Published: Fri, March 30, 2018
Sport | By Floyd Cook

One-of-a-kind New Orleanian, baseball star Rusty Staub dies

One-of-a-kind New Orleanian, baseball star Rusty Staub dies

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.

New York Mets and Expos icon and former Detroit Tigers all-star Rusty Staub has passed away. "He was young. He was a redhead".

"I remember when he came back in 1979, he was so happy". He was 73, and would have turned 74 on Sunday. His Rusty Staub Foundation donated more than $100 million to the widows and children of NY policeman and firefigherts killed in the line of duty, including on 9/11. 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. He's also one of only four players to hit a home run before his 20th birthday and after his 40th. For show, he would sometimes make spectacular-looking sliding catches on routine fly balls.

Staub was traded to Detroit after four seasons in NY and had three of his best seasons with the Tigers. One was that he wanted a $100,000 salary, the other that the Expos were exhausted of losing and wanted to shake things up.

Staub was traded again on the eve of the 1972 season, heading to the New York Mets in exchange for or Tim Foli, Mike Jorgensen and Ken Singleton.

Staub also spent time with the Houston Astros, making his Major League Baseball debut with them when they were still called the Colt 45s. It was a transaction that made a mark on both clubs, giving the Expos a core of players which would improve their prospects in the coming years and giving the Mets a larger than life star and offensive weapon in some of the franchise's better seasons.

"I felt I should be able to communicate with the people of Montreal in their own language", he told Sports Illustrated in 1970. "There's not a question that my making that effort is part of the reason that whatever Le Grand Orange represented to Montreal and all those fans, they knew I cared and I tried". Overall he hit.276/.358/.419 in nine seasons as a Met.

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He was named to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012.

Staub's legacy is enormous and will be immediately felt at Citi Field, where the Mets open their season Thursday afternoon against the Cardinals. "We'll miss Le Grand Orange, but we'll never forget him". When I spoke with him a few months before that, I asked Staub if he had a message he wanted to pass along to Montreal baseball fans who still remember him fondly.

"God wasn't ready for me yet", he said at the time.

"First hockey game I ever saw, we had a day game and he got a bunch of tickets, it was a playoff game Canadiens vs. Islanders (Eastern Conference Final) at the Forum". Then the next week we went and saw them at Nassau Coliseum.

The Expos, who were relocated to Washington after the 2004 season, retired his No. 10 jersey in 1993.

Staub was a.279 career hitters with 292 homers and 1,466 RBIs.

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. He had reportedly been diagnosed with cellulitis in January and complications led to kidney failure.

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