The New York Mets have had a history of having some fairly good pitchers take the mound for them. Of course there are the obvious names – Tom Seaver, Doc Gooden, and Jacob deGrom. As well as Jerry Koosman, Jon Matlack, Ron Darling, and Sid Fernandez. And even Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana toiled for a short time…with Santana throwing the first and only no-hitter in Mets history. But there is one talented southpaw, although known by most Mets fans, he is unfortunately, and unfairly, not recognized for the same success as these other prominent Mets starters, the guy affectionately known as Little Al Jackson.
Jackson was a highly touted pitcher plunked from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the expansion draft when the Mets were born. He was an Original Met. And those 1962 Mets were bad…so bad that they lost 120 games and prompting the writer Jimmy Breslin author a book called Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game? He endured a lot that season, finishing with a record of 8 wins and 20 losses. And yet, he threw four complete game shutouts.
Jackson would win a career high 13 games against 17 losses in 1963, followed by a record of 11 wins and 16 losses in 1964, throwing 11 complete games in both seasons, with three shutouts in ’64. And then he had an identical 8-20 mark to his ’62 record in 1965 with another seven complete games, and another three shutouts. He would record a team record of 10 complete game shutouts for those four seasons, a record which would later be demolished by Seaver.
Jackson would leave the New York Mets for two seasons only to return for the team's resurgence
After the 1965 season, Jackson was traded off to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for former National League MVP Ken Boyer. While Boyer would have somewhat productive season and a half with the Mets, Jackson would have two pretty good seasons with the Cardinals, and was a part of their World Series Championship team in 1967.
Jackson would return to the Mets for the 1968 season where he was effective but pitched sparingly, mostly out of the bullpen. He began the 1969 season as a member of the Mets bullpen, but after nine games he had an ERA over 10.00 and was unceremoniously shipped off to Cincinnati. He pitched 33 games for the Reds but retired after the season.
What is truly unfortunate is that Jackson, after taking the lumps for the early Mets, didn’t get to take part in the celebration when the lovable losers became the Miracle Mets in 1969. Ed Kranepool was a teammate of Jackson’s in 1962…but Kranepool is not really one of those original Mets, having been brought up at the end of that inaugural season. Similarly, yet on the contrary, had Jackson been there at the end of the season, rather than just at the beginning, he would be considered one of those Original Mets.
After his playing days were over, Jackson was revered by young pitchers who came under his tutelage when he served as pitching coach and minor league instructor.
While Mets fans remember some obscure names like (infielder) Bobby Pfeil and (southpaw) Jack DiLauro, they forget a guy who was there at the beginning…the beginning of the ’69 season, and the VERY beginning in 1962. Jackson played a role in Mets history and although his won-lost record is a bit painful to view, his contributions meant so much more, as he was larger than his moniker “Little Al Jackson” would indicate.