Jerry Koosman is one of the greatest starting pitchers in New York Mets history. Like many pitchers, his early days were spent coming out of the bullpen. His MLB debut on April 14, 1967, featured a relief appearance in a very-early-Mets-like game against the Philadelphia Phillies.
After 2.1 innings of work, Mets starter Jack Fisher was running into even more trouble. The Phillies were already ahead 3-0 and after an RBI double by Cookie Rojas, it was Koosman’s time to step on the mound for the first time.
Jerry Koosman made his MLB debut for the Mets in a relief appearance
The first batter Koosman faced was Clay Dalrymple. A groundout to first base ended his at-bat and brought the second out of the inning. Koosman then intentionally walked the second hitter he ever faced, Tony Taylor, in favor of pitching to the opposing pitcher. Chris Short then stepped up to the plate and Koosman earned his first MLB strikeout.
Koosman didn’t get himself into much trouble. Starting the fourth, he issued a walk to John Briggs who would later steal second base with two outs. A groundout from Phillies slugger Johnny Callison ended the inning.
Back on the mound for the fifth, Koosman retired the three hitters he faced in order. His day was done after 2.2 innings of work in what would become a 5-1 Mets loss.
Losing was something Koosman had to get used to early on. In all nine of his appearances for the Mets in 1967, New York was on the losing side. He wouldn’t actually start a game until September 17 when, after six relief appearances, he was 0-0 with a 3.97 ERA. He delivered seven innings against the Houston Astros while allowing only 2 runs. He left the game with the Mets trailing 2-1. A pair of Mets runs late gave them a 3-2 lead. A walk-off single against Ron Taylor in the ninth continued a streak for Koosman that would stretch into his final two appearances. In those outings, Koosman actually added the loss to his record.
Sometimes, when you’re not getting much help, you have to do it all yourself. Koosman won his first four starts of the 1968 season beginning with a shutout against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 11. On April 17, he tossed another shutout against the San Francisco Giants.
This was the start of a 19-12, 2.08 ERA and the first of 222 career wins. Koosman had 140 of them take place as a member of the Mets.