John Olerud

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John Olerud
John Olerud.JPG
First baseman
Born: (1968-08-05) August 5, 1968 (age 45)
Seattle, Washington
Batted: Left Threw: Left
MLB debut
September 3, 1989 for the Toronto Blue Jays
Last MLB appearance
October 2, 2005 for the Boston Red Sox
Career statistics
Batting average .295
Hits 2,239
Home runs 255
Runs batted in 1,230
Teams
Career highlights and awards

John Garrett Olerud (/ˈlərd/; nicknamed Johnny O, and Big Rude; born August 5, 1968), is an American former Major League Baseball first baseman. Olerud played with the Toronto Blue Jays (1989–96), New York Mets (1997–99), Seattle Mariners (2000–2004), New York Yankees (2004) and Boston Red Sox (2005).

A patient, productive hitter throughout his career, Olerud won the American League batting title in 1993 and was runner-up for the National League batting title in 1998. Also a three-time Gold Glove winner, he was an excellent defensive first baseman and part of Sports Illustrated's "Greatest Infield Ever"[1] with Edgardo Alfonzo, Rey Ordóñez, and Robin Ventura, when he played for the Mets.

Career[edit]

Washington State University[edit]

In 1987, Olerud hit .414 with 5 HR and 20 RBIs. As a pitcher, he went 8-2 with a 3.00 ERA and was a freshman All-American.

In 1988, Olerud hit .464 with 23 HR, 81 RBIs, 108 hits, 204 total bases, and a .876 Slugging percentage. As a pitcher, he had an undefeated 15–0 season, and threw 113 Ks with a 2.49 ERA. He was a consensus All-American as both 1B and Pitcher and Baseball America College Player of the Year.

In 1989, while recovering from a brain aneurysm, Olerud hit .359 with 5 HR and 30 RBI in 78 plate appearances. He threw for three wins, two losses, and a 6.68 ERA. He was a Pac-10 North All-League Designated Hitter.

Professional career[edit]

In a 17-season career through 2005 spanning 2,234 games, Olerud posted a .398 on-base percentage, 500 doubles, 255 home runs, 1,275 walks, 1,408 runs created, 3,602 times on base, 96 sacrifice flies and 157 intentional walks. He was also hit by a pitch 88 times and grounded into 232 double plays during his career. He is also one of only 26 players to ever hit for the cycle multiple times in their careers. He was a two-time All-Star and was a member of two World Series-winning teams with the Blue Jays (199293).

Olerud jumped directly to the majors after a stellar career at Washington State University, where he was a pitcher noted for his performance from 1987 to 1989. He was known for wearing a batting helmet in the field as a precaution, since he had suffered a brain aneurysm while playing in college.

Olerud broke into MLB with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1989. He was platooned by Jays' manager Cito Gaston for the first few years of his career, until 1992, when he became the team's full-time first baseman. In 1993, his breakout season, he led the American League in batting average (.363), intentional walks (33), times on base (321), on-base percentage (.473), OPS (1.072), and doubles (54, also a career high), while posting career highs in home runs (24), RBI (107), runs (109), and hits (200). He flirted with a .400 batting average for much of the season, with his average staying higher than .400 as late as August 24.

Despite putting up solid numbers over the next several years, he failed to meet the high expectations placed upon him following his breakout performance in 1993. After the 1996 season, Olerud was battling veteran Joe Carter and up-and-comer Carlos Delgado for a spot at either first base or designated hitter. Delgado was young, had a bright future and a low salary, while Gaston preferred Carter to Olerud, feeling the latter wasn't aggressive enough at the plate.[2] Therefore, Olerud was traded, along with cash, to the New York Mets on 20 December 1996 for Robert Person.

With the Mets, Olerud set team single season records for batting average (.354), on-base percentage (.447) and runs created (138) in 1998 and set their team records for most walks (125) and times on base (309) in a season in 1999. Also during his 1999 campaign, Olerud appeared on the cover of the September 6 issue of Sports Illustrated, along with fellow Mets infielders Edgardo Alfonzo, Rey Ordóñez, and Robin Ventura. The magazine raised the debate as to whether the four talented defensive players comprised the best infield in Major League history.

Following the 1999 season, Olerud returned home, agreeing to a three-year, $20 million contract with the Seattle Mariners. In 2000, he amassed 45 doubles, 102 walks, 10 sacrifice flies and 11 intentional walks. He was an important part of the Mariners' 116–46 2001 season, with a .401 on-base percentage, 94 walks, 272 times on base and 19 intentional walks in 159 games. In 2002, he recorded a .403 on-base percentage, 39 doubles, 98 walks, 269 times on base and led the American League in sacrifice flies (12). In 2003, he collected another 84 walks. Olerud also earned all three of his career Gold Gloves while playing first base for Seattle in 2000, 2002 and 2003.

After being released by the Mariners in the middle of the 2004 season, Olerud was signed by the New York Yankees to fill a void left at first base by the injury of Jason Giambi. Later that year the Yankees visited Seattle to play the Mariners. Olerud started the second game; his first time up, Mariner catcher Dan Wilson went to the mound to have a "conference" with pitcher Jamie Moyer. This gave time for about a minute long standing ovation for Olerud from the Seattle fans. His AL championship series was cut short when he was forced to leave due to an injured foot in Game 3. Olerud pinch hit in Game 7 but struck out after a lengthy at-bat against Pedro Martinez, making a rare relief appearance; it was Olerud's last at-bat as a Yankee.

On May 1, 2005, the Boston Red Sox and Olerud agreed to terms on a minor league contract. He had been recovering from surgery in November 2004 to repair torn ligaments in his left foot. Initially, Olerud reported to the club's spring training complex in Fort Myers, Florida. He was added to Boston's 25-man roster on May 27, sharing time at first base with Kevin Millar and batting in the middle of the lineup (including several starts in the clean-up spot).

On December 6, 2005, Olerud announced his retirement from baseball. At the time of his retirement, his 2,239 career hits represented the 143rd-highest total in Major League Baseball history. His career .398 OBP ranks 65th all-time, and his 500 doubles are good for 44th all-time.

In 2007, Olerud was inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame.

Personal life[edit]

Olerud lives with his wife Kelly and their children (one son and two daughters) in Clyde Hill, Washington.[3] Olerud's father John E. Olerud, M.D. also played baseball at Washington State University.[4]

The John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award is named after him.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Awards
Preceded by
Frank Thomas
Paul Molitor
American League Player of the Month
April 1993
June 1993
Succeeded by
Paul Molitor
Rafael Palmeiro