|Here's the image I use with my song, on YouTube.|
The 1969 World Series is part of that special tapestry of boomers' memories. It's up there with the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. It's up there with the first walk on the moon. In fact, that stroll on the moon was in the same year as the "Miracle Mets." One of the most important players on that Mets team was Jerry Koosman.
You're familiar with the Met Lounge in Morris, aren't you? How many of you know the background behind the name? It's directly connected to that 1969 Mets team. Koosman has his roots out here in West Central Minnesota. He's a graduate of the West Central School of Agriculture, the predecessor to today's UMM.
Let's keep alive those golden memories of the 1969 Mets and Koosman. A parade was held here in '69 to celebrate him. I played in the high school band. Our director was John Woell. I remember Woell saying "you may never be in the national news again." It was a grand day. Halsey Hall was here.
The Met Lounge took on its name to hopefully keep alive the memories. It has been a long time. I have written a song to celebrate those joy-filled days in the fall of 1969. It was the year we reached the moon and when the New York Mets threw off the shackles of "lovable loser."
Us boomers grew up equating the Mets with futility. That's why our eyes bugged open wide as we noticed in late-summer of '69 that something quite fascinating was happening. Those Mets in their light blue-colored uniforms had turned from a frog into a prince, as it were. We were fascinated seeing "Koosman and His Mighty Mets" advance through the playoffs and into the World Series. The World Series! The Series still had special allure in '69 - it was something that everyone on the street and in the coffee shops talked about.
"Koosman and His Mighty Mets" is the name of my song. I wrote it in the winter of 2015. I had it recorded at the Nashville TN studio of Franklin "Frank" Michels. Frank can play just about any musical instrument. I invite you to give a listen to my song by clicking on the link below. The song is on YouTube.
Koosman pitched the concluding Game 5 in the '69 Series. He actually was not the marquee pitcher for the '69 Mets. That distinction was owned by Tom Seaver. Seaver had the All-American boy image. Koosman had the country hick in the big league image.
Jerry didn't mind at all being known as a country boy. Our WCSA campus was in the pastoral setting of West Central Minnesota. As a Met in '69, Jerry was at the pinnacle, producing heroics in the biggest, most abuzz population center and media hotspot in the world! There he was, our Jerry Koosman. I so remember the calm and resolute look on his face as he prepared for the next pitch. I assume that Curt Gowdy was at the TV microphone. Probably with Tony Kubek. I believe Mickey Mantle was on the pregame show. I remember the theme music.
It might be easy to forget that our Minnesota Twins won the American League West title in 1969. In 1968 the pitchers dominated everywhere, prompting some concern and changes for '69 including a lowered pitching mound. The bats made more noise in 1969. Cleon Jones was an outstanding hitter for the Mets. My song includes infielders' names but doesn't get out to the outfield. I also write about catcher Jerry Grote who I understand has been a lifelong personal friend of Koosman.
A summer of leaping forward
How dramatic was the Mets' rise in 1969? Consider: the Mets had never finished higher than ninth place in a ten-team league in their first seven seasons! As an expansion team, they went 40-120 in 1962. The Mets never had been over .500 after the ninth game of any season. They started out 18-23 in '69. They took off with an eleven-game win streak. Starting with their 42nd game, they went 82-39, an impressive .678 winning percentage.
Many fans thought it was "the year of the Cubs." The Mets were in second most of the season behind the Cubs. They were in third, nine and a half games back, on August 13! They won 14 of their last 17 games during August, and 24 of their 32 games during September and October, to surge past the Cubs. They finished 100-62, eight games ahead of the beleaguered Cubs with manager Leo Durocher. The Mets' manager was Gil Hodges.
Note: This was the first season of the divisional format.
I seem to remember an aftershave commercial set in the Mets' locker room, in which we saw both Gil and Jerry. The Mets played their home games at Shea Stadium. Many of the surviving members of the '69 team gathered at Citi Field for a reunion in 2009.
I mention Donn Clendenon in my song. Clendenon was named the 1969 Series MVP on the strength of his .357 batting average, three home runs and four RBIs. My song acknowledges infielders Clendenon, Ken Boswell, Bud Harrelson and Ed Charles. I acknowledge Charles' contact with Jackie Robinson when Ed was a young boy. No doubt some special inspiration was gained. Ed as a boy is portrayed in the movie about Robinson, called "42."
Koosman supplied inspiration for all those farm boys out there. I remember Jerry saying at the time: "You can take the boy out of the country but you can't take the country out of the boy." I suggest in my song that Jerry acquired a lot of his strength "pitching hay." I have no idea if Jerry ever actually pitched hay. Songwriter's license.
I totally enjoyed this endeavor of writing the Jerry Koosman song. I wrote most of it in a very short timespan. Two other verses came to me later, including the one with Jerry Grote's name. I really wanted to work Grote in. "The name of Jerry Grote makes me pine for those old times, when a pack of baseball cards would cost me just a dime." Yes, and it was before the strike, or work stoppage, or lockout, or whatever it was in 1994.
I think of major league baseball in the past tense.
Jerry has had some adversity in his post-baseball life. We'd all love to trade places with him anyway. Oh, to have the whole Big Apple mesmerized by your talents! Being president of the U.S. couldn't be any better. For the record, Richard Nixon was our president in 1969. "Koosman and His Mighty Mets" was the headlining attraction in 1969, ahead of the moon walk and certainly ahead of "Tricky Dick."
If only we could wave a magic wand and have the Viet Nam war disappear from reality and our history books.