Jerry Koosman ‘humbly thankful’ for jersey retirement, reflects on fake trade prank on Tom Seaver
It’s been long overdue, but almost 43 years since he last pitched for the Mets, Jerry Koosman’s No. 36 will hang in the Citi Field rafters and will never be worn again by a Met.
Koosman met with reporters to discuss his feelings on having his number retired, and reflected on his stellar career in New York.
“Humbly thankful that they thought that much of me to retire my number,” Koosman said before Saturday’s ceremony. “I know I’m joining a great crew that’s already had their numbers retired. I don’t know that I deserve it, but I guess we’re gonna get on with it.”
Koosman is now the third person to have his number retired in honor of his Mets’ playing career, joining former teammate Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza.
The lefty was on the mound for the final out of the 1969 World Series and played an integral role in bringing the team back to the fall classic in 1973.
Playing in October, Koosman said, obviously crack the list of some of his best memories. But the black cat game against the Chicago Cubs is also up there.”
“The night the cat came out when we were playing the Cubs, that will stick with me for quite a while. Somebody brings up a subject, and you think of something. There’s 1,000 memories,” he said.
But even off the field, Koosman made plenty of memories with his teammates – including the one time he tricked Seaver and Ed Kanepool into thinking they were traded to the Houston Astros.
Koosman had snuck a friend into the clubhouse and announce the fake trade through a radio in a “perfect” Howard Cosell voice.
“Seaver just went white…” Koosman said. “I go up to Seaver to hold my hand out and shake his hand, and he’s just kind of standing there, like he’d seen a ghost. I kept my hand out there, he finally raised his and he just gave me that little dead-fish, two-finger shake. … He just couldn’t talk. He was stunned. … Kranepool was breaking bats in his locker.”
1969 brought the franchise their first World Series – they had trailed by 9.5 games pretty late that season, and fought all the way back.
Koosman said the rotation carried them to the Commissioner’s Trophy.
“The thing I remember the most was it was a hot summer, and long about the first of September, we felt that cool breeze, that drier air kind of blow in, and that gives a pitcher a second wind. Those dog days of summer, we call them, and then when you can get by them, it just, you feel like you’re rejuvenated. So those cooler days came around, our pitching got better, we were refreshed, and it showed. We dominated in pitching that last month big time.”
Ten of Koosman’s family members will be in attendance on Saturday night, as well as some former teammates. As some, most notably Seaver, have passed, it’s a whirlwind of emotions for Koosman.
“[I’m feeling] all of the emotions. Excitement, humbling feeling. I don’t know that I deserve it, but to be up there with these other greats, it’s quite a feather in your cap.”