John Olerud

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Note: This page links to John Olerud, the major league first baseman. For his father, the minor league catcher, see John E. Olerud.

John Garrett Olerud

BR page

Biographical Information[edit]

John Olerud was an All-Star, Gold Glove first-baseman who spent the bulk of his 17-year big league career in the American League. A lifetime .295 hitter, he was the 1993 American League batting champion with the Toronto Blue Jays, and owns two World Series rings earned starring with the Jays in 1992 and 1993.

Olerud came up with Toronto as a 20 year-old rookie in 1989. In an extremely lopsided trade he was dealt eight years later to the New York Mets for Robert Person, a 27-year-old future journeyman who was then an undistinguished 5-5 with a 4.07 ERA just two years into his career. Olerud's days in Toronto were highlighted by a .363 BA, 24 HR, 107 RBI, 54 double 1993 campaign, in which he led the AL in OBP (.473), OPS (1.072), and OPS+ (189) in addition to batting average and doubles. He was a regular on the great 2001 Seattle Mariners team that won 116 games, hitting .302 with 21 home runs.

With the Mets he turned in a sterling performance in 1998, when he hit .354 with 96 walks. His batting average and on-base percentage were second in the National League.

Signed before the 2000 season as a free agent by the Seattle Mariners he earned a second All-Star nod and three Gold Gloves in four full years and part of a fifth. Olerud ended his career with partial seasons with the New York Yankees (2004) and Boston Red Sox (2005), retiring a still capable player of 36.

Overall, the line-drive hitting Olerud excelled at doubles, with exactly 500 lifetime (57th all-time), yet five times topped 20 homers in a season, peaking at 24 and clubbing 255 lifetime. Four times he drove in more than 100 RBIs, three more topping 90, and three times he drew over 100 walks; his 1,275 lifetime BBs place him 46th on the all-time list.

In 2001 Olerud jointed Bob Watson as the only players in MLB history to hit for the cycle in both leagues, accomplishing the feat with the Mets on September 11, 1997, and the Mariners on June 16, 2001. Michael Cuddyer later matched the achievement.

The most similar players to Olerud, based on the similarity scores method, are Will Clark and Edgar Martinez. A parade of All-Stars, including Mark Grace, Cecil Cooper, Paul O'Neill, Keith Hernandez, Steve Garvey, Don Mattingly, Wally Joyner, and Bernie Williams, rounds the Top Ten list out, making Olerud a sound candidate for a putative "Hall of the Very Good", still a solid cut below Hall of Fame caliber performance and counting stats.

He played defense at first base while wearing a catcher's helmet because he'd had a brain aneurysm as a teenager. He is the son of John E. Olerud, a minor league catcher for seven years, and a cousin of infielder Dale Sveum. There's a famous story that when Rickey Henderson joined the Seattle Mariners in 2000, he asked Olerud why he wore a helmet in the field; when Olerud told him the reason, Rickey supposedly replied: "Man, I played with someone like that in New York." And Olerud's response was: "Yeah, Rickey, that was me." However, the story is apocryphal, as it was made up by the M's assistant trainer, Scott Lawrenson, who was known for coming up with a number of similar humorous stories.

Olerud was the only member of the pitching staff of the Silver Medal-winning Team USA in the 1987 Intercontinental Cup to make the majors. He was 2-0 with a save and a 3.94 ERA in the Cup, one of only two US players with a record above .500. Over 15 innings he allowed 16 hits, struck out 12 and walked 6 in his 6 relief stints, tied for the team lead.

He was inducted in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2020. That same year, his 19-year-old daughter Jordan, who had been born with a rare genetic disorder, passed away. She was the only person in the world known to have that particular affliction and as a result had multiple birth defects, such as not being able to walk or eat by herself, and required constant care throughout her life. The Oleruds had created "the Jordan Fund" to raise money for less fortunate families raising children with special needs.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2-time AL All-Star (1993 & 2001)
  • 3-time AL Gold Glove Winner (2000, 2002 & 2003)
  • AL Batting Average Leader (1993)
  • AL On-Base Percentage Leader (1993)
  • AL OPS Leader (1993)
  • AL Doubles Leader (1993)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 5 (1993, 1997, 1998, 2001 & 2002)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 4 (1993, 1997, 2000 & 2002)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 2 (1993 & 1999)
  • 200 Hits Seasons: 1 (1993)
  • Won two World Series with the Toronto Blue Jays (1992 & 1993)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Rick Sorci: "Baseball Profile: First baseman John Olerud", Baseball Digest, May 1994, p. 55. [1]

Related Sites[edit]