Wednesday, September 8, 2010
#151) RUSTY STAUB
Rusty Staub was traded by the Montreal Expos to the New York Mets in exchange for Tim Foli, Ken Singleton, and Mike Jorgensen on April 6, 1972. The trade was announced just days following the passing of the great Gil Hodges. While growing up in New Orleans a young Daniel Staub had been given the nickname "Rusty" due to his distinctive hair color. In New York he was also known as "Le Grande L’Orange" and became one of the most popular players in franchise history.
Rusty played well during his first season with the Mets before being struck by a pitch that fractured a bone in his hand. The injury placed him on the disabled list from July 21st to September 1, 1972. Staub became a favorite teammate during that time using his second talent. "I always liked to cook," said Rusty. "When I come off a road trip I don't want to go out to eat." Instead the slugger used his ability as an expert cook and prepared Louisiana dishes for his friends. A skill he had first learned in the minor-leagues. "They deducted the rent from our paychecks, and after that there wasn't much left," he recalls. "So we found a wholesale market, and we'd write home and ask how to cook what we'd bought. Mother always came through."
Staub would lead the club with 76 RBIs, and hit for a .279 average during his first full season with the team. His hustle and determination were showcased during Game 4 of the 1973 National League Championship. Rusty made a spectacular catch of a ball hit by Cincinnati's Dan Driessen in the 11th inning. The play ended with Staub crashing into the right field fence and separating his shoulder. Against medical advice he was given several cortisone treatments. "I insisted 0n it. I had to have something to relieve the pain," Rusty said. "I had to play." Even with that assistance he was limited to throwing balls in from the outfield underhanded during the World Series. The Mets would fall to the World Champion Oakland A's in seven games, but Staub batted a superb .423 average during that series.
The 1975 campaign was his finest as a New York Met. Rusty established a then franchise record with 105 RBIs. Becoming the first Mets player to ever drive in 100 runs in a single season. Staub added 19 home runs and a .282 batting average to complete a fine offensive display.
He was traded along with Bill Laxton to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Mickey Lolich and Billy Baldwin on December 12, 1975. The team was addressing a need for pitching in acquiring the veteran Lolich. "He took it like a pro," said general manager Joe McDonald. "Rusty said that he understood that business was business."
"Le Grande Orange" returned to the Big Apple when he signed a free agent contract on December 16, 1980. Staub's greatest strength with the Mets was now as a quality pinch-hitter. Rusty was awarded the National League Player of the Week Award on June 19, 1983 after recording a league record eight consecutive pinch-hits during that time. His 81 pinch-hit at-bats established a N.L. single season record, and his 25 pinch-hit RBIs tied the all-time mark.
He opened "Rusty's", a pub-style restaurant in New York City in 1977, and later in 1989 launched, "Rusty Staub's on Fifth", a sports style restaurant with a superior American-wine list.
The Rusty Staub Foundation was founded in 1985 and provides emergency food pantries for children in need. In 1986, Rusty started the New York Police and Fire Widow's and Children's Benefit Fund to assist the survivors of service men killed in the line of duty.
He is the author of "Few and Chosen Mets: Defining Mets Greatness Across the Eras" and the illustrated children's book, "Hello, Mr. Met!".
Staub was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1986.
Rusty Staub signed his card in the set for my friend, Jessie during the Mets Hall of Fame luncheon at Citi Field on July 21, 2010.