August 5 – Happy Birthday John Olerud
The 2004 season had been a bust for Jason Giambi. After apologizing for using PEDs before the beginning of that season, he came down with some sort of strange ailment involving his pituitary gland and he ended up playing in less than half of New York’s regular season games. At the beginning of the year, Tony Clarke subbed for Giambi. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant started out that season with the Mariners but had been given his unconditional release by Seattle in late July. A few weeks later, the Yankees decided to sign him and Joe Torre made Olerud his starting first baseman.
Olerud had won the AL Batting title in 1993 when he hit .363 for the Toronto Blue Jays. He had some good pop in his bat as well, accumulating 255 home runs during his 17-season big league career. His trademark was wearing his batting helmet at all times while on the field, even when he was playing first base on defense. He had suffered a brain aneurism as a child and the perpetual hard hat was worn as a precaution. Olerud was no stranger to the Big Apple. After spending his first eight big league seasons with the Blue Jays, he had been traded to the Mets in 1996, his contract’s option year. He played very good baseball for the Amazins for three straight seasons, but when the Mariners showed an interest, he returned to his home town of Seattle as a free agent in 2000.
He was 35-years-old by the time the Yankees got him but he played very good defense at first for New York and hit a solid .280 for Torre in 49 regular season games. With Giambi still injured, it was Olerud who started at first during the 2004 postseason. He hit a two-run homer against Boston’s Pedro Martinez to help the Yankees win Game 2 of that year’s ALCS. When the Yanks won the next game to go up 3-0 in that series, it looked like Olerud would have the opportunity to win a third World Series ring, He had won his first two with Toronto in 1992 and ’93.
Then disaster struck. Boston shocked the world by winning four straight. One of the after-effects of that traumatic Yankee defeat was letting Olerud go after that postseason. He turned around and signed with the Red Sox in 2005 and hit .289 in 87 games in Beantown before he retired for good. Olerud shares his August 5th birthday with this former Yankee outfielder and this former owner of the franchise.