My “Al Jackson Story”

Mets fans who are readers of mainstream and social media no doubt found many detailed tributes to Al Jackson today. Jackson, an original Met, passed away yesterday at the age of eighty-three. My husband, a rabid reader in general and a consistent consumer of Mets-related media, began reading the tributes to Jackson as they began to pour in online late last night. At that time, he remarked to me, “It appears to me that every beat writer and Mets blogger has his or her own personal Al Jackson story.”

Providing consistently insightful, elegantly written, and often moving posts chronicling all things Mets, Greg Prince of Faith and Fear in Flushing did not disappoint in his tribute. In it, he alludes to the late pitcher’s longevity and devotion to the Mets. Prince’s detailed description of Jackson’s long tenure with the team, along with the title of the post–“Family Man”–conjured, for this reader, an image of an athlete who had experienced challenges resembling those of a parent.

Jackson had been there from the team’s conception, earliest contractions and painful birth, had experienced the mind-numbing weariness and frequent exasperation that accompanied its infancy, had endured the “terrible twos” (and “threes”), its hormone-addled adolescence, and had stayed long enough to witness the team reach some manner of maturity and responsibility.

Jackson was one of thirteen children. He is survived by two sons and two grandsons. Similarly, his baseball “family tree” has many branches with countless connections to current and former players, coaches, staff, and media personnel.

In the very same year that the Mets were born in New York, I was born in Kansas. My connection with the Mets family would come much later in my adult life. Even so, I too have an Al Jackson story:

My family and I travelled to Port Saint Lucie for Mets Spring Training games in 2011. Having seen Al Jackson with the other pitching coaches seated near the mounds just outside the third base line, my husband pointed out Jackson to my daughter and me. He told us that he had seen Jackson play and that Jackson had been an original Met.

Armed with this info, before the start of the game, my daughter walked down to the row of seats just above where Jackson was seated, got his attention, and politely asked him for an autograph.

He obliged, signing the baseball she proffered. As he did so, she mentioned that her Dad had seen him pitch for the Mets. According to her, Jackson smiled broadly, wryly asking, “Are you sure that wasn’t your GRANDDADDY who saw me pitch?!”

These photos captured that special moment. May Al Jackson’s family and friends be blessed and comforted with the memory of their own Al Jackson stories.