Rusty Staub (Part Two) The 1980's Mets Years: 1980 - 1985

Rusty Staub-Part Two: In December of 1980 Staub returned to New York signing with the New York Mets as a free agent. Things had changed drastically in the five years he was gone. He found himself on a last place team & an organization at the lowest point of their history. The team had just been bought by a new ownership of Nelson Doubleday & Fred Wilpon. Joe Torre was in his last year as Mets manager. It would take a few years, but things were going to get better. 

Le Grand Orange once again became a popular player at Shea Stadium, adding to his Mets legacy in a new era at the twilight of his career.

1981 Strike Shortened Season: On Opening Day 1981 he was the Mets first baseman batting in the fifth position, at Wrigley Field hitting a HR in his Mets return. 

From April 19th-Arile 25th, he drove in runs in four straight games, including both ends of a double header.

Staub drove in runs in four straight games that April, finishing the month batting .320. On May 1st he hit a to run HR off the Padres Juan Eichelberger in a 4-2 Mets loss at Shea. At the start of June, he was successful in two of three pinch hit appearances.

On June 9th he had a three-run pinch hit single off the Reds Paul Moskau in a loss to Cincinnati at Shea Stadium. On June 10th the Players went on strike & baseball was halted for two months. When play returned in August he was used as mostly as a pinch hitter. Staub remained over the .300 mark until the first week of September. On September 8th, he hit his third HR of the season coming off veteran Luis Tiant now with the Pirates, in a 3-1 win at Three Rivers Stadium. 

Multi HR Game: October 1st, Rusty had his first multi-HR game since the 1973 World Series. It had been eight years since he hit two HRs in a game. In this game at Shea Stadium, he scored the only two Mets runs in a game that ended in an official 2-2 tie. In the 5th inning he homered off Mike Krukow & in the 7th he tied the game with a HR off Rawly Eastwick. 


In 1981, Staub played in 41 games at first base with another 29 as a pinch hitter, playing in 70 games overall. He batted .317 (his career best) with five HRs nine doubles & 21 RBIs. He struck out just 12 times & drew 22 walks as he posted a .398 on base & with an .864 OPS. The season was split in two due to the strike with the Mets finishing fifth both ties for a combined 41-62-2 record.

1982: On Opening Day, the Mets opened up in Philadelphia with their new manager George Bamberger. In the 7-2 Mets win, Rusty came to bat in the 7th inning as a pinch hitter & had an RBI off Steve Carlton.

Walk Off HR: On May 9th, he came to bat as a pinch hitter, in the bottom of the 9th inning of a 5-5 tie with the Giants. Rusty hit a walk off HR off Greg Minton lifting the Mets to a 6-5 win. Minton would have 30 saves on the season, leading the NL in games finished (66).

On May 22nd, in a wild game in Houston, Staub pinch hit in the 8th inning hitting an RBI sac fly off Nolan Ryan. The Mets won the game in extra innings on an error. On June 29th in Montreal, he started a four run come back with a 6th inning two run double off the Expos Steve Rogers in the eventual 5-4 win. Two games later he had another multi-RBI game in a win over the Phillies.

On July 24th, in San Diego with the Mets down 3-2, Staub came to bat as a pinch hitter in the top of the 9th with two men on. He tied the game with a single off Gary Lucas. Bob Bailor followed with a single as the Mets won it 4-3.

Three RBI Hit: On August 12th, Rusty came to bat with the bases loaded in the 6th inning & doubled off the Cubs Dickie Noles clearing the bases. The put up six runs that inning enroute to a 13-6 win at Shea. He would have two more multi-RBI games in Met losses that month.

Walk Off Hit: On September 28th, Rusty came to bat in the bottom of the 10th inning of a 2-2 tie with the Pirates. He singled off Pittsburgh's Rod Scurry scoring Brian Giles with the walk off run to beat the Pirates 3-2.

That season Rusty served as a player / coach, playing in 112 games at first base, corner outfielder & as a pinch hitter. He hit .242 with three HRs nine doubles 11 runs scored & 27 RBIs in 219 at bats. He struck out 10 times with 14 walks, a .371 on base % & .633 OPS.

1983: The season started with Geroge Bamberger as manager but after 46 games, he had enough & decided to go fishing stepping down as manager. Big Frank Howard took over, he would go 52-64 as manager as the Mets finished last.

On a happier note, the Mets brought back Tom Seaver that season, Darryl Strawberry was brought up winning the NL ROY Award & Keith Hernandez arrived in June. Things were getting better. 

Friendship With Keith: Hernandez was unhappy with the trade at first, but as he soon noticed all the young talent on the horizon he felt better. It was Staub who also started to show him all the finer things New York had to offer off the field. Especially Staub's favorite things food, fine dining & fine wine. 

The veteran Staub would also talk baseball with Rusty, learning many finer points passing that on to their young teammates as well. The two formed a close friendship.

NL's Top Pinch Hitter & Record Setter: This year Staub was 39 years old & putting on weight, but he could still hit. He was mostly used as a pinch hitter & became one of the league’s best in that role. Over the next three seasons he would set many pinch-hit records. 

Rusty batted .296 on the season, tied a National League record with eight straight pinch-hits & tied an MLB record of 25 RBIs in the pinch-hitting role.

At the start of May he drove in runs in three straight games, two of them where he got starts playing at first base. On May 4th in a 4-3 loss at Shea, he collected a sac fly RBI pinch hit bringing the Mets to within a run of the Astros.


On June 7th, in the top of the 7th inning, he tied up a game with the Cubs at Wrigley Field with an RBI single off Chuck Rainey but the Mets went on to a loss. 

Eight Straight Pinch-Hit Streak: From June 11th - June 26th, Rusty had eight pinch hit at bats & hit safely each time setting an NL record. He also made five starts in that time, overall, he went 12-23 batting .571, with a HR & seven RBIs. The first two pinch hits came at home against the Expos. On June 11th it was a two run double off the Jeff Reardon & the next day a two run double off Charlie Lea.

Walk Off Hit: On June 14th, Staub came to bat in the bottom of the 10th inning of a 3-3 tie at
Shea facing that years NL saves leader (29) Lee Smith of the Cubs. 

Staub singled into left field with the walk off hit, scoring Bob Bailor for the 4-3 win. It was his fourth straight pinch hit.

His next two pinch hits came against the Expos in Montreal & then his seventh straight pinch hit was off the Cardinals Dave Von Ohlen in a 6-4 win at Shea. On June 24th he faced Steve Carlton with a chance to tie the record, but Carlton hit him with the pitch.

Record Tying 8th Straight Pinch Hit: On June 26th, in the top of the 9th inning of the first game of a double header, Rusty tied the consecutive pinch-hit record, leading off with a base hit off the Phillies Ron Reed. He was greeted at first base by Pete Rose the Phillies first baseman & handed the ball by Reed the pitcher, in a real classy move.



Hall of Fame Trivia:
 The bat he used in his 1985 for record setting eight straight pinch hits, is in Cooperstown on display at the Hall of Fame.

HR For Friend Tom Seaver: By July he was still batting.350. On July 14th Stub came to bat in the 6th inning of a 4-4 tie with the Reds. He hit a two-run pinch hit HR off (former Met) Charlie Puleo helping Tom Seaver to a 6-4 Mets victory. For a brief moment in time it was like the old days of '73.

On July 25th, Staub had a 6th inning sac fly off the Braves Phil Niekro tying up the game. The Mets would later win the game on three straight RBI hits from Hubie Brooks, Keith Hernandez & George Foster off Steve Bedrosian in the bottom of the 9th. 

On August 21st, Staub had a pinch hit double off Giant's veteran Jim Barr which drove in two runs & helped New York to a 4-2 win. Staub kept his average over .300 until September 5th.

Walk Off Hit: On the last day of the 1983 season, in the second game of a double header, Rusty Staub ended the season with a two-run pinch double off the Expos Jeff Reardon, with two out in the bottom of the 9th giving the Mets a dramatic 5–4 win. It was his second walk-off hit of the year, his fourth in the last two seasons.

Staub finished the year with a .296 batting average, 34 hits, six doubles three HRs five runs scored & 28 RBIs. He struck out ten times with 14 walks, a .371 on base % & .797 OPS. He played in 104 games, mostly as a pinch hitter, five at first base & five in the outfield.

1984: With Davey Johnson now managing the Mets, a rookie phenom pitcher in Dwight Gooden, other young pitchers like Ron Darling & Sid Fernandez, a good mix of some young veterans & other rookies, the Mets had a contender. Shea Stadium was an exciting place to be & the 40-year-old Staub, along with Danny Heep became the league's best pinch-hitting combo.

On Opening Day, the Mets took a rare Opening Day loss in Cincinatti. Staub went 0-1 as a pinch hitter. On April 14th he collected his first hit & would go 5-10 from there to begin May batting .455.

On April 25th, his top of the 8th inning RBI pinch hit single off the Expos Jeff Reardon tied the game sending to an extra inning Mets win. Over the next two months he had six pinch hit RBIs & batted .333 in that role going 6-18. At the end of June, he was still batting .357.

In July he fell into a slump going 2-16 as his average fell to .273. He drove in three runs in August. On August 29th at Shea, he broke up a 7th inning 1-1 tie with the Dodgers, doubling off Ken Howell scoring Mookie Wilson. L.A. tied it but the Mets went on to win the game with a Keith Hernandez walk off double, scoring pinch hitter Danny Heep. The win put New York just 5.5 games out of first place.

Walk Off HR: On September 25, at Shea Stadium, Rusty became the second player in MLB history to hit a HR as a teenager & after the age of 40. Ty Cobb had done it first. In the bottom of the 9th, the Mets entered down 4-2 facing Tug McGraw. They tied it on RBI hits from Mookie Wilson & Ron Hodges. Rusty came u facing Larry Anderson & hit the two-run walk off HR. It was his only HR of the season & his fifth walk off hit in the last three seasons.

The Mets finished second to the Cubs that year, winning 90 games, their best season since Staub left almost a decade ago. That year Rusty hit .264 (19-78) with 1 HR 4 doubles & 18 RBIs.

1985: This would be Rusty's final season as a player, he was now 41 & noticeably overweight, as his love of cooking was catching up with the restauranter. 

On April 17th, in his second game, he hit an RBI pinch hit off the Pirates Kent Tekulve in a 10-6 Mets win in Pittsburgh. 

Game Saving Catch: On April 28th, in an 18 inning 5-4 Mets win over the Pirates at Shea, manager Davey Johnson was running out of position players. He had to use Rusty Staub in the outfield. In the top of the 11th inning, Rusty made what was a game saving catch down the right field line off Pittsburgh's pinch hitter, pitcher Rick Rhoden. Rusty said he fined Davey Johnson $5 in the Mets kangaroo court for “trying to embarrass a player to the whole world.”

On June 1st he singled in the 7th inning off San Diego's Luis DeLeon driving in a run in the Mets 5-3 win over the Padres.

Last Career HR: On June 22nd, Rusty hit his last career HR, #292, a 7th inning three run shot off Montreal's Jeff Reardon. At the time it put his team ahead, but they went on to lose the game.

On September 1st the Mets were down to the Giants 3-1 in the top of the 9th inning at Candlestick Park. Staub hit an RBI pinch hit double off Scott Garrelts scoring Howard Johnson to make it a 3-2 game. Keith Hernandez would hit a two run HR off Mark Davis in what was the game winner.

On September 20th, Rusty got his last RBI pinch hit, a 7th innings single off the Pirates Mike Bilecki in a 7-5 loss.

On Saturday September 23rd, he next day in a game centerfieldmaz attended, Rusty collected his final career pinch hit, a single off the Pirates Ray Krawczyk. Davey Johnson kept him on base without removing him for a pinch runner. It was part funny & part respectful so the fans could see the slow runner one last time. The Mets were already ahead, 10-1. 

Mookie Wilson drew a walk sending Staub to second, Then Wally Backman singled but Staub held up at third base. In this game Dwight Gooden's earned his 22nd victory of the year & hit his first career HR.

*That evening centerfieldmaz & girlfriend went to see Heart at Radio City, quite a day for a 19-year-old.

Rusty finished out his last season with a respectable .267 average, hitting a HR, with three doubles and eight RBIs in 45 at bats. He drew ten walks & posted a .400 on base % with an .800 OPS. The Mets won 98 games in an exciting season but finished second to St, Louis, three games back.

Mets Career: In his long baseball career Rusty Staub played nine seasons with the Mets.

He played 942 Mets games (13th on the Mets all-time list). He hit 37 sacrifice flies (8th) with 56
intentional walks (9th). 
He had a .357 on base % (12th on Mets all-time list) with 399 RBIs (14th) 130 doubles (17th) 333 walks (19th) 709 hits (20th) 2571 at bats (21st) & 75 HRs (26th). Staub batted .276 with 296 runs scored, 7 triples, 204 strike outs with a .778 OPS.

Trivia: Rusty ended his career as the only major league player to have 500 hits with four different teams. (Houston Astros, Montreal Expos, New York Mets, and Detroit Tigers).

Honors: On July 13th, 1986, in the Mets Championship season, the Mets inducted him in the Mets Hall of Fame & honored him on Rusty Staub Day.  His former teammates took the field donning long red wigs in the ceremony.



Retirement- Broadcaster: From 1986-1996, Staub worked as a Mets broadcaster for ten years on WOR Channel 9, WPIX Channel 11, Sports Channel, & Fox Sports New York. 

New York City Rusty Staub Restaurants:  Staub was always a proud New Yorker & was very involved with the city. In 1977 he opened the first of his restaurants in Manhattan, Rusty's. A Cajun-style restaurant on 73rd St of the Upper East Side. 

The restaurant was famous for its annual rib-eating contest. In 1989 he would open a second restaurant Rusty's on Fifth Restaurant where he himself a gourmet chef, would be in the kitchen cooking. Rusty also enjoyed fine wines & had an impressive collection at his restaurants


Mets Ambassador:
He later was employed by the Mets (2000-2018) as the Mets team ambassador representing the Mets at charitable functions & civic events. Rusty was seen frequently at both Shea Stadium & Citi Field visiting with corporate sponsors, charities & school groups & celebrities.

Mets on the Field Honors: In 1986 the Mets honored Yogi Berra before a game with the Houston Astros, where Berra was coaching at the time. Staub presented his old manager with a large, framed photo.

1988 Rusty was on hand when his friend Tom Seaver's #41 was retired at Shea Stadium. In 1993 Rusty was on hand for the 20th anniversary of the 1973 NL Pennant winners. In 2008 he attended the closing ceremonies of Shea Stadium. He was on hand for Bob Murphy Night (2002) & Ralph Kiner Might (2007).



In 2013 he threw out the Opening Day pitch at Citi Field. Later that year he was on hand when Mike Piazza was elected to the NY Mets Hall of Fame. 

In 2015 he threw out the first pitch of the NLDS- Game #3 at Citi Field vs the Dodgers. In 2016, he helped John Franco & Edgardo Alfonzo raise the Mets NL Pennant Flag at Citi Field.

Charities & the Rusty Staub Foundation: As a humanitarian, he established the "Rusty Staub Foundation" for charitable works. Rusty was also a devout Catholic who partnered with the Catholic Charities to help feed millions of New Yorkers.

In 1985 he founded the "New York Police and Fire Widows' and Children's Benefit Fund." 
During its first 15 years of existence, the Fund raised and distributed $11 million for families of policemen and firefighters killed in the line of duty. Since September 11, 2001, Staub's organization has received contributions in excess of $120 million, playing a vital role in helping many families affected by the 911 tragedy.

Health Issues: In 2015 as the Mets were enjoying a return to the post season Rusty Staub suffered a heart attack while on a plane to New York from Ireland. The plane was rerouted back to Ireland & Staub was taken to hospital. He recovered in time to throw out the NLDS Game #3 ceremonial pitch. From there his health went downhill. 

In Winter of 2018 Staub was placed in the hospital as his kidneys were failing & bodily functions were shutting down. 

Passing: On Opening Day 2018, Staub passed away in West Palm Beach Florida, he was 73 years old.

Quotes- Keith Hernandez: "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."

Quotes- 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."

Quotes- Ron Darling: "I've never met anyone like him & I think that's unusual where everyone ends up being just like everyone else. He was not that guy."

The Mets issued the following statement: The family suffered a loss earlier today when Daniel “Rusty” Staub passed away. The entire organization sends its deepest sympathy to his family. He will be missed by everyone. . The Astros also issued a statement.


Comments

jkfan87 said…
His 1984 home run epic. Not just because he joined Ty Cobb for hitting a home run before age 20 and after age 40. And not just because it was a game that the Mets entered the 9th inning trailing by 2. But because on the pitch right before the home run, he hit a ball that JUST went foul. By like a foot. And then the very next pitch, he hit it to pretty much the EXACT same spot. Only this one was about a foot fair. I still remember getting so excited but ultimately disappointed when the first shot went foul. But the disappointment only lasted about 20 seconds when the next one stayed fair.
BERT said…
I was at that game also, same reaction(s)! There was a giveaway that night where you could choose either a Brooklyn Dodgers or NY Giants cap. I got a NY Giants one, and still have it to this day!

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