Gregg Olson buckled a few knees in his day.
Olson learned to throw his trademark curveball from his dad, Bill, who allowed him to throw the pitch only a few times each game while he mastered the spin and mechanics.
"It was like a toy I couldn't play with," Gregg Olson said.
Once he started throwing the curve as a 15-year-old, it haunted hitters at the high school and college levels, and became Olson's ticket to the majors.
The intensity of that breaking ball mirrored his demeanor on the mound. He wanted to win, but the fear of losing stoked his competitive fire.
"I wouldn’t allow myself to lose," Olson said. "I did everything I could do to not make it happen."
Losing was something Olson never dealt with at Omaha Northwest, going 27-0 with a 0.76 ERA, 276 strikeouts, seven no-hitters — including four in the state playoffs and one in the state championship game — and four state titles before playing at Auburn.
Olson's dominance didn’t translate to the college game at first. He finished his freshman season with a 7-3 record and a 5.72 ERA.
His stats improved dramatically during his sophomore season, when Olson went 11-1 with 10 saves and a nation-leading 1.26 ERA while earning All-America honors. In 2013, Olson’s standout season was recognized with the creation of the Gregg Olson Award, which is given to college baseball’s breakout player of the season. He finished college as a two-time All-American.
Olson was taken by the Baltimore Orioles with the fourth pick in the 1988 draft and his curveball frustrated pro players, too. He posted 27 saves with a 1.69 ERA during his first full season in the majors in 1989 and became the first reliever to be named American League Rookie of the Year.
"I just went out there and played. I mean I took care to know who I was facing and what I was doing, but my bottom line was, 'Did we win or did we lose, and did I do my job or didn’t I?' " he told The World-Herald in 2012.
Olson played for nine teams during his major league career before retiring in 2001 with 217 saves and a 3.46 ERA. He was elected to the Orioles Hall of Fame in 2008, followed by an induction into the Omaha Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.
Played for: Omaha Northwest High, Auburn Tigers, Baltimore Orioles, Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins, Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers
Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: Joel Sealer from Millard South
Best moment as an athlete: Making the 1990 All-Star Game. "Mark McGwire was on my left, Wade Boggs was on my right. It's the best of the best, and I'm in the room with them."
Early sign of greatness: During his sophomore year, he started to get people out on a consistent basis and threw a no-hitter.
At Auburn: 3.03 ERA, 25-7, 20 saves
MLB: 3.46 ERA, 40-39, 217 saves
Olson was No. 51 in the inaugural Nebraska 100 list in 2005. See more about the 2005 list »