Rusty Staub: The Eighties Mets Years (1980-1985) & Beyond

RUSTY STAUB 1980-2018 : In December of 1980 Staub returned to New York signing back with the New York Mets as a free agent. 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. Le Grand Orange became a popular player at Shea once again, adding to his Mets legacy in a new era.

He drove in runs in four straight games that April, finishing the month batting .320. On May 1st he hit a to run HR against the San Diego Padres in a 4-2 Mets loss.

On June 9th he had a two run pinch hit single against the Cincinnati Reds at Shea Stadium. On October 1st he hit a two run HR in a game against the Chicago Cubs that ended in a rare official 2-2 tie. He played in 41 games for the Mets at first base and another 29 as a pinch hitter, playing in 70 games overall. He batted .317 (his career best) with five HRs nine doubles & 21 RBIs.

In 1982 he had a pinch hit Opening Day RBI single in the Mets 7-2 win over Steve Carlton & the Phillies. On May 9th he hit a walk off pinch hit HR against Greg Minton & the San Francisco Giants lifting the Mets to a 6-5 win. On September 28th he ended an extra inning game with a bottom of the 10th inning RBI single scoring Brian Giles to beat the Pittsburgh 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 & 27 RBIs in 219 at bats.

By 1983, Staub was mostly used as a pinch hitter, a role in which he excelled in. He became one of the league’s best pinch hitters, setting many records. He batted .296 on the season, tied a National League record with eight straight pinch-hits and tied an MLB record of 25 RBIs in the pinch hitting role.

In May he drove in runs in three straight games, two of them where he got starts playing at first base. He then had a pinch hit RBI single on May 4th against the Houston Astros & another four days later against the Reds.

In mid June he beat Cubs reliever Lee Smith with a bottom of the 9th game winning pinch hit single. In the week of June 7th- June 14th he had successful pinch hits in six of seven games driving in seven runs. In July he was still batting .350 & on the 14th hit a two run pinch hit HR against former Met Charlie Puleo helping Tom Seaver to a Mets victory, like the old days.

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. On the last day of the 1983 season Rusty Staub's two-run pinch double with two out in the bottom of the 9th gives the Mets a dramatic 5–4 win over the Montreal Expos, to end the season. Staub finished with a .296 batting average, a .371 on base % three HRs, six doubles & 28 RBIs.

In 1984 the Mets were battling for the NL East crown and Staub again was a key pinch hitter.

He began the year 5-11 in a pinch hitting role, batting .455 with one RBI. At the end of June he was still batting .357 excelling in the pinch hit role at the age of 40. On August 29th he broke a 1-1 tie doubling off the Dodgers Ken Howell scoring Mookie Wilson. The Mets went on to win the game 3-2, getting to just 5 1/2 games out of first place.

On September 25, 1984 at Shea Stadium, Staub hit a two run 9th inning walk off HR to beat the Phillies 6-4. In that dramatic win he became only the second player in history to homer both as a teenager and after the age of 40. Ty Cobb did it first & Gary Sheffield would later do it as a Met in 2009. He hit .264 (19-78) with 1 HR 4 doubles & 18 RBIs.

1985 would be Staub’s last season as a player, now overweight at the age of 41. In an 18 inning April game the Mets were forced to use Staub on the field as Davey Johnson was running out of position players. Rusty made a game saving catch down the right field line in the 11th inning off Pittsburgh's pinch hitter, 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. On September 1st the Mets were behind to the San Francisco Giants 3-1 in the top of the 9th inning. Staub hit a pinch hit double to drive in Howard Johnson & then scored on Keith Hernandez two run game winning HR.

On September 7th he got his last RBI pinch hit, it came against the Pirates at Shea Stadium. The next day in a game in which I attended on a Saturday afternoon, he got his final career pinch hit, a single off Ray Krawczyk. He then scored the final run of his career (run #1189) when Wally Backman drove him home in a 12-1 Mets romp, Dwight Gooden's 22nd victory of the year. Rusty finished out his last season with a respectable .267 average, hitting a HR, with three doubles and eight RBIs in 45 at bats posting a .400 on base %.

Mets Career: In his long baseball career Rusty Staub played nine seasons with the Mets, he is among the All Time Mets leaders in many categories. His 37 sacrifice flies are eighth on the Mets all time list. His 942 games played are 13th most in Mets history.
His .357 on base % is 12th on Mets all time list, his 130 doubles are 17th & his 333 walks are sixteenth most in Mets history. His 399 RBIs are twelfth, his 709 hits are eighteenth , his 2571 at bats are 13th most & his 75 HRs are twenty third.

Staub batted .276  as a NY Met with 296 runs scored as well.

MLB CAREER: Overall in his 23 year career Rusty is 13th all time in games played (2951). He has 2,716 hits (62nd most hits all time) 838 extra base hits (96th all time) 292 HRs (144th all time), 499 doubles (62nd all time), 47 triples, 1466 RBIs (58th all time) & 1255 walks (51st all time).

He batted .279 with a .362 on base % and he only struck out 888 times in 9720 at bats (36th most at bats all time). His 119 sac flies are 8th most all time, his 193 career intentional walks are 17th most all time & his 79 hit by pitches are 165th on the all time list.

Staub was known as one of the slowest runners of his era, especially after he turned 30. In his last 1,268 games Rusty attempted just 16 steals, but was successful actually 12 times. He is also 11th all time in grounding into double plays with 297.

Trivia: He 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).

Why Not the Hall of Fame? The question whether Staub belongs in the Hall of Fame is an interesting one. First off he is the only player in MLB history to get 500 hits with four different teams. He has 2951 career games played, and every player with 2750 has gotten into the Hall (except for Pete Rose ). He has 1466 RBIs and up to the "steroid age" every player with 1400 RBI has gone into the Hall of Fame. He has 499 doubles, and every player with 499 or more doubles has gone into the Hall as well. 

On the other hand, Staub hasn't reached any of the obvious markers of Hall of Fame qualification - he hasn't gotten to 3000 hits (falling 284 shorts with 2716) or 500 home runs, and he never won an MVP award or led the league in any major batting category. In 1978 he was second in the AL with 121 RBIs.

Still, the most similar player to Staub using the same philosophy, is Tony Perez, who did get in. And how does Barry Larkin & Roberto Alomar to name a few more recent players get in with some worse numbers than Satub's. Staub was considered by the BBWAA, but his highest vote total was only 8%. It will be up to the Veterans Committee as to whether Staub ever gets in.

Rusty's On Fifth Restaurant: Shortly after his arrival in New York City in the 1970s, he opened "Rusty's," a Cajun-style restaurant on the upper east side of Manhattan, known for its annual rib-eating contest. For years, Staub a gourmet chef himself operated Rusty’s On Fifth.

As a player he'd often embarrass teammates who joined him for dinner on the road by sending his meal back two or three times until the chef got it right to Rusty’s taste.

Retirement: Staub worked as a broadcaster for Mets games for ten years from 1986 through 1995, working on WOR Channel 9, WPIX Channel 11, Sports Channel, & Fox Sports New York. Staub has been employed by the Mets since 2000 as the Clubs team ambassador representing the team at charitable & civic events. Rusty can be seen at Citi Field frequently visiting with corporate sponsors, charities & school groups & celebrities.

Rusty was on hand for the twentieth anniversary of the 1973 NL Pennant winners in 1993. He was at the closing ceremonies of Shea Stadium in 2008, & on hand for both Ralph Kiner & Bob Murphy tribute nights.

Rusty Staub Foundation: As a  humanitarian, he established the "Rusty Staub Foundation" for charitable works. In 1986 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 $115 million, and has played a vital role in helping many families affected by the 911 tragedy.

Honors: In 1986 his former Mets team mates honored Staub by wearing long red wigs & inducting him in the NY Mets team Hall of Fame, on “Rusty Staub Day”.

His uniform number 10 was retired by the Montreal Expos while the team was in Canada & was he was also inducted into the Texas Hall of Fame in 2006 for his time in Houston.

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.

In 2004, he received an honorary doctorate of humane letters degree from Niagara University. At the Jesuit High School in New Orleans, from where Rusty graduated, the school annually gives out the Rusty Staub Award to the leader of the varsity baseball team.

Health Issue: As the 2015 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 & threw out the first pitch of Game #3 of the NLDS against the L.A. Dodgers. 

The following year on Opening Day he joined John Franco & Edgardo Alfonzo in raising the NL Championship flag on Opening Day at Citi Field.

Passing: In Winter of 2018 Staub was placed in the hospital as his kidneys were failing as well as other issues. On Opening Day 2018, March 29th, Staub passed away at age 73 in West Palm Beach Florida.

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 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.


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.

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