Still having a blast

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:52 AM ET

The grand plan was for John Olerud to retire after his son, Garrett, started school this fall.

After taking Pedro Martinez to school with a two-run homer in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday, does Olerud look like someone who wants to retire?

Jon Lieber's arm and Olerud's homer put the pinstripers up 2-0 in the best-of-seven ALCS, which will resume at Fenway Park in Boston tonight.

ADMIRED

"I've always admired the way John played, the way he carried himself on and off the field," Yanks centre fielder Bernie Williams said. "I always thought he was a great hitter, very underrated. I've been playing against him since those Jays teams of 1992 and 1993. He was unstoppable and very consistent.

"I was looking forward to playing with him and picking his brain about the way he goes about hitting."

With his homer, Olerud became the first player to go deep in the post-season for four different teams.

Olerud did it with the Jays in 1992 against the Oakland A's in the ALCS and in Game 1 of the 1993 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

He touched them all with the New York Mets in 1999, once in the division series against the Arizona Diamondbacks and twice more in the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves.

In 2000, while with the Seattle Mariners, Olerud homered once against the Chicago White Sox in the division series and once against the Yanks. In 2001 he did so again against the Yanks.

And then there's the Game 2 blast, a 1-2 pitch from Martinez.

"In that situation, with two strikes against Pedro, that's a bad position to be in because he can do so many different things to get you out," Olerud said. "I'm trying to protect the plate and get the bat on the ball."

If Ken Caminiti, who died Sunday in the Hunt's Park section of the Bronx while battling drug problems, was one extreme, Olerud is the other.

Bartender: "What can I get ya?"

Olerud: "Make it a double?"

Bartender: "Strawberry or vanilla milkshake?"

Two strikes against Martinez a tough spot?

Not if you are Olerud. He was hospitalized Jan. 11, 1989, after collapsing in the Washington State University field house following a morning workout. A series of tests -- two CAT scans, an arteriogram and others -- showed he did not have a brain tumour. Doctors thought he had a brain aneurysm, but couldn't find a broken blood vessel.

For two weeks, the Baseball America 1988 player of the year lay in hospital with the drapes closed. He wasn't allowed to watch TV.

Released from hospital Jan. 26, he wasn't allowed to drive. His mom, Lynda, drove him back to campus and classes, slept on the floor and "listened to him breathe."

Olerud was soon taking batting practice and working out with the WSU Cougars.

On Feb. 20, Lynda phoned her son to say that Dr. Richard Winn, a neurosurgeon at Seattle's Harbour View Hospital, would like to re-examine him.

While X-rays taken in Spokane were from each side and atop Olerud's head, Dr. Winn looked from underneath Olerud's chin. There is was.

"I was on the gurney when the doctor showed me the X-ray. I didn't need seven years of medical school to recognize it. There it was, (a tumour) about as big as a small grape."

Due to surgery, Olerud always wears a protective batting helmet in the field.

Once, on picture day at Shea, Mets players wore black uniforms and black ball hats. Asked how he felt when it was over, being on the field without his helmet, the only batting champ in Jays history said:

"A little lightheaded."


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