Al Jackson, an original Met in 1962 who spent 50 years with the franchise, died Monday in a nursing home in Port St. Lucie, Florida. He was 83.
Jackson, who suffered a stroke in 2015, died after a long illness, according to the Mets. The Mets announced Jackson’s death on Monday afternoon.
“We are saddened to hear about the passing of Al Jackson, an original Met, who spent 50 years in a New York Met uniform," the Mets said in the statement. "He was a pitcher, major league coach, minor league pitching coordinator and front office adviser. It would be impossible to calculate the number of players and staff he touched and influenced during his career. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife, Nadine, his sons Reggie and Barry and grandchildren, Wesley and Kyle.’’
Known as “Little Al,’’ lefthanded Jackson was a 5-10, 169-pounder during his playing days who had a career record of 67-99 with a 3.98 ERA over 10 seasons with four teams from 1959-1969. He was taken by the Mets from the Pirates in the expansion draft and went 8-20 in the 1962 season when the Mets were the worst team in baseball history with a record of 40-120. Jackson had the franchise record for victories with 40 until Tom Seaver broke it in 1969. Jackson went 43-80 in six seasons over two stints with the Mets, but his former teammates said those numbers were deceiving.
“Al was a terrific pitcher,’’ said Jay Hook, a fellow pitcher who played with Jackson during the Mets' first three seasons. “He had good control, No. 1. I think he really knew how to pitch; he threw a curveball, slider, and he changed speeds.’’
“He was a great competitor,’’ said former Mets first baseman and outfielder Ed Kranepool, who socialized with Jackson away from the stadium and played basketball with him in the winters to stay in shape. “He had a good curveball; he was a good fielder.
“You had to be a pretty good pitcher to lose that many games,’’ Kranepool said. “He was in the games at the end because he did so many things well. He was a good fielder and good hitter. He didn’t throw that hard; his curveball was his best pitch.
“But he was such a nice guy. He really was. You can’t find a negative thing to say about Al Jackson.’’
Jackson tossed four shutouts in 1962 — the only shutouts the team had — and he was the pitcher of record in the Mets’ first win at Shea Stadium in 1964. He played for the Mets for their first four seasons, from 1962-65, before being traded to the Cardinals following the 1965 season. After two years with the Cardinals, he was dealt back to the Mets as the player to be named later in a trade that sent Jack Lamabe to St. Louis. Jackson appeared in 34 more games for the Mets in 1968 and ’69, mostly as a reliever. He was sold to the Reds in June of 1969 and finished his career with the Reds.
Kranepool, who said Jackson lived in Huntington for a few years after his baseball career ended, said he saw Jackson earlier this year at spring training. Kranepool, who was Jackson's teammate with the Mets for six seasons, said Jackson was in a wheelchair and “didn’t look good."
“He was always energetic, healthy,’’ Kranepool said. “It wasn’t good to see him in a wheelchair."