Jim Cosman (THE TOPPS COMPANY)

Jim Cosman

This article was written by Eric Vickrey

Jim Cosman (THE TOPPS COMPANY)Jim Cosman threw a two-hit shutout in his major-league debut on the final day of the 1966 season and appeared in 10 games for the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals in 1967, going 1-0 with a 3.16 ERA. The tall right-hander threw his last big-league pitch as a member of the Chicago Cubs in 1970. Difficulty finding the strike zone in his limited opportunities kept Cosman from establishing a foothold in the majors.

James “Jim” Henry Cosman was born on February 19, 1943 in Brockport, New York, a small town near Rochester. Jim was the second child born to Ward and Betty (née Blossom), following an older sister named Gail. Betty was a schoolteacher while Ward worked as a salesman. When Jim was one year old, the family relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, where Ward managed a retail liquor store.1

By age 12, Jim was pitching for a Nashville Little League All-Star team.2 When Jim was 15, a neighbor arranged for him to become a batboy for the Nashville Volunteers, a Class AA team in the Southern Association.3 The team was managed by Dick Sisler and its ace starting pitcher was future Cincinnati Red Jim O’Toole. O’Toole lived with the Cosman family during his time in Nashville.

Jim attended Father Ryan High School in Nashville where he played baseball for three years. During the summers following his junior and senior years, he played for Nashville Bridge Company (often referred to as “Nabrico”), an amateur club in the Gilbert Junior League. The team was managed by former St. Louis Brown George Archie, whom Jim had met working for the Vols. “You can’t run or hit, but you can throw. Maybe you can pitch,” Archie had told Jim.4

Cosman enrolled at Middle Tennessee State University and pitched for the freshman team in the spring of 1962. As one reporter described, the 6-foot-4 Cosman had developed from a “chunky, awkward batboy four years ago to a strapping, muscular, well-coordinated young man.”5

In June 1962, Cosman attended a Pittsburgh Pirates tryout camp in Kingsport, Tennessee, home of a Pirates short-season Class D team. Scout Jim Burns was impressed enough to sign Cosman to a $1,500 bonus.6 A few days later, Pirates general manager Joe L. Brown visited the camp and saw Cosman pitch three innings in an exhibition. “I didn’t think I’d had a bad day, I got ‘em out,” Cosman later recalled.7 Nonetheless, on June 24, just nine days after signing, Brown instructed Kingsport to release Cosman.

Cosman drove back to Nashville and quickly turned his dejection into motivation. He re-joined Archie’s Nabrico squad and dominated the league. In 57 innings, he struck out 110, posted a record of 9-1, and led the league with a 1.10 ERA.8 Archie arranged for St. Louis Cardinals scout Buddy Lewis to see him pitch, and Lewis signed Cosman to a $700 per month contract for the 1963 season.9

St. Louis assigned Cosman to the Class A Brunswick (Georgia) Cardinals in the Georgia-Florida League. Brunswick’s manager was George Kissell. He’d achieve legend status in the organization for his player development skills. Cosman pitched in 27 games, including 11 starts, posted a respectable 4.07 ERA, and struck out 84 batters in 73 innings. However, his record was an uninspiring 1-9. “George kept pitching me,” Cosman later said. “He’d tell me, ‘Keep your ears and eyes open, your mouth shut and hum the ball.’”10 Kissell went to bat for Cosman at organizational meetings after the season and recommended the Cardinals stick with the youngster. Kissell explained why he vouched for Cosman: “For every half-dozen grapefruits he threw, he’d throw a ball as small as an aspirin. Besides, I not only liked him and his solid family background, but I liked his eagerness and competitive spirit.”11

Cosman started the 1964 season with the Rock Hill (South Carolina) Cardinals, a Class A team in the Western Carolinas League. In 17 starts, he compiled a 12-1 record with a miniscule 1.19 ERA and 147:43 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His 19-year-old teammate, lefty Steve Carlton, posted an equally impressive 10-1 record and 1.01 ERA. Besides his impressive pitching, Cosman served as the team’s first base coach when he wasn’t playing and even managed a couple of games when regular skipper Hal Smith was absent due to illness.12 In July, Cosman was sent to the Class A Raleigh Cardinals in the Carolina League where he was reunited with Kissell. Cosman experienced some fatigue in his throwing arm and struggled to a 1-3 record and 5.59 ERA in eight games.13 That off-season, he pitched for the Cardinals team in the Florida East Coast Instructional League, going 4-2 with a 2.90 ERA in nine appearances, six of them starts. He also got married, exchanging vows with Sandra “Sandee” Lynn Gardner. Jim had met Sandee, whose father played minor league ball, the year before in Brunswick.

Cosman moved up the organizational ladder to the Class AA Tulsa Oilers in the Texas League for the 1965 season. All but three of Cosman’s 44 appearances came in relief. He had a 5-4 record, 2.55 ERA, and allowed just one home run in 74 innings. Following the season, Cosman returned to Florida and again pitched in the instructional league, going 2-5 with a 4.00 ERA in 15 games.

In March 1966, Jim and Sandee welcomed their first child, James Jr. Cosman spent spring training with the Cardinals major leaguers and then was again assigned to Tulsa, which had joined the Pacific Coast League as a Class AAA team. He was primarily used as a reliever. In 54 contests, he had a 10-2 record and 4.65 ERA. Following the end of the minor-league season, Cosman returned home to Nashville. When he arrived, there was a message waiting from the Cardinals telling him to get on the next flight to Chicago to meet up with the big-league club.

Cosman’s first 16 days in the majors were spent as a spectator. Then, 45 minutes before the final game of the season against the Chicago Cubs, Sisler, now a Cardinals coach, approached him and said “Don’t get cute and try to hit the corners. Just be yourself and throw strikes.”14 Cosman had no idea what Sisler was talking about until he returned a few minutes later and told him he was starting the game. Manager Red Schoendienst explained the last-minute decision to start Cosman: “We didn’t have a chance to go any higher in the standings…I decided at the last minute that I wanted to have a look at him.”15

With his parents, wife, and son in the Busch Stadium crowd, Cosman’s major-league debut could hardly have gone better. He pitched a two-hit shutout, navigating through a Cubs lineup that included Ron Santo, Billy Williams, and Ernie Banks. Cosman struck out five and only walked two as the Cardinals won 2-0.

Though Cosman was Roman Catholic, he had the Yiddish word for luck, ‘mazel,’ inscribed on his glove, and he kept a parchment with passages from the Old Testament in his locker. He credited some Jewish friends from his childhood for the inspiring the symbols. When the Cardinals broke spring training in 1967, luck went Cosman’s way, and he made the Opening Day roster as a reliever. “He’s had some control trouble,” said Schoendienst, “but he seems to be working out of it.”16 Cosman credited pitching coach Billy Muffett’s instruction and use of “the video tape machine” for helping him find a more consistent arm angle.17

Cosman appeared in four of the Cardinals’ first 16 games to start the 1967 season. In six and one-third innings, he allowed two earned runs and six walks, while striking out three. When rosters had to be trimmed to 25 players on May 10, Cosman was the odd man out and was sent to Tulsa. For the Oilers, Cosman made one relief appearance followed by six starts, posting a 2-2 record with a 4.74 ERA.

Cosman was called back up to the Cardinals on June 24 to replace pitcher Ray Washburn, who was out with a fractured right thumb. Two days later, Cosman got the starting assignment against the San Francisco Giants’ Gaylord Perry. Muffett told Cosman that he had a dream that the hurler pitched without a wind-up, a delivery that had worked well for another Cardinal, Dick Hughes. “When somebody dreams about me, I just have to try it,” said Cosman.18

Cosman dropped the windup and went 8 1/3 innings, holding the Giants to just four singles while walking seven and fanning three, including Willie Mays. The only run he allowed was unearned. Cosman helped himself with the bat, recording his first (and only) big-league hit, a single that drove in Ed Spiezio. Reliever Nelson Briles closed out the ninth to secure the 2-1 victory for Cosman and the Cards.

Cosman made four starts in July, and the results were mixed. He had an eight-inning outing against the Reds on July 5 in which the only run he allowed was a solo home run by Vada Pinson. In each of his other starts, he failed to make it past the third inning, walked a combined eight batters, and hit two batters. All four of the starts were no-decisions. Cosman also made one relief appearance before the Cardinals optioned him to the Jacksonville (Florida) Suns, a New York Mets affiliate in the Triple-A International League. The move completed a deal in which St. Louis had acquired Jack Lamabe. With the Suns, Cosman had a record of 2-2 with an ERA of 3.40 in 11 games. On September 1, he was recalled by the Cardinals but did not pitch in another game.

Cosman later expressed that Muffett’s changes had negative consequences. “I was an overhand pitcher with great speed and that was all I relied on. When I changed to the no-windup, my arm eventually gave out. After the 1967 season I never threw hard again.”19

The Cardinals won 101 games and defeated the Boston Red Sox in the 1967 World Series. The team voted for Cosman to receive a full share of the pot, an amount of $8,314.20 “Most money I ever had in my life,” Cosman said.21 Tim McCarver explained the team’s unanimous vote: “Shoot, everybody loves Coz. He’s the greatest. He fits right in our group. I just hope he can make the club next year. If he can get his control down, he’s going to be a real good pitcher. He’s got a great, great fastball if he can just corral it.”22

The day after the birth of his second son, Michael, Cosman flew to Puerto Rico to play winter ball. He pitched for Ponce and had a record of 4-7.23 In one game, he collided with another player and injured his left hand. Unable to grip a bat, he hit using only his right arm and nearly got a hit. A sign of his competitiveness, he completed the game and earned a victory.

There was no room on the Cardinals’ roster for Cosman in 1968, so he started the season in the familiar environs of Tulsa. Playing for Warren Spahn, Cosman found himself sitting on the bench more than he was on the mound. He had a 2-3 record and 5.08 ERA after 10 games before being sent down to the Double-A Arkansas Travelers. Under manager Vern Rapp, Cosman found success, hurling 42 innings in 27 games with a 2.14 ERA. Following the season, the Cardinals traded him to the Mets for infielder Jerry Buchek.

The Mets sent Cosman to the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians following spring training in 1969. Reunited with Rapp, now the Indy skipper, Cosman was 6-5 with a 5.16 ERA in 29 games, including eight starts. In December 1969, the Chicago Cubs selected him in the minor league draft for $25,000.24 Despite his up-and-down career, Cosman remained optimistic and determined: “I know if I go out and pitch like I can, throw strikes and do a decent job, I’ll be in the big leagues. That’s where I’ve got to be. I’ve found that moving around the minors isn’t too profitable.”25

After sweating the final cuts in spring training of 1970, Cosman found out he made the Cubs’ Opening Day roster as a long reliever. However, manager Leo Durocher did not use him until April 30, the team’s 18th game of the season. When he finally got into a game versus Atlanta, the first batter he faced was Hank Aaron. Cosman threw the slugger a sinker down-and-in, and Aaron drove the ball deep into the left field stands for a home run. “It was the best pitch I made all night,” said Cosman. “When Aaron hit it, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”26 Cosman was pulled from the game after recording two outs and loading the bases. Larry Gura allowed two of the inherited runners to score, and both runs were charged to Cosman. That was his only appearance with the Cubs. On May 5, Cosman was shipped to the Triple-A Tacoma Cubs in the Pacific Coast League.

Cosman later expressed his opinion on Durocher: “As a field manager, he’s one of the best, but after his eight starters and five pitchers, everybody else on the team is an idiot in his opinion. He never uses his bench or bullpen. If he could ever get 25 men playing as one unit, he could win.”27

Cosman spent the rest of 1970 in Tacoma and finished the season with a 3-5 record and 6.08 ERA in 31 games. Another player on that club was Roe Skidmore, who shared a story about his former teammate in 2021:

“We used to tease each other because he was on a 1970 series Topps baseball with a catcher named Randy Bobb, and I was on a 1971 series Topps baseball card with Jim Dunegan. The cards were both entitled ‘Cubs Rookie Stars.’ His pic was on the bottom of his card, and my pic was on the bottom of my card. We used to bemoan the fact that we were both on the bottom half of our cards…not worthy of the top picture. My contention to him was that even though we were both on the bottom, I was by far much better looking than him or the other two guys. He always disagreed and told me he had better hair than me. He kept his hair and now I’m bald on top. Turns out he was right!”28

In 1971, Cosman took his superior locks to Indianapolis, his contract purchased at Rapp’s recommendation. Cosman served as a reliever as well as the team’s pitching coach. By this time, he was throwing sidearm, and his repertoire included a forkball that he learned from Dick LeMay in Tacoma.29 He pitched well in 40 games, racking up a 3-2 record and 2.70 ERA in 90 innings.

Darrel Chaney, a member of the 1971 Indianapolis club and veteran of 11 big-league seasons, shared his memories of Cosman a half-century later: “Big, tall intimidating guy, but a gentle giant. Wonderful wife and family. Knew how to pitch alright. I loved playing with him.”30

Cosman retained hopes of making it back to the majors, but the call never came. Following the 1971 season, the 28-year-old pitcher decided to retire from baseball. He finished with a 2-0 record and 3.05 ERA in 12 major-league games. He issued 24 unintentional walks and hit six batters in 41 1/3 career innings but held opponents to a .188 batting average. At the minor-league level, he was 47-41 with a 3.72 ERA.

Jim’s decision to retire was largely a financial decision. He and Sandee now had four children, having welcomed Andrea and Jeff to the family. He took a job with American Sanitary Dispose-all Company. “Everybody said I threw trash all my life. Now I’m picking it up,” Cosman joked.31

Cosman did not hang up the cleats completely. For a few summers after retirement, he pitched for the Tennessee Pride Eggs, an amateur team in the Tri-State League. On June 2, 1974, he tossed a no-hitter for the “Eggmen.”32 When old friend Vern Rapp was named the Cardinals’ manager in 1976, Cosman was offered the pitching coach job.33 He strongly considered taking it but ultimately decided to stay with the more stable job in waste management. He spent three decades in the industry, eventually attaining the role of President and Chief Operating Officer with Republic Services, Inc. before retiring in 2000.

Jim Cosman died in Roswell, Georgia on January 7, 2013 at age 69. He is buried at Parma Union Cemetery in Hilton, New York.

 

Acknowledgments

Special thanks to Jim’s former teammates, Roe Skidmore and Darrel Chaney, for sharing their memories.

This biography was reviewed by Darren Gibson and Bruce Harris and fact-checked by Kevin Larkin.

 

Sources

In addition to the sources shown in the notes, the author used Baseball-Reference.com.

 

Notes

1 Bob Broeg, “Fizz-Kid Cosman Bubbling Testimonial to Kissell,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 24, 1967: 20.

2 Bill Isom, “Little Leaguers Open Bid for Midstate Crowd Today,” (Nashville) Tennessean, August 1, 1955: 14.

3 Broeg.

4 Broeg.

5 George Leonard, “‘I’ll Show ‘Em,’ Cosman Says, Bent on Pro Career,” Nashville Banner, August 7, 1962: 17.

6 Jim Andrews, “Young Cosman in the Den of Lions,” Tennessean, January 21, 1968: 80.

7 Leonard.

8 Leonard.

9 Broeg.

10 Broeg.

11 Broeg.

12 Bob Teitlebaum, “When Duty Calls, Cosman Ever Ready,” Tennessean, June 29, 1964: 16.

13 Joe Tiede, “Raleigh Staff is Short-Handed,” News and Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina), August 2, 1964: 17.

14 Bob Teitlebaum, “Cosman ‘Surprised,’ Then Stuns Cubs,” Tennessean, October 4, 1966: 17.

15 Bob Teitlebaum, “Cosman ‘Surprised,’ Then Stuns Cubs.”

16 Raymond Johnson, “Cosman Found Home as Cardinal Pitcher,” Tennessean, April 4, 1967: 16.

17 Johnson.

18 Neal Russo, “Cosman in Dream World on Muffett’s No-Windup,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 27, 1967: 35.

19 Tom Powell, “New Old Timer Cosman Blasts Muffett, Spahn,” Tennessean, February 14, 1972: 14.

20 Andrews.

21 Jimmy Mann, “Cards’ Cosman is ‘Deaf’ to the Call of the Wild,” Tampa Bay Times, March 1, 1968: 27.

22 Andrews.

23 Andrews.

24 Tom Powell, “Cosman Stays with Cubs, Due for Long Relief Role,” Tennessean, April 5, 1970: 57.

25 Tom Powell, “Cosman Still Around, and Gaining Ground,” Tennessean, December 24, 1969: 16.

26 F.M. Williams, “No Alibis and no Excuses for Chicago’s Jim Cosman,” Tennessean, May 4, 1970: 28.

27 Tom Powell, “New Old Timer Cosman Blasts Muffett, Spahn.”

28 Direct communication between Roe Skidmore and the author via social media, January 22, 2021.

29 Tom Powell, “Minor Eats Ignite Cosman’s Major Appetite,” Tennessean, July 14, 1971: 38.

30 Direct communication between Darrel Chaney and the author via social media, January 20, 2021.

31 Tom Powell, “New Old Timer Cosman Blasts Muffett, Spahn.”

32 “Cosman Fires No-Hit Game in Tri-State,” Tennessean, June 3, 1974: 31.

33 Bud Burns, “Hot Stove Palaver,” Tennessean, December 1, 1976: 30.

Full Name

James Henry Cosman

Born

February 19, 1943 at Brockport, NY (USA)

Died

January 7, 2013 at Roswell, GA (USA)

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