John Olerud might’ve had the most under the radar tenure in franchise history.
From 1997-1999, Olerud hit .315/.425/.501 with 63 home runs and 291 RBI in Queens, including a team-record .354 in '98.. He missed only 10 games over that span.
Olerud is also the second best defensive first baseman the Mets have ever had (The top spot is forever yours, Keith). He anchored the infield and epitomized “good fundies” on a daily basis. In 1999, he was part of, what Sports Illustrated famously dubbed, “The Best Infield Ever."
But even if he didn't do all of those things, Olerud would be remembered as the guy that wore a batting helmet in the field.
As legend had it, that last fact had a profound impact on Rickey Henderson, who was Olerud's Mets teammate in '99. After that season, Olerud left for Seattle as a free agent, and after the Mets released Henderson later in the 2000 season, Rickey would reunite with Olerud with Mariners.
After accepting the "Casey Stengel, 'You Can Look It Up'" Award at the BBWAA Awards earlier this week, Olerud told this legendary tall tale:
I guess it really was too good to be true, because frankly, this is one time where the lie is just better than the truth. Kudos to that assistant trainer that made this one up, because he couldn’t have chosen two better people to be on each end of that story. I'm choosing to believe it anyway.
Also, this legitimately might be the first time I’ve ever seen Olerud speak. I don’t recall ever watching an interview or coming across an old clip of him when I fall down one of my YouTube rabbit holes of Mets’ nostalgia. He was truly the team’s quiet man. I’d love to hear him more from him recalling his days in New York.
I can’t help but wonder how the Mets would’ve fared if we held onto Olerud for a few more seasons…