Washington State Cougar baseball legend John G. Olerud was instrumental for the New York Mets in their 4-3 win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, Oct. 17, 1999.
With the Mets trailing 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, Olerud blasted a two-run home run off future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux to stake New York to a 2-0 lead.
The Braves came back to tie the game 2-2 and the score remained that way until Atlanta pushed across a run in the top of the 15th inning.
In the bottom of the frame, Olerud was at bat with runners at second and third, but was not given the chance to be a hero as he was intentionally walked. The strategy backfired on the Braves when Todd Pratt drew a walk to bring in the tying run.
Robin Ventura followed with what was supposed to be the first game-ending grand slam in Major League postseason history. However, Pratt stopped at second base to celebrate the bomb and prevented Ventura from circling the bases. The play was officially scored a single and ended the 5 hour, 46 minute affair, in the City That Never Sleeps.
The Mets would not have made it to Game 5 of the NLCS if it hadn't been for Olerud.
The night before in Game 4, the Mets defeated the Braves 3-2. Olerud hit a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth off of Braves's pitcher John Smoltz. He delivered a two-out, two run single in the eighth to provide the Mets with a come-from-behind victory.
Atlanta spoiled the party for the Mets two days later with a series-clinching 10-9 win in Game 6 back in the Peach State.
As a first baseman and pitcher for the Cougars, Olerud was a star. He is the only NCAA player to win 15 games and hit 20 or more home runs in one season. He was named Baseball America's Player of the Year in 1988 with a batting average of .464 while recording a 15-0 record on the mound.
He went straight to MLB in 1989 and in 17 seasons posted a career batting average of .295 with 255 home runs. Throughout his career he played for the Blue Jays, Mets, Mariners, Yankees and Red Sox. He earned three gold gloves at first base, was a member of two World Series winning teams and was a two-time All-Star selection.
His notable contribution to baseball will be recognized Oct. 25, 2011, where he will be inducted into the Inland Northwest Hall of Fame.
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