The Mets needed a bat badly after the 1971 season, and Montreal needed to fill some position players with young solid talent. In the off season & as late as Spring Training Gil Hodges was after Rusty Staub. He wanted him bad & even told Staub about during a March exhibition game.
The two teams got together and made a blockbuster trade, just before the start of the 1972 season. On April 6, 1972, four days after Gil Hodges fatal heart attack, Staub was Traded to the Mets in exchange for Ken Singleton, Tim Foli, & Mike Jorgensen. This turned out to be a good trade for both teams. Rusty was a true hitter with power, who would find a home in the middle of the Mets lineup for the next four years.
Rusty Staub arrived in New York City with a lot of fanfare & hope for adding punch to the Mets lineup. On Opening Day 1972 he was the Mets right fielder, batting cleanup in between Tommie Agee & Cleon Jones. He went 1-3 with a walk that rainy afternoon in his debut where the Mets beat the Pirates 4-0 behind Tom Seaver. Prior to that game the Mets honored Gil Hodges & retired his uniform #14.
Before the weeks first home stand was over, Staub would have two three hit games, both coming against the Chicago Cubs and was already hitting .350. His first Mets HR came in San Diego off Padres pitcher Fred Norman, on April 27th.
Early on he had three different four hit games, and was adjusting well to New York. On Mother’s Day May 14th, in front of a Shea crowd of 35,000, Willie Mays, made a triumphant return to New York City, this time in a Mets uniform against his old San Francisco Giants team mates. Staub gave the Mothers in attendance an early treat; hitting a 1st inning grand slam HR off Sudden Sam Mcdowell. Later Mays hit a 5th inning HR that sent the Shea crowd into a wild frenzy, especially since it proved to be the game winner.
In mid June Staub was batting .307 and the Mets were atop the NL East ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates. As luck would have it, in a game against the Atlanta Braves on June 14th , future Met pitcher George Stone hit Rusty with a pitch on his right hand. Staub, who missed only seven games in the previous four seasons, attempted to play through the pain but x-rays showed a break. He would miss 90 games the rest of the way and the Mets post season hopes were put to rest.
It was the first major injury of his career. He returned to the line up in late September going 7-30 with two RBIs in nine games. In his first Met season Staub only played in 66 games batting .293 with nine HRs, eleven doubles, 31 walks, a .372 on base % (second on the club to Wayne Garrett) & 38 RBIs.
In 1973 Rusty became one of the team’s leaders & most clutch position player. He struggled early on not getting his average over .200 until the beginning of May. On April 25th he hit his first & second HRs of the season, both solo shots against his old team the Houston Astros. Staub had only driven in one run up to that point & was still only batting .155. He began to get hot from that point, hitting safely in 20 of the next 22 ball games.
On May 3rd he hit a grand slam HR off the Cincinnati Reds Tom Hall (a future Met) at Shea Stadium. On May 24th he had five hits in a 19 inning game at Dodger Stadium in a Mets 7-3 win over Los Angeles. It was Staub’s double that broke the 3-3 tie in the top of the 19th inning, as the Mets went on to score four runs, after five hours & 45 minutes of play. He picked up 17 RBIs that month, while raising his average 100 points by June.
On June 9th in front of 47,000 fans at Shea Stadium, Staub put the Mets on the board first with a two run double in the first inning off the Dodgers Al Downing. In the 8th inning he added another RBI double off Doug Rau leading Jon Matlack to a complete game 4-2 win. In June he had ten multi hit games and brought his average up near .290 by the end of the month.
Staub helped the Mets avoid a four game sweep in Montreal when he cracked a bases loaded single off relief ace Mike Marshall tying the game in the 6th inning. He had homered earlier in the game as New York went on to win it 7-3. In a two game stretch at Atlanta that July, he hit three HRs driving in seven runs while scoring four more runs.
On that July 18th day he dove in five runs in the Mets 12-2 win, giving Tom Seaver his tenth win of the year. By the All Star break he was hitting .280 and had 10 HRs with 47 RBIs way ahead of most Mets players. He had two eight game hit streaks in August; one led him right into the September stretch drive. On the 27th of August he hit another grand slam at Shea Stadium, this one against Steve Arlin & the San Diego Padres to lift the Mets over the Padres 6-5.
He was one of the few regulars that season who didn’t suffer an injuries or land on the DL. Staub was always clutch, when the Mets needed him in the big games. He went into early September with a nine game hit streak, and in the final month hit safely in 23 of 28 games. He finished up with 35 hits batting well over .300 that month, and a ending the regular season with a 15 game hit streak. He hit four HRs with 16 RBIs & ten extra base hits in the incredible Mets September run to catch the NL East title.
On September 11th he hit two HRs & drove in four of the Mets five runs at Philadelphia, although it was a losing effort. On September 18th, he set the tone with an early two run HR against the first place Pirates at Pittsburgh. The Mets would win the game 6-5 and although they were in a tight race in fourth place, were just 2 1/2 games behind the Pirates. The Mets returned home to Shea and swept series with both the Pirates & the Cardinals, as Staub hit safley in every game. He added a two run HR against the Pirates in the final game of that series sweep.
In the last regular season series, it was off to Chicago at Wrigley Field for a four game set against the Cubs. After three straight rain outs, the Mets clinched at least a tie of the NL East, winning the second game of a double header.
In that game Staub went 3-5 with three RBIs, and two runs scored. He singled in the first inning & scored along with Wayne Garrett on when Cleon Jones reached base on an error. In the seventh he singled off Fergie Jenkins scoring Garrett, then drove in two runs with a double in the top of the 9th inning sealing the Mets 9-2 win. In the final game clinching the NL East on the last day of the season, Rusty had four hits (4 -5) driving in a run and scoring a run.
For the season he led the team in RBIs (76) on base percentage (.361) walks (74) & set a club mark in doubles, with 36. He finished up with 15 HRs, batting .279 with 163 hits, both second only to Felix Millian's .290 average & 185 hits. Defensively, Staub was one of the league’s best out fielders, nailing 17 assists from the outfield, second best in the league among all outfielders. He was second in put outs & third in games played posting a .978 fielding %.
1973 Post Season:
NLCS: In the 1973 NLCS, Rusty played a huge role in the Mets' upset over the NL Western Champion Cincinnati Reds. Although he only batted .200 (3 -15) all his hits were HRs & he drove in five big runs as well. In the Mets Game #1 loss at Cincinnati he went 0-2 but did draw two walks.
In Game #2 he put the Mets on the board first with a solo HR off Don Gullett in the 4th inning, the Mets went on to win it behind Jon Matlack's two hit shutout.
It was after that game that Mets short stop Bud Harrelson made the comment that the Reds looked like him out there hitting today. These words angered the Reds & at batting practice before Game #3 at Shea Stadium Joe Morgan confronted Harrelson about what he had said. Staub jumped in to cool things off between the two, but Morgan said Pete Rose was still fuming.
In the classic Game #3 at Shea Stadium, Staub hit a 1st inning solo HR off Reds pitcher Ross Grimsley.
In the 2nd inning, Jerry Grote walked & Don Hahn singled. With one out Jerry Koosman singled to load the bases. Wyne Garret hit a sac fly & Felix Millan Singled making it a quick 3-0 Mets. Staub came up with two aboard & blasted a three run shot off Grimsley once again, putting the Mets ahead 6-0. Shea Stadium was going crazy as the 1973 version of the Amazing Mets were smelling another World Series.
His big day at the plate, was overshadowed when in the 5th inning Pete Rose, still fuming about the Harrelson comments the previous game & even more upset at the score of the game, went after Harrelson with a pop up cheap shot slide at second base to break up a double play.
What followed was the now legendary epic Bud Harrelson / Pete Rose bench clearing brawl, one of the most famous in post season history. Staub was one of the Mets who had to walk out to left field when play was suspended, to plead with Mets fans to stop throwing debris on the field at Pete Rose so the game would not be forfeited.
In Game #4, Staub made two spectacular defensive plays with his glove. The first came early on saving two runs from scoring for pitcher George Stone.
The game went into extra innings & in the top of the 11th, Staub robbed the Reds Dan Driessen of an extra-base hit while crashing into the right field wall to make the catch. He fell to the ground, injuring his shoulder. The Mets lost the game & a decisive Game #5 was necessary. Bad new for the Mets was that Staub could not play in the clincher.
The Mets certainly inspired by Staub, beat the Reds 7-2 in Game #5, with a thirteen hit attack behind the pitching of Cy Young winner & future Hall of famer; Tom Seaver, as they went on to win the 1973 NL Pennant.
1973 World Series: In the World Series against the Oakland A's, Rusty again led his team with both motivation & production. He took cortisone shots for his shoulder, but still had to miss starting in the World Series opener. He did make a pinch hit appearance, late in the game, going 0-1.
He was back in the lineup for Game #2 playing in pain and unable to pull the ball with any power. In right field he was forced to throw underhand due to the sore shoulder, giving the A's a big advantage. He went 1-5 in that game as the Mets went on to win it 10-7 in extra innings.
As the Series moved back to Shea Stadium, Rusty was feeling much better. In Game #3 he singled off the A's Catfish Hunter in the 1st inning but was left stranded on second base.
In the 9th inning with two outs & the score tied 2-2 he just missed a walk off game winning HR, and had to settle for a ground rule double. The A's caught a huge break. Oakland pitcher Paul Lindblad intentionally walked Cleon Jones & got John Milner to fly out to right field. Rusty was once again left stranded on second base, the A's went on to win it in the 11th inning 3-2.
In Game #4 Rusty Staub had one of the best Mets post season offensive games ever, in the bottom of the 1st inning leadoff man Wayne Garrett & Felix Millan both singled. Staub came up & blasted a three run HR, off Oakland's Ken Holtzman, sending Shea Stadium into frenzy, as the Mets took an early 3-0 lead.
In the 4th inning with two men on, he singled off A's reliever Blue Moon Odom, driving in Bud Harrelson & Wayne Garret giving the Mets a 6-1 lead.
He was the big hero of the night collecting four hits, with a walk, a HR & five RBIs setting a Mets record that still stands today for RBI's in a post season game. Staub is the only Met to have that many RBIs in a World Series game. He led the Mets to the 6-1 win. The 1973 World Series was now tied at two games apiece.
In Game #5 Staub would single n the 5th inning & later draw a walk. The Mets went on to a 2-0 win behind Jerry Koosman (6.1 innings) & Tug McGraw (2.2 innings) combined shut out. The Mets were one game away from the Championship.
As the Series shifted back to Oakland for Game #6, Staub singled in the 1st inning but was left stranded on base along with Wayne Garrett on second as Cleon Jones & John Milner were retired. The Mets were shut down the rest of the way by Oakland pitchers Catfish Hunter, Darold Knowles & Rollie Fingers, taking a 3-1 loss.
In the final Game #7, Staub got two hits including an RBI double off Ken Holtzman in the 6th inning although the Mets were already down 5-0. It was a tough loss after the team had come from so far down, being in last place as late as August.
Despite his shoulder injury, Staub played in all seven World Series games. He had the most hits of any player on either team (11) & led all players with more than three at bats on either club batting .423.
He & Series MVP Reggie Jackson led all players with six RBIs. Staub also drew two walks and hit a pair of doubles. Had the Mets won the World Series, Staub may have very well been named the Series MVP & certainly should have been considered for the Series MVP in a losing role.
What was it like playing for Yogi Berra? "Yogi's a great guy. Yogi never gave up. When you hear that comment, 'It ain't over 'til it's over,' well, that's Yogi. He tried to encourage everybody, and he's a special guy. One thing about Yogi - you can be walking down the street, and it's like the Pope. Everyone knows Yogi and loves him.”
In 1974 after the NL Champion flag was raised at Shea Stadium, Staub had a good second week of April. He drove in runs in five of six games & hit two HRs. He hit .296 that first month driving in ten runs including a three RBI day against the Dodgers in Los Angeles on April 29th. He started out early May hitting HRs in three straight games, and finished up with seven for the month.
On May 4th he hit a three run HR in the bottom of the 7th inning off an Diego's Randy Jones, leading the Mets to a come from behind win. The next week he hit HRs in back to back games at Chicago's Wrigley Field, driving in five runs. He would drive in ten runs overall from May 11th through May 18th. He put together a nine game hit streak in June and drove in 13 runs that month.
On June 20th he doubled home both Mets runs in Philadelphia leading Jerry Koosman to a 2-1 in over Dick Ruthven. He came back & hit HRs in the next two games as well. At the All Star break he already had 13 HRs, and although he was hitting for more average in the second half, his power numbers went down. He would only hit six more HRs in the second half.
In August he had a big month, driving in twenty runs hitting safely in all but just six games the entire month. From August 10th - August 19th he drove in runs in six of eight games, including a walk off game winning single against the N.L.’s top reliever, the Dodgers Mike Marshall on August 14th. On August 24th he drove in four runs against the Astros at Houston lading the Mets to a 10-2 win.
Staub slumped in September as his average fell from above .280 to a season ending .258. For the 5th place 1974 Mets he played in 155 games, leading the team in hits (146) RBIs (78) at bats (561) on base percentage (.347%) & intentional walks (12). He also hit 19 HRs with 22 doubles & 79 runs scored.
Defensively he was one of the league’s top out fielders, leading the league in assists (19) & games (147) posting a .982 fielding % (third best in the NL).
In 1975 he once again led the NL with 15 assists in right field & in games played (153) He posted a .985 field % (third in the NL) & was third in put outs as well. But it was his run production that stood out most this season, as Staub set a Mets record (at that time) driving in 105 runs (4th best in the NL). He became the first Met player to drive in 100 runs and his single season RBI record would stand for 13 seasons, until 1987.
He began by driving in a run on the Opening Day 3-2 loss to the Phillies & then hit his first HR the next day. On April 17th he drove in three runs with two doubles in a wild 14-7 Mets win at St. Louis. On April 23rd when the Cardinals came to St. Louis he hit a grand slam HR off Bob Gibson leading that seasons CY Young winner Tom Seaver, to victory. Staub drove in runs in six straight games & by the end of April he already had 16 RBIs among the best in the N.L., hitting near .300.
In the middle of May he hit HRs in back to games, first leading the Mets to a a 5-1 win over the San Francisco Giants with a three RBI day at Shea. He then went on the road & drove in two runs in three different games during a four game stretch. In the last two weeks of May he drove in 15 runs, going on another hot streak keeping his average above .300 & his on base % at .412%. In June his average dropped to .263 but he did still drive in 19 runs. On a road trip for the week of July 6th he hit four HRs driving in seven runs overall.
By the All Star break had 59 RBIs among the top run producers in the National League. He went into & out of the All Star break with a ten game hit streak & during his first game back hit a two run HR in Atlanta off Phil Neikro. Staub had a good August driving in twenty more runs, as the Mets made a run for the pennant but soon faded away through September, finishing third.
On September 18th, 1975 he hit a two run HR off Chicago's Donnie Moore, giving him his 100 & 101 RBIs on the season, becoming the first Met to do so. At the end of the 1975 season Staub raised his batting average 24 points from the previous year, up to .282.
In 155 games played he hit 19 HRs, with 30 doubles, 93 runs scored, & a .371 on base percentage. In addition to his 105 RBIs Staub also led the team in walks (77) & intentional walks (14) which was fourth best in the league.
After the 1975 season, the Mets management made a horrible decision trading Staub to the American League. As the ball club was starting to change it face in the age of free agency, Staub was another piece from the '73 pennant season dealt away, just as Tug McGraw had been the year before. Staub was the Mets biggest run producer, a clutch player & a popular fan favorite as well as a high profiled New Yorker. He was one of the few hitting stars the Mets had over the past four seasons & had just set a club RBI mark.
In one of the worst trades ever in Mets history, Rusty was sent to Detroit with pitcher Bill Laxton for over the hill, over weight pitcher Mickey Lolich and outfielder Billy Baldwin.