Rusty Staub, beloved New York Mets legend and 23-year MLB veteran, died early Thursday of multiple organ failure at a hospital in West Palm Beach, Florida. He was 73, and would have turned 74 on Sunday.
Staub spent his 23-year career with five teams, and from his 1963 debut through his last season in 1985, he hit .279/.362/.431 with 2,716 hits, 499 doubles, and 292 home runs. He played for at least four seasons for four different teams: the New York Mets, Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers, and Montreal Expos. That was more than enough time for any fanbase to fall in love with Rusty. While he’s not in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Staub is a member of the New York Mets Hall of Fame, the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame, and the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
Most of his playing years were spent with the Mets, a total of nine season over two different stints. Rusty loved New York, and New York loved him back. In 1973 he helped the Mets pull off a breathtaking comeback to secure the NL pennant, and hit .341/.413/.683 in the postseason, earning himself a spot in Mets lore forever. He was the perfect player for New York in that era: tough, fun, and full of personality.
Staub also spent time with the Houston Astros, making his MLB debut with them when they were still called the Colt 45s. When he played for the Montreal Expos, they called him Le Grand Orange, which is one of the greatest baseball nicknames ever. All told, he’s the only man in MLB history to notch at least 500 hits with four different teams. In 1975 became the first Mets player ever to drive in 100 runs in a season, and in 1983 he tied the all-time record for consecutive pinch hits, at 8.
Staub would fit right in with baseball today. Not just because of his outsized personality, but because of his reputation as a tough negotiator for himself. When he played for the Tigers in 1979, he sat out all of spring training and the first month of the season to try and get a contract extension. Staub was also active in the then-new Players Association, which is what led to his trade from the Tigers back to the Expos later that year.
Though he loved Montreal, New York was his baseball home. He hit free agency for the first time in 1980 and signed with the Mets. Despite a promise that he’d be their every day first baseman, Staub spent the last five years of his career as a pinch hitter.
After he retired, Staub dedicated his time to many philanthropic causes. He started a foundation, which in turn started the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund, which helps the families of New York area police and fire fighters killed in the line of duty. In January, just a few months before he died, he announced that his foundation had served over nine million meals over the last ten years to the needy of New York.
The Mets open their season on Thursday at Citi Field. Staub’s absence will be felt by everyone there.
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – –