In Memory of Rusty Staub

Rusty Staub, slugger, fan favorite, 'Le Grand Orange,' dies at 73
by Mike Fitzpatrick
Associated Press
March 29, 2018

(c) Houston Astros

NEW YORK -- Rusty Staub, the orange-haired outfielder who became a huge hit with baseball fans in two countries during an All-Star career that spanned 23 major league seasons, died Thursday. He was 73.

He died after an illness in a hospital in West Palm Beach, Florida, hours before the start of the baseball season, the New York Mets said in a statement. The team learned of the death from friends of Staub who were with him at the time, a spokesman added.

Affectionately dubbed "Le Grand Orange," Staub was a six-time All-Star and the only player in major league history to have at least 500 hits with four teams. He became a huge hit with fans in the U.S. and Canada, most adored in New York and Montreal.

He batted .423 as the top hitter in the 1973 World Series when the Mets lost to the A's in a thrilling seven-game series. A savvy, reliable slugger with left-handed power and a discerning eye, Staub played from 1963 to 1985 and finished 284 hits shy of 3,000. He had 3½ great seasons with the Detroit Tigers and batted .300 for the Texas Rangers in 1980.

He broke into the majors as a teenager with Houston, lasted into his 40s with the Mets and spent decades doing charity work in the New York area.

"There wasn't a cause he didn't champion," the Mets said.

He owned and operated two popular Manhattan restaurants that bore his name, and authored a children's book titled "Hello, Mr. Met!"

Staub was the first star for the expansion Montreal Expos in 1969, embraced by French-Canadian fans at Parc Jarry who appreciated that he learned their language.

He made three straight All-Star teams with Montreal and hit a career-high 30 home runs for the last-place Expos in 1970. Though he spent only three full seasons in Montreal, plus a 38-game reunion in 1979, his No. 10 became the first uniform jersey retired by the team in 1993.

Long after the Expos moved to Washington and were renamed the Nationals before the 2005 season, he remains one of the most beloved players in franchise history.

Staub was traded to the Mets in 1972 and one year later helped lead them to a surprising National League pennant. Spurred by a now-famous rallying cry from reliever Tug McGraw -- "Ya Gotta Believe!" -- the Mets upset heavily favored Cincinnati, with Staub socking three home runs in the first four games of their best-of-five NL playoff.

Staub separated his right shoulder when he crashed hard into the outfield wall to make a fantastic catch in the 11th inning of Game 4. He sat out Tom Seaver's decisive win in Game 5 and missed the World Series opener against Oakland, yet returned to the lineup the following game.

Barely able to make weak, underhand throws during the Series, he still batted .423 with a home run, two doubles and six RBIs as New York lost in seven games. In Game 4, Staub went 4-for-4 with five RBIs, including a three-run home run off A's starter Ken Holtzman in the first inning, to lead the Mets to a 6-1 victory. In all, Staub hit .341 with 11 RBIs in his only postseason, a clutch and gritty performance that endeared him to Mets fans forever.

In 1975, he became the first Mets player to drive in 100 runs in a season, setting a club record with 105 that wasn't broken until 1990.

New York traded Staub to Detroit in December 1975 and he made his final All-Star team with the Tigers in 1976. He had 121 RBIs and finished fifth in AL MVP voting in '78, becoming the first major leaguer to play all 162 games in a season at designated hitter.

Staub re-signed with the Mets before the 1981 season and was a player-coach for them in '82. Late in his career, often sporting black batting gloves and choking way up on the bat, he became one of baseball's best pinch-hitters, tying an NL record in 1983 with eight consecutive pinch-hits and equaling a major league mark with 25 pinch-hit RBIs.

His final season was 1985, one year before the Mets won the World Series. After spending nine seasons with New York, he was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame in '86 and when he was honored at Shea Stadium, smiling ex-teammates such as Keith Hernandez and Darryl Strawberry wore long, orange wigs for the on-field ceremony.

Staub worked as an announcer on Mets television broadcasts from 1986-95. He was inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012.

Only 11 days after his heart attack -- Staub was revived by doctors and nurses aboard the flight as it returned to Ireland -- he threw out the first pitch at Citi Field before a Mets playoff victory in 2015.

"It's a little mind-boggling that I'm here, considering what went down," Staub told that night. "I mean, I was tap dancing in front of Saint Peter. He could have taken me easily. But maybe he had some more good for me to do. You know, I do some pretty good work. And I don't know how much time I've got. So I guess I better hurry up."

The next April, he was on hand again to help raise the NL championship banner.

At the end of his distinguished career, Staub founded the New York Police and Fire Widows' and Children's Benefit Fund. The charity has raised tens of millions of dollars and provided additional support to families of first responders killed in the line of duty.

Following the 9-11 terrorist attacks in 2001, Mets players and coaches donated their entire salaries from their first game back, about $450,000, to Staub's foundation.

Staub also helped serve meals to thousands of the hungry and homeless at food pantries across New York City through Catholic Charities, with funds from his annual golf tournament and wine auction dinner.

"Rusty helped children, the poor, the elderly and then there was his pride and joy The New York Police and Fire Widows' and Children's Benefit Fund," the Mets said.

Born and raised in New Orleans, Daniel Joseph Staub was called Rusty because of his bright red hair. He made his major league debut with the Houston Colt .45s in 1963, eight days after his 19th birthday, and led the NL with 44 doubles in 1967 for the renamed Astros, earning his first All-Star selection.

Playing mostly right field and some first base, too, Staub retired with a .279 career average, 292 home runs and 1,466 RBIs.

He was the only player with at least 500 hits for four teams (Astros, Expos, Mets and Tigers) and he joins Ty Cobb, Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield as the lone players to homer in the majors before age 20 and after 40.

Staub had a .362 career on-base percentage. He drew 1,255 walks and struck out only 888 times in 9,720 at-bats over 2,951 games.

He appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot seven times, never receiving more than 7.9 percent of the vote. He dropped off after getting 3.8 percent in 1997.

He is survived by brother Chuck and sisters Sue Tully and Sally Johnson.

Rusty Staub, former Astro slugger who spent 23 years in the majors, dead at 73
by David Barron
Houston Chronicle
March 29, 2018

Rusty Staub, the well-liked, well-traveled major league veteran who began his career in Houston at age 18, was remembered Thursday as symbolic of a talented Astros squad that, absent front office miscues, could have borne a strong resemblance to the team that won the 2017 World Series.

Staub, who would have celebrated his 74th birthday Sunday, died in a hospital in West Palm Beach, Fla. He was admitted with pneumonia, dehydration and an infection and had spent the last eight weeks in the hospital, the New York Daily News reported.

Known as "Le Grande Orange" for his flaming red hair, he had 2,716 hits and 292 home runs in 23 seasons as a first baseman, outfielder and designated hitter, totaling more than 500 hits for four of the five teams for which he played -- the Tigers, Expos, Mets and, during his first six seasons in the majors (1963-68), the Colt .45s/Astros.

"He was a larger than life figure with the red hair and being as big as he was (6-2, 190 pounds)," said Larry Dierker, who, like Staub, came to the big leagues as a teenager in the first years of Major League Baseball in Houston. "He was a cornerstone of what we had here."

Traded from the Astros by general manager Spec Richardson before the 1969 season after a 1968 contract dispute, Staub benefited from his major league travels. A native of New Orleans, he gained his colorful nickname in Montreal and after retirement was a successful restaurateur in New York after playing with the Mets, including a 1973 World Series appearance in which he had six RBIs against the Oakland A's.

Former teammates Dierker and Bob Aspromonte and former executive Tal Smith, though, still cluck their tongues over what the Astros could have accomplished had the ballclub kept Staub and other future stars such as Jerry Grote, Joe Morgan and Mike Cuellar rather than losing them in ill-fated trades engineered by Richardson.

"We would have had Jerry Grote, who was an All-Star, catching and Bob Watson or Rusty at first, Joe Morgan and Sonny Jackson and Doug Rader in the infield, Jimmy Wynn, Cesar Cedeno and Jose Cruz in the outfield and myself, Jerry Reuss, Mike Cuellar and Don Wilson pitching," Dierker said. "It would have been formidable."

Smith said Staub arrived in Houston in 1963, the Colt .45s' second season, in a similar position to the role that David Clyde filled years later for the Texas Rangers -- an attractive, young player for a team that needed a drawing card.

"They were hungry for ways to market the team, which probably was a tough thing for him at the time," Smith said. "He had a great career. I just wish that more of it could have been in Houston."

Aspromonte, who broke in with the Dodgers as a teenager in the mid-1950s, said he and Staub spoke often of the challenges of being a young major leaguer.

"I tried to pass on to him what I had learned, and we had a very close friendship and spent a lot of time together and communicated for years," Aspromonte said. "To be with Rusty and Joe Morgan and Jimmy Wynn to open the Astrodome (in 1965) was just incredible."

Staub's best season in Houston was 1967, the year he made his first of six All-Star Game appearances. He led the National League with 44 doubles and hit .333 with 10 homers, 74 RBIs and a .952 OPS while playing home games in the cavernous Astrodome.

"He choked up on the bat, which wasn't fashionable during the time I played, and would stand as close to the plate as he could," Dierker said. "He could hammer a fastball no matter where it was pitched. You had to throw soft stuff to keep him off balance."

He had 792 hits in a Houston uniform, the most he had for any team for which he played, and for his career reached base 4,050 times, the 41st-highest total in baseball history. He twice topped 100 walks in a season, in 1969-70 with Montreal, and three times had more than 100 RBIs, in 1975 with the Mets and in 1977-78 as a DH in Detroit.

Staub never finished with more than 7.9 percent of the vote in any Hall of Fame election for which he was eligible. Dierker, however, said his former teammate likely would have stronger numbers but for his decision in 1981 to return to the Mets rather than stay in the American League, where he was a productive DH with the Tigers and Rangers.

"He probably would have had more than 3,000 hits and more than 300 homers (he totaled 292) and 1,600 RBIs (he totaled 1,466) and would be in the Hall of Fame," Dierker said. "He was a tough out."

Staub in 1983 tied a major league record with eight consecutive pinch hits. He and Ty Cobb, Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield are the only four players in history to hit home runs in the majors before turning 20 years old and after turning 40.

The Astros offered condolences to Staub's family, adding, "His contributions to the Astros organization and to Major League Baseball overall will always be remembered."

After leaving baseball Staub became president of the Rusty Staub Foundation, which has supported emergency food pantries throughout New York in collaboration with Catholic Charities. He also created the New York Police and Fire Widows' and Children's Benefit Fund, which has raised millions of dollars for the families of uniformed personnel killed in the line of duty.

When Major League Baseball returned to New York for the first time after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Mets donated proceeds from the game, about $450,000, to the fund for widows and children.

That night, Staub said the organization had distributed $8.3 million in the 15 years before the attacks.

Staub, 'Le Grand Orange,' dies at 73
by Bob Dittmeier
March 29, 2018

Rusty Staub, a red-headed outfielder who was a darling of the city of Montreal, a hero, humanitarian and fine chef in the city of New York, and a star in the early days of Houston baseball, died Thursday morning in West Palm Beach, Fla. He was three days shy of his 74th birthday.

"Across his accomplished 23-year Major League career, Rusty Staub earned the respect of fans in Houston, Montreal, New York, Detroit and beyond," Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "Known for his power and patience at the plate, Rusty became an All-Star for three different clubs and a fan favorite. He played a memorable role in the early-franchise histories of the Astros and the Expos, and he starred for the Mets in the 1973 World Series.

"Rusty was a superb ambassador for our sport and a generous individual known for community efforts, particularly for the New York City Police and Fire Departments. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to Rusty's family and friends, Mets fans and his many other admirers in the United States and Canada."

Staub, who experienced several years of failing health, including an episode in which he was resuscitated after having a heart attack on a trans-Atlantic flight in 2015, played in the Major Leagues for 23 seasons. He recorded 2,716 hits and was a six-time All-Star, though none of those All-Star seasons occurred when he was with the Mets, with whom he made the most lasting impressions during his long career.

"The Mets family suffered another loss earlier today when Daniel "Rusty" Staub passed away in a West Palm Beach hospital after an illness," the Mets said in statement. "He was almost as well known for his philanthropic work as he was for his career as a baseball player, which spanned 23 seasons. There wasn't a cause he didn't champion. Rusty helped children, the poor, the elderly and then there was his pride and joy, The New York Police and Fire Widows' and Children's Benefit Fund.

"A six-time All-Star, he is the only player in Major League history to have collected as least 500 hits with four different teams. The entire Mets organization sends its deepest sympathy to his brother, Chuck, and sisters Sue Tully and Sally Johnson. He will be missed by everyone."

But there was Staub's time in Montreal, too, where he truly became a star and helped sell the game of baseball to an entire nation.

"When they do the autopsy on me, they're going find a lot of New York," Staub once said. "But they'll find 'MTL' on a little part of my heart. What I've had in Montreal, in Canada, has been a spectacular part of my life."

Staub's big league career began with the Colt .45s in 1963. The New Orleans native made his debut just eight days past his 19th birthday, batting fourth in Houston's Opening Day game. He batted .273 with 57 home runs and 370 RBIs in six seasons with the Colt .45s and Astros, an expansion team that began play in 1962.

"We send our heartfelt condolences to the family, friends, former teammates and many fans of Rusty Staub, who sadly passed away this morning," the Astros said. "As a member of Colt .45s and Astros from 1963-68, Rusty was one of the first stars in the club's history and played a significant role in establishing the franchise in its early years. An extremely popular player in Houston, Rusty earned All-Star honors in both 1967-68. His contributions to the Astros organization and to Major League Baseball overall will always be remembered."

A left-handed hitter with a sweet stroke who didn't strike out often, Staub landed with the Expos, another expansion team, in a 1969 trade. The people of the French-Canadian city of Montreal took him into their hearts and called him "Le Grand Orange," owing to the color of his hair and the fact that he was the Expos' biggest star, one who embraced the language, learning to speak fluent French while hitting .296 with a .404 on-base percentage and 78 home runs from 1969-71.

"I played very well... [I did] the things I did to let the community know that I was part of their existence," Staub once said. "Charity things were done. I think all of that stuff influences people as far as how they look at you."

Traded to the Mets in a deal that sent future star Ken Singleton to Montreal, Staub was a catalyst who helped lead New York to an unlikely National League pennant in 1973, when they came back from last place to win the NL East. He hit three home runs in the NL Championship Series against the vaunted Reds, but in Game 4 of that series, he crashed into a wall making a catch to rob Dan Driessen of an extra-base hit and separated his right shoulder.

Nonetheless, Staub hit .423 in the Mets' seven-game loss to Oakland in the World Series, all the while throwing underhand on any ball hit to right field. His five RBIs in the Mets' 6-1 win in Game 4 remains a club record for a postseason game. He was now the darling of two cities.

The Mets traded Staub to Detroit after the 1975 season, after he'd driven in 105 runs -- the first of his three 100-RBI seasons -- and he continued to hit, making the American League All-Star team in '76 and becoming the first to appear in all 162 games as a designated hitter in '78, when he drove in a career-high 121 runs. He had 101 RBIs exclusively as a DH the previous season, too.

It set Staub up well for his next endeavor as a pinch-hitter extraordinaire. After brief stints with Montreal and Texas, he ended up back with the Mets. Almost always off the bench, Staub hit 13 homers and 31 doubles and drove in 102 runs from 1981-85. He tied an NL record with eight straight pinch-hits and also tied the Major League record with 25 RBIs by a pinch-hitter in '83. Staub was 41 years old when his playing career ended, one year shy of the Mets' World Series championship in 1986.

"The thing you have to understand is that when you play in different cities -- and whatever degree of success there is -- there are times where another club wants you so [badly]," Staub said. "The Mets wanted me to come from the Expos and [New York] made an incredible offer to the Expos, so they can have me play right field. ...

"I was very fortunate. When you see [players] like [Carl] Yastrzemski, Cal Ripken Jr., [playing for one team], that all sounds good, but that dog doesn't hunt much anymore. It's not something that you see. It's very rare. It's usually about money."

"Rusty was an excellent hitter and an excellent ballplayer overall," said Jimmy Wynn, a teammate with the Astros. "He signed at a very young age, but knew the game very well. He was quiet when he played with us, but was a super person and a great teammate. We both made the All-Star team in 1967 and traveled to Anaheim together. That was very special. It is very sad that he has passed."

A food connoisseur, Staub opened two restaurants in Manhattan, one of them specializing in ribs.

"You know how they say, 'He could flat-out hit'?" Mets pitcher Ron Darling said. "With Rusty, you can say, "He can flat-out cook, too.'"

Staub founded the New York Police and Fire Widows' and Children's Benefit Fund before the September 2001 attacks. It has raised more than $100 million.