Yesterday Edgardo Alfonzo was revealed as the the number 15 Met of all time. Today the honor of being named number 14 is his infield counterpart from that amazing infield of the late ’90′s – first baseman John Olerud.
John Garrett Olerud was born in Seattle, Washington on August 5, 1968 . John attended Washington State University, and played on their baseball team as a pitcher. In 1987, John went 8-2 with a 3.00 ERA and was a freshman All-American. He hit .414 with 5 HR and 20 RBIs that season. In 1988, Olerud was undefeated as a pitcher. He went 15-0 , struck out 113 Ks and finished with a ERA of a 2.49 . Baseball America named him College Player of the Year that season.
In 1989, Olerud was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm. In order to protect his head from aggravating the affliction he would wear a batting helmet while playing the field, which would later on become his trade mark while playing in the Major Leagues.
John was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1989 Amateur Draft. He is one of the few players who jumped right to the Majors without playing a day in the minor leagues. Upon his arrival in Toronto, Olerud was used in a platoon at first base. John would become the Blue Jays everyday first baseman in ’93. He led the American League with a .363 batting average,a on-base percentage of .473 and doubles with 54. He also hit 24 homers and drove in 107 RBI’s.
In his seven years with Toronto , John would make one All Star Game appearance,and would win two World Series titles ( “92 and ’93).
In December of ’96, Olerud was traded to the Mets for pitcher Robert Person and cash. I still consider this as then Mets G.M , Steve Phillips greatest trade, because he gave up a mediocre pitcher for one of the best first basemen in the game. In 1997, his first season with the Mets , John batted .294 with 22 homers and 102 RBI’s. Mets fans embraced the newest member of the Mets, most fans went as far as to say he was the best Metsfirst baseman since Keith Hernandez. Olerud was a rather stoic figure, rarely cracking a smile. Baseball was all business to him.
1998 would mark John’s most productive season with the Mets, when he hit .354 ( a Mets record) with 197 hits, 36 doubles 22 homers and 93 runs batted in. In 1999 Olerud would play in all 162 games as a Met. He batted .298 with 19 homers and 125 RBI’s. That season John along with his fellow Met infielders, Edgardo Alfonzo, Robin Ventura and Rey Ordonez were christened by Sports Illustrated as the best infield ever. In 1999 John would make his only post season appearance with the Mets when they beat the Arizona Diamondback in four games ( John went 7-16 with 6 RBI’s) , and took the Atlanta Braves to the sixth game of the ’99 NLCS, losing in extra innings due to a bases loaded walk by Kenny Rogers. Olerud hit .296 against the Braves with two homers and six RBI’s.
After the ’99 season John was granted free agency. The Mets tried their hardest to re-sign Olerud, but he longed to play in his hometown of Seattle, signing a three-year, $20 million contract with the Mariners. John had three productive seasons in Seattle, even winning two gold gloves, but in ’04 his numbers dropped dramatically and he was released mid season. John would sign quickly with the New York Yankees to fill for a injured Jason Giambi. He would see his final post season of his career with the Yankees. He struck out while pinch hitting in game seven against Pedro Martinez.
John would sign a minor league contract with the Boston Red Sox in the middle of the “05 season he played in a handful of games with Boston, but he retired soon after due to his faded skills.
In John’s three year tenure with the Mets, he had a batting average of .315 with 63 homers, 109 doubles and 291 RBI’s. Yes his time with the Mets was rather brief, but he made a lasting impressions on most Mets fans.
John would announce his retirement in December of 2005.
Unfortunately John was unable to attend the closing ceremonies of Shea Stadium in September of ’98 due to prior commitments.
Tomorrow we will pull back the curtain on number 13 on the countdown. All I will say is that he was one of the longest tenured Mets in their history.
And with that said…. HERE COMES THE INFAMY !!!!
Mets alumni celebrating birthdays today include :
The first Met to ever be runner up for the Rookie of the Year Award, Ron Hunt is 70 (1941) . He was also the first Met to ever be elected as a starting player in the All Star Game ( 1964).
Mets middle reliever from ’67-’68, Don Shaw in 67 (1944) .
One of the longest tenured Mets second basemen ever ( 8 seasons),Ken Boswell is 65 (1946). Unfortunately due to a rift with Mets management, he did not attend the 40th anniversary celebration that honored the 1969 Mets World Championship team in 2009.
One of the most detested , most hated Mets in history- outfielder, Bobby Bonilla is 48 (1963) . And to think he was right about the media not being able to wipe the smile off his face, he will get paid about one million dollars a year for the next twenty somewhat years in deferred payment from the team. Where is the justice !!!
Reserve outfielder from the ’08 season, Chris Aguila is 32 (1979) . He would play in just 8 games that season – mostly as a late inning defensive replacement.
And while you are waiting for Ollie Perez to bowl a turkey ( hey he is one already !!) , just remember that there are just 37 Casey Stengel Days until the Mets open the 2011 season against the Florida Marlins in Miami, and 44 more days until the Mets 2011 home opener against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field.
Mo Vaughn has taken up bowling. He says that any sport that allows him to drink beer and eat food while he is playing is the right kind of exercise for him !!!