As I’ve grown up watching the Mets, one of the most consistent Mets of this generation is John Olerud.
He was as consistent as it gets. A career .315 average (best in Mets’ history), Olerud knew how to put a bat on the ball, rarely swung at pitches out of the strike zone and played a solid first base. To sum it up, he was a rock.
Olerud was focused on by many because he wore a helmet in the field, and many people didn’t know why. Here’s the answer, courtesy of baseballguru.com:
Olerud’s choice of headgear stems from a near tragic incident he endured during his college years; while attending Washington State University in 1989, Olerud suffered a brain hemorrhage and an aneurysm during a morning workout. Though he recovered, doctors advised him to wear a protective batting helmet while playing first base or pitching (he was a two-position player in college), in order to protect against line drives and collisions with baserunners that might result in contact with the skull.
Helmet or no helmet, Johnny O did the job and did it well. In fact, before he left the Mets, my father looked up his parents’ phone number in Seattle and left a message on the machine, pleading for John to stay. Unfortunately, I think that may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back and forced him to leave.
1998 was a memorable season for Olerud, as he accrued one of the best statistical hitting seasons in Mets’ history. In 160 games, he hit .354 with 22 homers and 93 RBI. He had 36 doubles, four triples and a .447 on base percentage. Oh and in 557 at-bats, he struck out just 73 times.
Can we clone John Olerud? Ike Davis was supposed to be the next great hope, but that hasn’t exactly worked out.