Rusty Staub, beloved slugger who played 23 seasons, dies at 73

Mar 25 2018 Clearwater FL USA A stack of baseballs on the field before the start of a spring training game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Baltimore Orioles at Spectrum Field. Mandatory Credit Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

The team said in a statement he died Thursday after an illness in a hospital in West Palm Beach, Florida, hours before the start of the baseball season. He could have taken me easily. While Staub had a phenomenal career that many felt was deserving of the Hall of Fame, it is evident that what he did off the field made just as big of an impact as his 2,716 career hits.

Staub flourished in Montreal, taking multiple French classes and embracing the nickname Le Grand Orange bestowed on him by Ted Blackman of the Montreal Gazette. 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.

Following a half-season return to Montreal and a season with the Texas Rangers, Staub returned to the Mets in 1981 and finished out his career as a 1st baseman, pinch-hitter deluxe and de facto coach.

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. "I couldn't say something encouraging".

At the end of his distinguished career, Staub founded the New York Police and Fire Widows' and Children's Benefit Fund.

Staub played the first six years of his career in Houston before going to Montreal via trade. In January, just a few months before he died, he announced that his foundation had served over nine million meals over the last ten years to the needy of NY.

Staub, also nicknamed "Le Grand Orange" during his time playing for the Montreal Expos, played 23 Major League Baseball seasons, also with the Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers.

In New York, Staub played in the 1973 World Series during his four-year stint with the Mets before being dealt to the Tigers in exchange for Mickey Lolich. He earned a place in Mets fans' hearts forever as he helped the club rise from 11 ½ games out on August 5, 1973 to Game 7 of the World Series. On Rusty Staub Day, July 13, 1986, Mets players came on the field during the ceremony wearing bright red wigs and presented him a plaque with their signatures on it. In addition, he is the only major leaguer in history to achieve 500 hits with four different teams, and, along with Ty Cobb, Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield, one of only four players in history to hit home runs in the majors before turning 20 years old after turning 40.

NY traded Staub to Detroit in December 1975 and he made his final All-Star team with the Tigers in 1976.

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