Al Jackson was a little left handed pitcher that looked like the wind could blow him right off the pitching mound. He was sort of the Darren Oliver of his era. He lit up the minor leagues going 18-9 in 1958 prompting a promotion to AAA where he would post a 15-4 record in 1959. A bit of a setback in 1960 but a solid 12-7 performance in 1961 earned Jackson a callup with the Pirates. Jackson would be selected by the Mets in the 1962 expansion draft – which might have been the worst thing for the young lefty. The Mets would lose 120 games in their inaugural season, and young Mr. Jackson would account for 20 of those to go with 8 wins. And he had one of their best records – only one pitcher would finish better than .500 and Roger Craig would lose an amazing 24 games.
Things would not improve in 1963. The Mets would lose 111 games, Roger Craig would go 5-22, Jackson 13-17. 1964 would see a few changes in the rotation, but 109 losses meant more bad records. This time it would be Tracy Stallard losing 20 and Galen Cisco 19. Jackson would hold his ground with an 11-16 record. Poor Jackson would lose 20 again in 1966 as the hapless Mets lost 112 games. Jack Fisher would lead the staff with 24 losses and not even an aging Warren Spahn could do much with this band of misfits.
Then came the break Jackson needed. At the end of the 65 season, he would be traded to St. Louis for long time Cardinal hero Ken Boyer. The guy the Cardinals really wanted was Charley Smith – Jackson was just a minor part of the deal. Smith would be sent to New York at the end of the 1966 season for Roger Maris. Maris would play his last two seasons in St. Louis.
Jackson joined the 66 Cardinals rotation which featured Bob Gibson, Ray Washburn, Larry Jaster and Nelson Briles as the spot starter when the schedule dictated. There was also a 21 year old lefty named Steve Carlton that was starting to turn heads. Jackson’s fortunes would improve in St. Louis as he posts a 13-15 record with a 2.51 ERA, second among the starters behind Gibson.
Jackson would also start the 1967 season in the rotation. This brings us to April 25, where the two time 20 game loser would face Chris Zachary and the Houston Astros.
The Cardinals would jump out to a 2-0 lead when Zachary hit Roger Maris with a pitch and Tim McCarver would hit a home run to the right field power alley. Zachary would then hit Javier but the Cardinals failed to take advantage of that. In the 3rd inning, Brock would hit an oppositite field double and move to third when Curt Flood grounded out to the right side of the infield. This Cardinals team did all the little things right. Bobby Tolan would hit an infield grounder and Brock would beat the throw to the plate for the 3rd Cardinal run. The Cardinals would get another run in the 4th and Zachary’s night would be over. That’s all that the Cardinals would need.
Little Al Jackson took a no hitter into the eighth inning. Cardinal fans were listening to the game, hanging on every pitch. That’s when Bob Aspromonte led off the eighth inning with a single to left, ending Jackson’s no hitter. That’s all that Jackson would surrender on this evening. Jackson would retire the next 6 Astros for an amazing 1 hit complete game shutout, narrowly missing a no hitter.
Jackson would stay in the rotation until July 1 where he would be moved to the bullpen. He would get an occasional spot start. He finished the season 9-4 with a 3.95 ERA. Not bad for a guy that had lost 80 games before his 30th birthday.
It also shows that there is something magical that happens when you put on a Cardinal uniform.
Jackson would be sent back to the Mets as the player to be named when they acquired Jack Lamabe, who played a big part in the late pennant run.
Back in New York, Jackson would revert back to his performance in the early part of the decade. His career would end with Cincinnati in 1969.
He would lose 99 games, winning only 67. But that game on April 25, 1967 was one to remember.