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Five decades later, Mets recall Jerry Koosman’s No. 36

Five decades later, Mets recall Jerry Koosman’s No. 36

With Jerry Koosman on the mound, it was never too late for the 1969 New York Mets.

More than five decades later, the franchise awarded the big game southpaw with its highest distinction.

Koosman became the fifth player or coach to be stripped of his uniform by the Mets on Saturday night, with his number 36 unveiled alongside posters honoring Mike Piazza, Tom Seaver, Gil Hodges and Casey Stengel.

“Humbly grateful they thought so much of me to pick up my number,” Koosman said. “I know I will join a great team that has already retired.”

The 78-year-old Koosman was supposed to be honored last season, but the ceremony was postponed due to the pandemic. Instead, he was greeted by the chant “Kooz!” on a cool night in Queens before Saturday’s game against the Washington Nationals.

His No. 36 was posted all over Citi Field, including on the pitcher’s mound and the home run block in center field. The iconic photo of him leaping into the arms of catcher Jerry Grote after the final out of the 1969 World Series overlaid his number 36 on the video screen.

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Koosman was joined by 11 family members, including his four grandchildren, as well as his former teammates Wayne Garrett, Ed Kranepool and Art Shamsky. Piazza, whose number 31 was the previous number retired by the Mets in 2016, was the last to speak before Koosman’s number was revealed in the stands at the third base line.

“Jerry, welcome home,” Piazza said. “This is your house and this is your family.”

Koosman and his close friend Seaver made their debut with the Mets in 1967 and quickly helped turn the laughing stock franchise into a World Series champion.

The pair combined to go 11-1 with a 1.63 ERA and 11 complete games in 14 starts in September 1969 when the Mets went 24-8 to make up a 4½-game deficit in the NL East and win the division by eight games.

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Koosman allowed six runs against the Atlanta Braves in his only start in the National League Championship Series before winning both of his World Series starts against the Baltimore Orioles. After tying the series by pitching 8 2/3 innings in Game 2, the southpaw pitched for five hits in Game 5 to cap the miraculous rise from worst to first for the Mets, who never lost less than 89 games. in its first seven seasons.

“There’s an old saying: good pitching comes from good hitting,” Koosman said. “So that’s what happened and our pitching took over.”

Seaver had the Mets withdraw his number in 1988, but plans to do the same with Koosman were not announced until September 2019. Seaver died on August 31, 2020 of complications from Lewy body dementia and COVID-19.

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Koosman pitched 12 seasons for the Mets, ranking second in complete games (108), third in wins (140) and strikeouts (1,799) and sixth in ERA (3.09).

He almost helped the Mets win another unlikely championship in 1973, when New York rose from last place in late August to Game 7 of the World Series against the Oakland Athletics dynasty. Koosman was 2-0 with a 3.55 ERA in three postseason starts.

“It’s safe to say that in 60 years, the Mets have never had a better money pitcher than Jerry Koosman,” Mets radio man Howie Rose said during Saturday’s ceremony. (ESPNDEPORTES)

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