What do you think when you hear the word ten? some people think of their fingers or their toes, some think of decades and decathlons. Others might think of who was the tenth woman to sleep with Tiger Woods ?Well seeing that there are only ten days until the Mets open the season at Citi Field against the Florida Marlins, I figured that I would profile the Man who made number 10 his own, and like another Mets icon – Keith Hernandez has to watch inferior players wear his number ! Yes that man is my namesake – LA GRANDE L’ORANGE himself – RUSTY STAUB !!!
Daniel Joseph “Rusty” Staub was born April 1, 1944 in New Orleans Louisiana. When he was 17 years old , Staub signed his first professional contract with the Houston Colt .45s organization in 1961. He was assigned to the Class B Carolina League, and at the end of the season he was named one of the league’s all-stars. In 1963, Staub signed to a $100,000 Major League contract under the Bonus Rule, and at the age of nineteen he played his first season in the majors.Staub split time between first base and the outfield, but hit only .220. The next season, he hit only .216 for the Colts and was sent down the minor leagues. The 1965 season saw his numbers to steadily improve , and in 1967 he had a breakout season. He led the league with 44 doubles ,and was selected to the All-Star team.
In 1969 , Staub was traded to the then expansion Montreal Expos as part of a trade for Donn Clendenon and Jesus Alou.This was a controversial trade at the time because Clendenon refused to report to the Astros and threatened to retire. Then Commissioner, Bowie Kuhn resolved the dispute by ruling that the deal was official, but that Clendenon was to stay with the Expos.
Rusty was embraced as the Expos first star, and became one of the most popular players in their history. It is there that he earned the nickname La Grande L’Orange, which like his other more popular nickname , Rusty would be his trademark for the rest of his career.
In 1972, after three seasons with the Expos
, Staub was traded to the New York Mets in exchange for first baseman-outfielder Mike Jorgensen, shortstop Tim Foli, and outfielder Ken Singleton. Staub quickly ingratiated himself to the Mets and to their fans, and he was instrumental in the Mets’ 1973 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Championship Series. He hit 3 home runs and drove in 5 RBIs in that series. He would go on to bat .423 against the Oakland Athletics including a home run and 6 RBIs during the ’73 World Series.
In 1975, Rusty set a Mets record with 105 runs batted in. He was the first Met player ever to surpass 100 RBIs. That record would stand until 1986 when Gary Carter would tie it and in 1990 when Darryl Strawberry would break it with 108.
Unfortunately just before the 1976 season, Rusty traded to the Detroit Tigers with pitcher Bill Laxton for pitcher Mickey Lolich and outfielder Billy Baldwin. Mets fans everywhere were angered, especially when Loilich turned out to be a bust.
Rusty would spend the next five seasons with the Tigers Expos, and the Texas Rangers before coming back to the Mets as a free agent in ’81, where he was utilized as a player-coach . In 1983, he tied a National League record with eight straight pinch-hits and that same season also tied the Major League record of 25 RBIs by a pinch hitter. In 1985, Rusty retired from baseball at the age of 41. I remember being at ” Thanks Rusty Day in ’85 and I along with most of the Shea Faithful were bawling like babies after Rusty’s heartfelt speech.
He has the distinction, along with Ty Cobb, and Gary Sheffield of being the only players to hit home runs before turning 20 years old, and after turning 40 years old.
Rusty will also always be known for his Cajun restaurant “Rusty’s,”which was located on the upper east side of Manhattan, at 73rd Street and Third Avenue, and was best known for its annual rib-eating contest. Rusty closed in the 1980s due to rising rents and Rusty’s inability to control costs while not overseeing the day to day operations of the restaurant. Rusty was also an analyst for Mets ball games during the ’80′s and early ’90′s.
In 1986,he established the “Rusty Staub Foundation” which raised money for deserving causes, in 1986, founded the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund.
Staub was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1986. But something very special happened one day in 1974 when my father took me to see the Mets when I was a two year old. You see Rusty was signing autographs for his clamoring fans, and when he was about to depart to the clubhouse my father yelled out – HEY RUSTY !! HOWZ ABOUT A A AUTOGRAPH FOR YOUR ILLEGITIMATE SON!?! Well Rusty looked at me – a chubby tyke laughed and signed my yearbook – where it is now I have no clue but I from that day on was known as Rustyjr.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â ” Hi Dad !!”
And on that note … HERE COMES THE INFAMY !!!!!
Â Happy Birthday wishes go out to reserve outfielder from the ’93 team , Mickey Weston.(1961)
Reserve outfielder from the ’94 team , Shawn Hare is 43. (1967) He played in 22 games that year but I can’t remember him !
One of the better Mets from the mid ’90′s – second baseman, Jose Vizcaino is 42. (1968)
New York Mets sold reliever Buzz Capra to the Atlanta Braves on March 26, 1974.
New York Mets sold one time rookie phenom – Mike Vail to the Cleveland Indians on March 26, 1978.
New York Mets releasedÂ future MetsÂ manager, Bobby ValentineÂ on March 26, 1979. As the story goes Bobby was so upset with then manager Joe Torre that he allegedly vowed to get even. Bobby got his chance in 2000 – unfortunately we know how that ended.
New York Mets tradedÂ prospects , Randy Milligan and Scott Henion to the Pittsburgh Pirates for catcher Mackey ” Tap Tap” Sasser andÂ pitching prospect Tim DrummondÂ on March 26, 1988.
New York Mets signed free agent outfielderÂ D.J. Dozier on March 26, 1990.
New York Metspurchased pitcher Joe Crawford from theÂ Boston Red Sox on March 26, 1996.
New York Mets released utility infielder Alvaro Espinoza on March 26, 1997.
Sadly on this date in 1997 , Howard JohnsonÂ announced his retirementÂ from baseball after a failed comeback attempt with the Mets.Â
New York Mets released pitcher Hideo Nomo on March 26, 1999. Hideo was pretty much washed up at this stage of his career , although he wouldÂ go on to pitch a couple of more seasons elsewhere.
And guys on a more serious note please keep Dwight Gooden in your thoughts after his latest possible relapse. Remember that he is innocent until proven guiltyÂ and lets remember him not for his slip ups but for his accomplishments, including bringing us a World Series Trophy in ’86