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John Garrett Olerud (born August 5, 1968 in Seattle, Washington) is a retired American first baseman in Major League Baseball who, last played in 2005 for the Boston Red Sox. Previously, Olerud played with the Toronto Blue Jays (1989-96), New York Mets (1997-99), Seattle Mariners (2000-2004) and New York Yankees (2004).
Known for having one of the smoothest swings in the game, Olerud was strictly a line drive hitter to all parts of the field. He was patient at the plate, usually drawing 90-100 walks a season. Despite being one of the slowest players in MLB, Olerud was also a very intelligent base runner. A three-time Gold Glove winner, he was a solid first baseman with a good throwing arm and an average range.
In a 17-season career through 2005 spanning 2,234 games, Olerud posted a .398 on-base percentage, 500 doubles, 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.
Well known for not having played a game in the minor leagues until his late thirties, Olerud jumped directly to the majors after a stellar career at Washington State University where he was a pitcher noted for his performance. He was known for wearing a batting helmet in the field as a precaution since he suffered a brain aneurysm while playing in college. He had a metal plate in his head that was stronger than his skull. A ball would not have hurt him at all. The only reason he wore it was because he promised his dying mother he would.
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 his breakout season in 1993, when he led the American League in batting average (.363), Runs Created (156), 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).
A two-time All-Star, Olerud was a member of two World Series champion teams with the Blue Jays (1992-93). He could not duplicate his success in the next three years, and was traded to the New York Mets in December 1996.
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.
Following the 1999 season, Olerud decided to sign with the Seattle Mariners to be near his family. He was a big 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 2000 he amassed 45 doubles, 102 walks, 10 sacrifice flies and 11 intentional walks. He recorded a .398 on-base percentage, 39 doubles, 98 walks, 269 times on base and led the American League in sacrifice flies (12). In 2003 he amassed another 84 walks.
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 left by the injured Jason Giambi. His final game with the Yankees was Game 3 of the AL championship series when he was forced to leave due to an injured foot. Olerud was due to pinch hit in game seven of the AL championship series, but the last out was made while he was in the on deck circle.
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 25-man roster on May 27, sharing time at first base with Kevin Millar and batting in the middle of the lineup (included several starts in the clean-up spot).
On December 6, 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.