As a life long Mets fan, obsessed with the 1973 Mets NL Championship team, I know how important Rusty Staub is in Mets history. Not only one of the best players to wear the orange & blue but one of the proudest New Yorkers who did a bunch of things for the City he adopted & loved. For many years he ran a Restaurant in Manhattan on the Upper East Side, displaying his love for food.
Rusty with his legendary reddish hair, was known as "Le Grande Orange" from his days in Montreal. He would play with the Mets on two different tours, both during winning era's.
The younger Staub was brought over in a major trade in 1972. He was the clubs steady right fielder & although just 29 years old, he brought leadership with a veteran presence, as he already had ten years in the league. Staub would be the face of the offense, the hitting star of a star studded pitching dominated team, that went on to win the 1973 NL Pennant.
He led the '73 club in RBIs (76) doubles (36) walks (74) & on base % (.361%). He was second on the team in batting (.279) games played (153) Hits (163) runs scored (77) & slugging (.421%).
When he got to the NLCS against the Big Red Machine, he got just three hits, but they were all HRs coming in the first two Mets victories. He would lead both teams with most HRs (3) & RBIs (5) in that series. In Game #4 he made a spectacular catch, crashing into the Shea wall saving two runs & injuring his shoulder. He couldn't play in the Game #5 pennant clincher or in Game #1 of the 1973 World Series.
Staub needed cortisone shots throughout that World Series, but was back in the line up for Game #2. He played through so much pain & discomfort that he had to throw the ball underhanded.
At the plate, he led both teams in batting (.423) slugging (.615%) hits (11)& RBIs (6). He topped the Mets with in on base % (.464) & doubles (2). He had a monster Game #4 at Shea Stadium with a HR & 4 RBIs. One can only imagine if he was 100%. Staub made the best of it, as it was his only post season in 23 years of MLB action.
Two years later (1975) he became the first Met to drive in over 100 runs, his 105 RBIs were a Mets record for 15 years (1990). In one of many mid to late 70's front office debacles, Staub was traded to Detroit in 1976, where he was second in the AL in RBIs (121) in 1978.
Staub returned for a second tenure with the Mets in 1981, arriving at a low point in Mets history but being there as they rose to being one of the league's best teams. By now he was older & a bit heavier but still made a huge impact. He would become one of the game's best pinch hitters in those years & his veteran presence was huge on the younger players. He retired in 1985 just one season before the Mets won the World Series.
He is the only player in MLB history to have 500 hits with four different teams & his career numbers should have gotten him more consideration for the Hall Of Fame than he got.
After a heart attack two years ago & other health issues, notably kidney problems last month, Rusty Staub passed away in West Palm Beach Florida at age 73.
Rusty Staub will be missed but always be remembered.
His good friend Keith Hernandez broke down during an Opening Day press conference "It's a tough day, he was the one that got me to live in the city. When I came at the start of the season in '84, I was single, he said "we'll you got to live in the city". He was the one that introduced me to the city & all it had to offer. He's just been a great friend. But he was in a lot of pain. He's in a better place."
Tom Seaver: "So sad, Rusty was a close, close friend. Great teammate. He visited me often out here in the vineyard. I will miss him. Most of all I will miss his energy. Everything he did was at 90 miles an hour."
The Mets issued the following statement: The