Gregg Olson – Omaha Northwest

Athlete. Prep baseball pitching record of 27-0 with a 0.76 ERA and 276 strikeouts, and won four state championships during prep career at Northwest. Tossed four no-hitters in baseball career, including three in state tournament. Also a football standout. Attended Auburn University, where he was a two-time All-American. Established school records with 271 strikeouts, 20 saves and 97 appearances. Averaged 14.1 strikeouts per nine innings. Selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the first round (fourth pick overall) in 1988 draft. Big-time career as a major league relief pitcher, most notably for Baltimore and, in 1999, the American playoff qualifying Arizona Diamondbacks. His father, Coach Bill Olson, also was a Hall of Fame inductee in 1999.

The careers of Bill and Gregg Olson were intertwined during the early 1980’s at Omaha Northwest High School where Bill was the school’s first baseball coach, and Gregg played on four consecutive state championship teams from 1982 through 1985.  Under Bill’s leadership the Huskies compiled a fifty-three game consecutive win streak over the 1983, 84 and 85 seasons.  The streak started during Gregg’s sophomore season in 1983; in 1984 the team recorded a perfect season, and the streak finally came to an end in 1985.  “What’s funny about that streak,” observed Coach Olson in his trademark gravel pit voice, “is that it started after we lost a game to Ralston on a very close play, a questionable call.  If we win that game, we can tack on about another fifteen straight wins that we had before that loss.”

During his high school career, Greg was a perfect 27-0 on the mound, featuring a crisp fast ball in the high 80’s and low 90’s and a knee-buckling breaking ball known as “Uncle Charlie.”  Greg was also a very good hitter, hitting over .500 as a senior and leading the state in home runs.  During the state tournament his senior year, he was 18 of 21 at the plate.  He also threw a no-hitter in the championship game.

A “Faces in the Crowd” entry in the July 16, 1984 issue of Sports Illustrated notes the following:  “Bill, 44, coached son Gregg, 17, and the Northwest High baseball team to their third straight state Class A championship. In the 4-2 title victory over Millard South, Gregg, a righthander, struck out 10, hit two homers and drove in the four Husky runs. As a pitcher, he was 8-0 for the season with a 0.98 ERA. Bill’s 13-year 184-64 record includes a 40-game win streak dating back to the 1983 season. He now has been named Nebraska’s high school baseball Coach of the Year five times.”

Gregg was selected a High School All American by American Legion baseball in 1985 as the Northwest Legion team finished third in the American Legion World Series.  The Northwest spring team was awarded a mythical National Championship in 1983 by Collegiate Baseball magazine and earned a #2 final ranking in 1984 and a #3 final ranking in 1985 from the publication.

Gregg played college baseball at the Auburn University where the 6’4″, 206 pound right-hander was the school’s first and only two-time All-American.  During his three-year career at Auburn, Gregg compiled a 25-7 record with twenty saves, a 3.03 ERA and 271 strikeouts.  He was selected to the USA National Team in 1987.

Gregg was selected by the Baltimore Orioles with the #4 pick in the first round of the 1988 major league draft and made his major league debut later that season.  Used primarily as a reliever, Olson was named the American League Rookie of the Year in 1989, his first full season in the majors.  In his second season (1990), Gregg was selected to the American League All-Star team and set a club record of 37 saves.  He followed with 31 saves in 1991 and 36 in 1992.

A torn elbow ligament in August 1993 sidelined him for the rest of that year.  Although he finished with 29 saves and  a career low 1.60 ERA that season, Baltimore opted not re-sign him after the injury.  Gregg moved from club to club over the next few years and revived his career with the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks in 1998, setting a franchise record of thirty saves.  Gregg finished his fourteen-year career after two seasons (2000 and 2001) as a “set up” man for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

For his career, Gregg recorded 217 saves with a 40-39 record, 588 strikeouts, and a 3.46 ERA in 672 innings pitched.  The teams’ all-time saves leader was selected to the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame on March 19, 2008 and was inducted in ceremonies on August 8, 2008.