Groz Remembers the 2001 Mariners: Hometown hero John Olerud’s big year
As the calendar turned to September, 2001, the only question left it seemed for the Seattle Mariners was how high could they fly and on Sept. 5, they reached 100 victories in just 140 games helped by a hometown hero who almost never got the chance.
John Olerud was THE star at Interlake high school in Bellevue and was drafted by the New York Mets as a 17 year old. But John followed in his father’s footsteps to WSU where his exploits were legendary. He could pitch and hit and was Baseball America’s NCAA Player of the Year as a freshman AND sophomore. Then it at all stopped.
After running indoors, Olerud collapsed and it was revealed he was bleeding from the brain and had an aneurysm. Amazingly after surgery in February he was back on the field in April. His only concession to the injury was he would wear a batting helmet at all times on the field. After his junior season, he was drafted by Toronto and never spent a day in the minors. He returned home to Seattle as a free agent in 2000 and had a fine 2001, making the All-Star team.
In front of the usual sellout crowd in Seattle, the Mariners crushed the Tampa Bay Rays 12-6 with Olerud contributing three RBIs on a 2-4 night. The Mariners had become the eighth franchise all time to reach 100 wins. Up next was the 1998 Yankees, who held the AL record with 114 wins.
But the Mariners to a man were not thinking about the Yankees. They were thinking about the 1906 Chicago Cubs.
They would have to go 16-6 to tie or 17-5 to break the all-time record. It didn’t seem like anything could stop them on their rendezvous with destiny.
More 2001 Mariners memories from Groz
• Solid and steady David Bell
• Mike Cameron pulls off the impossible
• Kazuhiro Sasaki, Mariners’ man of mystery
• The infamous Cleveland comeback
• When Ichiro became Ichiro
• The curious case of Al Martin
• Freddy García replaces the ace he was traded for
• Kaz Sasaki and Seattle’s incredible bullpen
• Seattle hosts an All-Star Game for the ages
• The bounceback year of M’s Hall of Famer Dan Wilson
• Mark McLemore, the all-important 10th man
• Edgar Martinez cements his legacy with his last great season
• Aaron Sele, the pitcher who ‘fell from the sky’
• Bret Boone gave Seattle a huge, surprising boost
• Paul Abbott, the forgotten hero of the historic ’01 M’s
• Introduction: Celebrating the 2001 Mariners, 20 years later