. I threw a few pitches and I remember Harvey was behind the screen. He didn’t come out from behind the screen and I was still throwing hard. It was so noisy, you couldn’t hear anything. Finally, I get a tap on the shoulder and it was the umpire. Harvey had been trying to tell me I was in the game. The umpire had to walk down and tell me I was in the game.”
Koosman found out quickly, though, that he wasn’t in Auburn any longer. He threw a slider to Dick Allen in his second inning of work and the slugger sent it back to the fence in left center.
“I had an excellent slider and one pitch I threw him was my best slider and he hit it to left center,” Koosman said. “I thought, God, the year before in A ball I struck everyone out with that pitch. But here’s Richie Allen and the first time he sees it, he hits it to the wall off me. That’s when I started to realize these guys were pretty damn good and it was no time to relax.”
Koosman appeared in four more games through May 10 before getting sent down to Jacksonville of the Triple-A International League. He came back in September and made four more appearances [three starts], including the first start of his big league career on Sept. 17 at Houston, where he allowed two runs in seven innings and received a no-decision. He had two more relief outings after that and suffered the loss in both.
In between, Koosman went 11-10 with a 2.43 ERA in 25 games [22 starts] for Jacksonville. He struck out 183 in 178 innings while tossing 14 complete games.
“I felt lucky that I was able to make the club out of Spring Training,” Koosman said. “I was elated over that. But then you take a rural kid like myself, put him in New York and there is just nothing normal about New York when you come from the rural area I come from. It was a big change in environment. When I was cut, my wife and I celebrated on our way to Jacksonville because we were leaving New York. It was difficult trying to make that adjustment overnight.”
ON HIS WAY TO THE TOP OF THE WORLD
Koosman certainly contributed to 1968 being labeled the year of the pitcher, going 19-12 with a 2.08 ERA in 35 games [34 starts]. He tossed 17 complete games, seven of which were shutouts, and made the National League All-Star team. He finished 13th in the National League MVP voting and second in the Rookie-of-the-Year voting to Johnny Bench, though a very strong argument could be made for giving the award to Koosman.
There was a strong indication as to the kind of season Koosman would have through his first four starts. He went 4-0 with three complete games and 1.04 ERA in April.
“I worked hard and I was happy to be there,” Koosman said. “We left Spring Training and we went to Palm Springs to play exhibition games against the Giants. We opened the season in San Francisco and when it came my turn to pitch, Martin Luther King was killed and the game was called off. So, I got pushed back and pitched against the Dodgers [in Los Angeles].
“It was kind of a big deal for our club because [new manager] Gil Hodges played for the Dodgers and Gil really wanted to beat [Dodger manager] Walt Alston. You could really tell. I was lucky enough to shut them out on four singles.”
Koosman started six days later in New York’s home-opener against San Francisco. Willie Mays’ return to New York was always big news and Koosman was in trouble quickly. Former Met Ron Hunt led off the game with a single. Jim Davneport then reached on an AL Weiss error. A walk to Willie McCovey followed and suddenly Koosman was facing Mays with the bases loaded and no one out.
“Willie Mays comes up and I strike him out on a fastball [looking],” Koosman said. “Then Jim Ray Hart pops up and I get Jack Hyatt next on a strikeout and we went on to win. It was a huge game for me in New York. Everyone got to know who I was in a game like that. Willie Mays was a star in New York and it was something to beat the Giants in New York. I had two shutouts in a row so I was off to a pretty good start.”
Koosman saw his shutout streak end at 21 innings when Houston’s Bob Aspromonte’s two-out double in the fourth inning of his next start scored Rusty Staub. It was one of only four hits he allowed.
“That one run was a fastball down and away and Bob Aspromonte hit a double and screwed up my shutout,” Koosman said. “That one pitch cost me. It [his start to the season] wasn’t easy, though. I worked my butt off. I needed every pitch to get through those games. It’s not like I never got in trouble. I wasn’t getting many runs and we were always one pitch away from losing.”
Koosman said the height of the mound, which would be lowered in 1969, played a factor in his dominant start. The mound at Dodger Stadium was notoriously high – and Koosman said he felt as if he was three feet high – and that he nearly fell on his face from the drop off on his first few warm-up pitches.
Such troubles were not prevalent for much of the season. Koosman was cruising until the end of August when he had his worst stretch of the year. He finished 3-5 in his final eight starts with a 5.28 ERA in the losses. Still, he narrowly finished behind Bench in the Rookie-of-the-Year voting, 10.5 vote points to 9.5 vote points. Koosman handled Bench easily that season, too, holding him to a .231 average [3-for-13, all singles] with an RBI and four strikeouts.
Entertainer and Met fan Pearl Bailey celebrates as she meets Jerry Koosman of the New York Mets after Game Five of the 1969 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles October 16, 1969 at Shea Stadium in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images)
It is quite possible that more ink has been spilled in regards to the 1969 Mets than just about any other team in baseball history. The season remains a part of every member of that team and something that they have happily carried as individuals for decades. Koosman is no exception.
“It’s brought up all the time so you never have a chance to not think about it,” Koosman said. “It gets brought up every day whether it’s fan mail, phone calls, or conversations. I suppose if I didn’t have a good career it wouldn’t be brought up so much but it has been instilled in the minds of so many people. We were 100-1 odds when the season started and Casey Stengel said it was a miracle but it really wasn’t. We just had a lot of good play by a lot of good players.”
While that may be the case, the Mets were still coming off a ninth-place finish in the final year before divisional play began. Though Hodges’ guidance and the core of young players like Koosman, Seaver and Cleon Jones helped the club improve by 12 games from 1967 to ’68, expectations were not high heading into ’69.
The players weren’t talking World Series either, aiming more for respectability. Combine that with the fact that New York began the season 11-10, including an Opening Day loss to the expansion Montreal Expos and title talk wasn’t prevalent. They lost seven of eight after taking the final two games of the Montreal series but things began to improve slightly as May progressed. The Mets were 18-18 on May 21, the latest in the season they had ever been at .500. Shortly thereafter they ran off 11 consecutive victories and all of a sudden winning was now considered a possibility.
“We had no thoughts of winning that year,” Koosman said. “You always have high hopes in Spring Training but winning the pennant didn’t enter our minds until June when we had that winning streak. Then we thought we’re good enough to beat anybody. Every win builds confidence and when you win 10 in a row your confidence is pretty high and we became a closer and better team then. When you win 10 in a row, you’re doing a lot of little things right.
“That’s how winning clubs keep on winning. It’s because of those little things we were learning and we had the greatest teacher in Gil Hodges.”
New York Mets Pitchers Jerry Koosman #36 (l) and Tom Seaver #41 (r) flank Washington Senators manager Ted Williams before the All-Star Game at RFK Stadium on July 23, 1969 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images)
Koosman also said that he and Seaver and the rest of the starters fed off each other that year. He said if Seaver struck out the side, he tried to do it on fewer pitches. If Seaver struck out 11, Koosman tried to get 12. Koosman said there were games between the starters that the rest of the team didn’t know about and eventually Tug McGraw got the bullpen involved and that created a competition amongst everyone on the staff.
“That made our staff better,” Koosman said.
That staff led the Mets to a 100-win season. And while Seaver would win the first of his three Cy Young Awards, Koosman was just as important a cog, going 17-9 with a 2.28 ERA, tossing 16 complete games with six shutouts. And unlike 1968, he finished strong, going 8-1 in his last 11 starts with a 2.35 ERA over that stretch.
Koosman would also begin to earn his reputation as a big-game pitcher in the World Series. He picked up the victory in Game 2 after Baltimore defeated Seaver in the series opener. Koosman took a no-hitter into the seventh, allowing both hits that inning, and went 8 2/3 as New York earned a 2-1 victory to even the series.
“Game One was a close game and Tom pitched well,” Koosman said. “My thinking in the second game was that I didn’t want to go back to New York 0-2. Facing their lineup was like facing an All-Star team. It never got to a point, though, that it was just another game. One of my goals was to pitch a no-hitter in the World Series and get a hit every time up. I wanted to beat Don Larsen’s record. When I didn’t get my first hit it was well, I didn’t get that wish but I did have the no-hitter going. And when Paul Blair got the grounder, there went the no-hitter and that’s out of your mind. Now you have to get the shutout and once you lose that you want to get the win. It was a process of elimination but not in a good way. It was a bad way because you were losing some of the incentives you had before the game.”
Koosman would also pitch the Game Six clincher, going the distance in a 5-3 victory after overcoming Baltimore’s three-run third. He got Davey Johnson to fly out to Cleon in Jones in left to close out the game, completing the miracle season and permanently cementing his place in New York baseball lore. While Donn Clendenon won the series MVP [three HR, five RBI] it just as easily could have gone to Koosman, who had a 2.04 ERA in 17 2/3 innings.
POST MIRACLE, LOSING HODGES AND YOU GOTTA BELIEVE
The Mets stay atop the baseball world didn’t last very long. While they didn’t revert back to being the lovable losers they were prior to 1969, they followed the miracle with a trio of third-place finishes. Injuries hampered Koosman in 1970 and ’71 and early mechanical issues with his delivery held him back early in 1972.
Koosman went 12-7 with a 3.14 ERA in 30 games [29 starts] but missed time after getting hit in the mouth with a Gary Gentry line drive during batting practice on June 7 in Cincinnati. Koosman, who lost consciousness, broke his jaw and was out for six weeks. He tore a rhomboid muscle in San Francisco in 1971 and appeared in only 26 games [24 starts] while pitching to a 3.04 ERA.
He appeared in 34 games, only 24 of which were starts in 1972, and recorded his lowest innings pitched total in a full season as a Met .
“I got hit with a line drive while running in the outfield and tore my rhomboid and was on the DL for six weeks,” Koosman said. “I had sprained ankles. I had these injuries and they are part of the game. I probably missed well over a year in my career because of injuries. If I don’t have them I have that many more starts and hopefully a better record.”
Physically injuries were just part of the issue as 1972 unfolded. Koosman and his teammates suffered an emotional blow that sent the organization into a spiral. Hodges suffered a fatal heart attack on April 2 and it was as if the club’s soul was ripped out. Those outside of New York would never understand what Hodges meant to the city, the organization and the players. It was a devastating blow that changed the course of the franchise’s history. Yogi Berra was named as Hodges’ replacement.
“1972 and probably the next year were a wash, maybe longer,” said Koosman, who finished 11-12 with a 4.14 ERA [the highest ERA he would have as a Met]. “It was that much of a shock to our team. We were lost for quite a while. Gil was an excellent commander of the baseball team. He was strict but we all loved him.
“Yogi tried to keep up with the tradition stuff but he did it in a much different way. The strictness wasn’t there as much and it was a looser club as far as being more at ease with Yogi. I don’t blame that on Yogi. Maybe he made the lineups out different that Gil, maybe he brought I relievers different than Gil and other little things like that that changed. It wasn’t all one thing.”
Koosman got off to a hot start in 1973, going 4-0 with a 1.06 ERA in April. While he finished with a 2.84 ERA, his best since 1969, he went 10-15 in his next 25 decisions. His season was indicative of the crazy year the Mets and the rest of the National League East would endure.
(Original Caption) 9/24/1969-New York, NY- Up until 9:07 pm,the greatest achievement of man may well have been the landing on the moon,but that's all changed now,at least for a great many baseball fans. At that time the New York Mets-the sport's eight-year-old put-on-won the National League's Eastern Division title.After the team's 6-0 clincher over the St.Louis Cardinals, Mets' mound mainstays Jerry Koosman (l, 16-9) and Tom Seaver(24-7) try to drown themselves in champagne.
Injuries plagued the Mets for much of the year and Berra’s managerial style and decisions were being questioned more and more. New York was 11.5 games out on August 5 and appeared headed for an abysmal ending before rallying to win the division with an 82-79 record. Seaver was one of the lone individual bright spots, going 19-10 with a league-leading 2.08 ERA to win his second Cy Young Award.
Cincinnati was heavily favored in the National League Championship Series but once again the Mets pulled off a monumental post-season upset, stunning the Reds in five games. Koosman enhanced his post-season and big-game reputation by striking out nine and going the distance in a Game 3 victory in which he allowed only two runs.
“1969 was still in the back of our minds and we were constantly trying to match ’69 and those stats and winning,” Koosman said. “At least we knew what we had to strive for. ’73 was a tough year in our division. It was a year that we had a lot of injuries and we were never able to play a long series of games with our starting lineup. We struggled all year to keep our heads above water. We didn’t give anyone reason to believe we were pennant contenders. Luckily our division was pretty well-balanced and we won.
“We were huge underdogs in the playoffs, but good pitching is still good pitching and it gets out good hitting. We arrived in October when the cool weather sets in and we had the good pitching staff. I didn’t look at the playoffs as me being a big-game pitcher. I looked at it more like a responsibility. I didn’t want to let the team or the fans down. I always looked at failure. I didn’t want to fail in big games. I was scared to lose. Now we go and face another All-Star team in Oakland so the pressure is never gone.”
While the Mets pitching was once again making the difference in the Series – New York held a held a 3-2 lead in the Series after Koosman pitched them to a Game 5 victory – so was Berra’s managing. There have been all kinds of stories about how Seaver talked his way into starting Game 6 on short rest with other stories that it was Berra’s decision alone. Many at the time believed Berra should have started George Stone in Game 6 and have a fully rested Seaver ready for Game 7.
Seaver started Game 6, though, the Mets lost and then dropped the finale to lose the Series.
“He moved Seaver up a day, so Seaver pitched on one day less rest,” Koosman said. “There are different reasons for that. I’ve heard different stories but I wasn’t there personally. Evidently, Seaver talked his way into pitching and wanted to pitch that closeout game. Had Stoney pitched and we lost, we still would have had Seaver come back the next game. By pitching Seaver first, you have your best pitcher pitching on one day less rest. They kind of jumped the gun a bit. A day of rest is a lot when you have close to 300 innings pitched.”
The New York loss also brought with it the end of Willie Mays’ incredible career. He had announced his retirement a month earlier and this was a farewell tour of sorts. He began his career in 1951 in the World Series and closed it out in the same fashion 22 years later, losing each time to a dynastic team.
Koosman looked at the year and a half he spent as Mays’ teammate as something special.
“That was the highlight of my life to play with the best player you ever saw,” Koosman said. “When you’re on the mound and you turn around at the start of the game and see Willie Mays in center field, it puts an extra feather in your hat. Plus it was fun watching him play. I never missed one single at-bat or a time on base. I loved him.
“He was such an instinctive player. The little things he did were just amazing. One time he slides home and it was on a dry field, one that didn’t get watered a lot. He slides in and there is this big cloud of dust and you don’t even see him. You run up to the end of the dugout to see him when he comes in and the only dirt he has is on the edge of his cap. There was such a big cloud, he should have had dirt all over him but there was just a little scrape on his cap. That’s how good he was, he was so smooth.”
WHAT JUST HAPPENED HERE
What would not be smooth, however, was the next decade in Queens. New York would have its moments over the next few seasons but overall the franchise was headed into a tailspin. The bright spots, however, remained the top of the rotation. Seaver won his third Cy Young in 1975, edging out San Diego’s Randy Jones.
Koosman won went 21-10 with a 2.69 ERA in 1976 but this time Jones [22-14, 2.74 ERA] won the Cy Young Award.
“’76 was my best year as far as concentration,” Koosman said. “My dad died during Spring Training and it was a big shock to me. He was my number one fan. We were very close and when he died my concentration, it was like his spirit was on my right shoulder every pitch I made. I was never able to get that deep concentration like that again. The last 10 years I pitched I could tell you every pitch I threw in order, that was the kind of concentration I had but ’76 was way above that.
(Photo: Getty Images)
“I thought I deserved the Cy Young but it’s out of my control. Seaver had won the year before and the same thing happened with Rookie of the Year. I know there were some writers that didn’t think one organization should win two in a row. I’ve heard that comment.”
The 1977 season could be considered the low point in the organization’s history. Seaver, who was feuding with management and some members of the media, and slugger Dave Kingman were traded in the famed “Midnight Massacre” as the Mets put an inferior product on the field in an effort to shed payroll. Koosman remained and without support went 8-20 with a 3.49 ERA. Koosman is one of seven pitchers, and the last, to have ever won 20 one year and lost 20 the next. He followed that up by going 3-15 with a 3.75 ERA in 1978.
“I don’t remember much of ’77 but things got bad,” Koosman said. “We had a change in personnel and we didn’t have a good ball club. We couldn’t score runs and we just couldn’t compete. We weren’t on the same playing level and it showed. When you’re not scoring runs, you are out of the game early. Twice I was pinch hit for with the score 0-0 and you’re saying okay, give me a chance to throw a shutout.
“The team was rebuilding and it was going to take quite a while, four or five years, and I weighed all that. I didn’t want to play for a loser for four of five years. It’s not good for your mind, your soul or your heart. I wanted to play for a contender and get back to normal baseball. I didn’t want to be on another rebuilding team. Not that I had anything against the Mets, but with the amount of years I had in, I didn’t want to be on a rebuilding team and that team just happened to be the Mets.”
The Mets, at least, did Koosman a huge favor when they traded him to Minnesota on Dec. 8, 1978 for Greg Fields and a player to be named later. That player, which the Mets received later that winter, turned out to be Jesse Orosco, who would go on to become the only other pitcher to be on the mound for New York when it won a World Series. He recorded the final out in 1986 when the Mets defeated the Red Sox.
Koosman said going from New York to Minnesota was “huge”. Being home, having less press with which to deal and a relaxed environment in which to pitch proved to be a panacea for everything that ailed him the previous two seasons. Koosman was 7-0 in his first eight starts and went 20-13 with a 3.38 ERA in 1979 to finish sixth in the American League Cy Young voting. He followed that up with a 16-13 season in 1980.
“That uniform [Minnesota] felt good,” Koosman said. “Playing for the team I grew up with in the early 60s, listening to every day, it was good to put that uniform on.”
Koosman’s fortunes changed in 1981, though. He was 3-9 with a 4.20 ERA when Minnesota traded him to the White Sox on Aug. 30. He went 1-4 with a 3.33 ERA down the stretch for Chicago but would go 22-14 over the next two seasons in a split role between the pen and the rotation for the Sox, who traded him to the Phillies in the winter of 1984.
“I go to the White Sox and I’m used completely different again,” Koosman said. “I was starting and I was relieving and it was a whole different role so I wasn’t settled into one thing. I loved pitching in Chicago, though. I loved pitching on every team I was on.
“Then I get to Philly and that was another great trade. I was a Steve Carlton fan and I loved Mike Schmidt. They had a good club, it was a wonderful organization and I had a good time there.”
Koosman went 14-15 with a 3.25 ERA in 36 games [34 starts] for the Phils in 1984. He was 6-4 with a 4.62 ERA in 18 games in 1985 before a knee injury shut him down and forced him into retirement.
“I hurt my knee and that’s kind of what ended my career,” Koosman said. “The doctor told me if I kept pitching I’d be 80 percent crippled. After retiring, though, my knee was fine and I should have stayed in the game.”
Koosman doesn’t watch much baseball these days, preferring golf and football. He said he doesn’t have the patience to watch a baseball game any longer.
“I was a fast pitcher,” he said. “My games averaged 2:10, 2:15. Today you’re in the fourth or fifth inning at that point and it just wears you out. Everyone has gloves and guards they adjust and the pitchers take too long. It’s just slow all the way around in most games.”