To succeed in a big city market you have to do many things. First off you have to play your ass off on the field. Secondly you have to exude confidence and charisma, Third off you have to give back to the community for they are the one who pays your salary. And lastly you have to embrace every aspect of your adopted home, whether it is going to the museums, being seen at some of the hottest places in town and just showing that you belong.
In my opinion , no other player on this countdown oozed these traits more than number 22 on this list of the top 50 Mets of all time. The man is none other than Rusty Staub.
Daniel Joseph “Rusty” Staub was born on April Fools Day of 1944 in New Orleans Louisiana. In 1961 when Rusty was 17 years old, he signed his first professional baseball contract with the Houston Colt .45s. They were one of the two newly formed expansion teams in the National League – the other team ironically enough were the Mets.
Rusty would play the entire 1962 season in Carolina League as a outfielder. At the end of the ’62 season, Rusty was named one of the league’s all-stars.
Rusty would make his Major League debut in 1963 at the age of nineteen. He would be a everyday player, splitting his time between first base and the outfield. He would hit just .220 that season. In 1964 Rusty’s hitting would improve slightly. He would hit 216 for the Colts and was sent down the minor leagues for the rest of the season. In 1965, Rusty would remain in the majors for good. The 45′s changed their name to the futuristic moniker Astros ( to cash in on the space race). Rusty Would come into his own in 1967. That season he would lead the league in doubles with 44. He would also be selected to his first ever All Star team. Staub would also be elected to his second All Star Game in 1968.
Just before the start of the ’69 season, Rusty would be traded to the Canadian expansion team, the Montreal Expos for players Jack Billingham, Skip Guinn, and $100,000 cash.
The crowds in Montreal embraced Rusty immediately, and even nicknamed him “Le Grand Orange” for his red hair .During his stay in Montreal Rusty immersed himself in the local culture, he even learned how to speak French fluently.
Rusty would spend three seasons in Montreal before he was traded to the Mets. The Mets would give up their prized rookie prospects which included first baseman Mike Jorgenson,outfielder, Ken Singleton and shortstop,Tim Foli.
Staub was the power bat that the Mets desperately needed, and his offense, as well as his defense helped to propel the Mets into the playoffs in 1973. During that years NLCS against the Cincinnati Reds, Rusty would belt three homers while driving in five runs. He was a terror in the outfield also, making many death defying plays. But he ultimately injured his shoulder when he crashed full bore into the outfield fence. That injury would hamper his defense during the ’73 World Series and he would have to result to throwing the ball underhand after fielding the ball. But that didn’t stop Rusty from being a offensive threat. He would bat .423 against the Oakland Athletics with a homer and six RBIs.
In 1975, he set a Mets record with 105 runs batted in. He would be the first Met to ever knock in more than a hundred runs. That record would stand until 1990 when Darryl Strawberry World drive in 108 runs.
Just before the 1976 season, The Mets with their lack of foresight and intellect , traded Rusty along with pitcher, Bill Laxton to the Detroit Tigers for one time pitching phenom, Mickey Lolich and outfielder Billy Baldwin. Needless to say the trade blew up in the Mets face, while Lolich was getting knocked around and Baldwin barely seeing any playing time, Rusty was tearing up the American League.
In his three plus seasons with the Tigers, Rusty hit .277 while slamming 70 home runs.
In 1978 Rusty would return to Montreal for two seasons. In 1980 he would play with the Texas Rangers before returning to the Mets in 1981 as a free agent. With his advancing age and deteriorating speed, Rusty would become a pinch hit specialist although he still would play first base as well as the outfield from time to time. He was designated as a player-coach in 1982. 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 announced mid season that this would be his last season as a player. He would end his career just 284 hits shy of the 3000 hit milestone. He holds the distinctions of being the only major league player to have 500 hits with four different teams. He, Ty Cobb, and Gary Sheffield are the only of being the only players to hit home runs before turning 20 years old, and after turning 40 years old.
After Staub announced his retirement in 1985, he would be feted with his own day. During the ceremony, All the Mets on the ’85 team came out wearing orange fright wigs ( provided by Roger McDowell) to honor their fellow teammate. In 1986 Rusty would be inducted into the Mets Hall Of Fame.
After he retired, Rusty established the “Rusty Staub Foundation”. One of the main causes that his foundation oversees is the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund. Every year Staub along with the Mets would hold barbecues in the picnic area behind the center field wall at Shea Stadium. After the tragedy of September 11, 2001, Staub’s organization has received contributions in excess of $112 million dollars to help the families of the fallen heroes that gave their lives that fateful day.
Staub also would make an occasional appearance as a guest analyst during televised Mets games.
While he was with the Mets, Rusty owned his very own restaurants which bared his name. The served some of the best barbecue in all of New York City.
Rusty would be on hand for the closing ceremonies at Shea Stadium in September of 2008.
Rusty is my all time favorite player. If I had my way he would be number one on this list , but I guess being number 22 is not too shabby within itself.
Tomorrow we will reveal the number 21 player on this list – and I think you will be surprised !!
And with that said… HERE COMES THE INFAMY !!!!
Mets alumni celebrating a birthday today include :
Born on this date:
Middle reliever from the ’67 team, Chuck Estrada is 73 (1938) .
Middle reliever from the ’92 team, Barry Jones is 48 (1963) .
The San Diego Padres signed starting pitcher, Bobby Jones of the New York Mets as a free agent on February 15, 2001. I always wondered why the Mets essentially turned their back on Bobby. He was a consistently good pitcher on some lackluster Mets teams in the mid ’90′s, and the Mets didn’t even offer him a contract.
The Detroit Tigers signed middle reliever, Vic Darensbourg of the New York Mets as a free agent on February 15, 2005.
The New York Mets signed free agent reserve outfielder, Brady Clark on February 15, 2008. This would be Brady’s second tour of duty with the Mets. Needless to say it lasted less than a month before he was released
And yes pitchers and catchers finally officially break camp today, but remember, there are just 45 Tug McGraw days until the Mets open the 2011 season against the Florida Marlins in Miami, and just 52 until the Mets 2011 home opener against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field.
Mo Vaughn thinks he can eat Rusty Staub under the table in a rib eating contest !!!