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John E. Olerud

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Note: This page links to John Olerud Sr., the minor league catcher. For his son, the major league first baseman, see John Olerud.

John Everett Olerud (Doc)

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[edit] Biography

John Olerud was an All-American catcher at Washington State University who later played for seven years in the minor leagues before retiring to pursue a career in medicine. He is the father of former major leaguer John Olerud.

[edit] Amateur Career

While Olerud grew up in the small town of Lisbon, ND, his family later moved to Washington state. After graduating from high school in 1961, he went to Washington State University under coach Chuck Brayton, and attended the medical college during the school year - Olerud's childhood dream was to become a doctor. Olerud was the WSU captain in 1965, the Cougars made it to the 1965 College World Series and in the same year, Olerud was named to the All-American team.

[edit] 1965 - 1966

Olerud was selected in the fourth round (67th overall) in the first MLB draft by the class AA El Paso Sun Kings, acting on behalf of the California Angels. He was signed soon after the draft and was assigned to Angels' class AAA Seattle club. He made his professional debut with Seattle on June 19 as a pinch-hitter in an 11 to 1 loss versus the Hawaii Islanders at Honolulu Stadium. In his single at bat against Hawaii's Pete Craig, he was hitless. Soon after, he was sent down to the Angels' El Paso team in the Texas League. He hit .281 on the year with one home run and 24 RBI.

In 1966, Olerud again started the season in Seattle after classes ended for the summer at the University of Washington. On June 15, he was involved in a play in a game against the nearby Tacoma Cubs. In the bottom of the second, pitcher John Flavin then a low-breaking curve ball inside on Olerud. The ball grazed the medical student's toes, but umpire Andy Olsen ruled the pitch a ball. After Olerud asked the offical to examine the ball, it had a black shoe polish smudge, and he was given first base. He eventually scored the winning run of a 3 - 2 victory.

On July 30 Olerud was sent back down to El Paso but did not play for them and by September 10, he was back with the Seattle team. He also spent time with the San Jose Bees with which he played in 15 games with a .304/~328/.429 average, 8 runs batted in and no home runs. With the Seattle Angels, he played in 20 games with no home runs, 2 runs batted in and a .163/~.341/.265 average as a backup for future major leaguer Jim Campanis - Campanis was on loan from the Los Angeles Dodgers system. The Angels won the Pacific Coast League pennant that year over the Tulsa Oilers in a 4 - 3 playoff series win.

[edit] 1967- 1968

At the close of the 1966 season, Olerud was released by the California Angels on October 29. He resigned with the club before mid-January and was invited to the 1967 California Angels spring training. Olerud spent the entire 1967 season - his third as a professional - with the San Jose Bees of the class A California League. He played in 123 game with the Bees, hitting .286/~.341/.341 (140 hits in 454 at-bbats) with 42 runs batted in and 2 home runs. Once again he was on a pennant winning club, this time, however he was the starting catcher. He finished 10th in the California League in average, leading his team. His 22 errors led Cal League catchers.

In 1968, Olerud started the season with the El Paso Sun Kings of the AA Texas League. He was on a catching crew that included Jim Hibbs and Dennis Paepke. By late June, he was hitting .292 with 3 home runs and 11 runs batted in. On June 29, Olerud was El Paso's catcher when the team was no-hit by the Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs' Paul Doyle at Turnpike Stadium, going 0-for-3. The team would go on to win the league title, but would do so without Olerud. Overall, he had hit .282/~.371/.442 for El Paso that year but his .963 fielding percentage was the worst of any catcher who played at least 10 games in the TL.

Olerud was promoted to the Seattle Angels in mid-July, and arrived with the club on July 10. Olerud was a late-inning defensive replacement, spelling Tom Egan, for much the his first month and a half with the team. After Egan was called up to the Angels in late August, Olerud became the team's primary backstop. For the Seattlites, he played in 40 games batting .211/~.256/.246 (24 hits in 114 at-bats) with only 9 RBI and no home runs. During the season Olerud's wife, Lynda, gave birth to a son on August 5 in Seattle, WA on an Angels' off-day so Olerud could be there for his son John Jr.'s birth.

Olerud is also mentioned in the book Ball Four, by former major league pitcher Jim Bouton, as playing with the author.

[edit] 1969 - 1970

In 1969, Olerud was again invited to the California Angels spring camp as a non-roster invitee. However, he started the season with the Hawaii Islanders - the transported Seattle Angels - and soon found himself back in El Paso with the Sun Kings. With the team, he batted .258/~.326/.359, but Olerud began to retire from his baseball career to concentrate on medicine. However, he changed his mind after he was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals' Texas League affiliate, the Arkansas Travelers in the minor league draft.

Olerud was promoted to the Cardinals' AAA affiliate, the Tulsa Oilers of the American Association for the start of the 1970 season. He began the season as the team's starting catcher, but was replaced on the depth chart by Ted Simmons on May 9 after Simmons returned from the Army. Olerud took the demotion in stride stating, "I knew the Cardinals wanted him to play. That's why I was rooting for him to hit .400 and get up to St. Louis as soon as possible." Three weeks later on May 30, after Simmons hit .373 for the Oilers, he was promoted to the top team allowing Olerud to regain his starting position. Over the next six weeks he raised his .182 average by 80 points. The streak was coupled with the arrival of his wife, Lynda, two year-old son, John Jr., and newborn (May 8) daughter, Erica, from Seattle. During the season with the Oilers, he played in 103 games and hit .257/~.336/.299 (80 hits in 311 at-bats) with 0 home runs and 32 RBI.

Despite being a year from receiving his license, Olerud lived up to his nickname of "Doc" with the Oilers. He administered aid to Sandy Guzman, after the righthander suffered from heat stroke and attended to third baseman Gaylen Pitts after the he had facial surgery after Pitts was hit by a pitch in Evansville, IN. He also went into the stands at Evansville's Bosse Field game to aid a fan who had an epileptic seizure.

[edit] 1971

In 1971, Olerud was invited to the Montréal Expos spring training camp and was later sent to extended camp. For the season, he was assigned to the Winnipeg Whips of the AAA International League to share in the catching duties with with 21-year old Terry Humphrey who had hit .280 a year earlier with the AA Jacksonville Suns.

On May 14, Olerud was involved in a game in which the Whips hit nine home runs – but still lost 15 to 13. At Winnipeg Stadium, a converted football stadium, the Syracuse Chiefs jumped out to a quick 11 - 1 lead. The Whips then procededed to hit nine home runs to take the lead but then Rick Bladt hit a two-out, 3-and-2 Brent Foshie pitch to send the game into extra innings. The game was won by the Chiefs in the twelfth on a Bobby Mitchell home run off Bob Reynolds. Winnipeg's Jim Williams, who had hit three home runs in 109 games last year, hit three in the game; Olerud and Dave McDonald had two each; while Dave Krull and Adolfo Phillips each hit one. The Whips had hit eight round-trippers in their previous 22 games. Olerud caught the entire game and recorded 18 putouts – all via strikeouts.

By June 19, Olerud was enjoying the finest season of his career; in 69 at-bats, he had 21 hits for a .304 batting average with 3 home runs and 16 runs batted in. Fellow backstop Humphrey was hitting .290 (29 hits in 100 at-bats) with one home run and 15 runs batted in. However, Olerud was soon pressed into a starting role in which he faltered. Over the next week he was hitless in 11 at bats and hit .100 in his next twenty at-bats and 3 for 26 over the next month with a single RBI. Olerud began to be replaced as new catcher Gentile was pressed into service; Gentile did not fare much better, batting 1-for-11.

At the end of June, Olerud retired to pursue his career in medicine after he had received his doctorate degree from the University of Washington School of Medicine on the June 12. In his last pro season, he had hit .253/~.330/.421 in 40 games.

[edit] Post-Baseball Career

Olerud completed his residency in internal medicine in 1975 and in dermatology in 1977; both at the University of Washington. He was inducted into the Washington State University Hall of Fame in 1985 - seventeen years later his son was also inducted into the hall. Olerud is currently a professor at the University of Washington and the head of the school's Division of Dermatology.

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