Adieu a «Le Grand Orange»

By Alfredo Alvarez

Miami, Flo – It’s only been a few hours since Opening Day began in the Major Leagues, but despite the joy it brings, one of the most beloved players in both the Mets and the Expos has passed away. Rusty Staub, died at 12:30 AM this Thursday. He was 73 years old. Staub one of those beloved and unforgettable players passed away at the Good Samaritan Medical Center in Palm Beach, Florida, due to a multiple organ failure.

Staub was not only a great player, but he was remembered for his incredible personality, his humanitarian soul and for Montreal fans, he will always be: «Le Grand Orange».

Rusty had battled several health problems in recent years, including a near-fatal heart attack, on October 2, 2015, on a flight from Ireland to New York. At the end of January this year, it was discovered that he suffered from cellulitis, which became a blood infection that caused his kidneys to shut down. 8 weeks ago, he was admitted with pneumonia, dehydration and infection in the same hospital that saw him died today. Staub would have turned 74 on Sunday.

This afternoon while the Mets are playing, it will not be the same and without a doubt it is expected to be a sad «Opening Day», not only for Mets fans but for baseball in general.

Born on April 1, 1944, he was baptized as Daniel Joseph Staub, but a nurse nicknamed him «Rusty» because of the little red hairs on his head and his family liked him a lot and from that moment on he would never be called Daniel again. As a teenager, Rusty was a first baseman at Catholic school: Jesuit High in New Orleans and after leading his team in the AAA championship at Louisiana State in 1961, he signed a $ 100,000 bonus with the then expansion of the National League, Houston Colt 45s now the Astros.

After only one season in the minor leagues, Staub joined the Colts 45s in 1963 as a rookie with only 19 years. There he hit only for 224, with six homers in a 150 games. Rusty wasn’t ready, but after being sent back to the minors in the middle of the 1964 season, he returned to Houston in 1965 much better. He finish that season with 256 average, 14 homers and 63 RBIs. Two years later, he made the first of his six All-Star teams, hitting 333 with 10 homers, 74 RBIs and 44 doubles.

In January 1969, he was traded to the Montreal Expos for outfielder Jesus Alou and first baseman Donn Clendenon. Staub, who grew up in New Orleans, knew a lot about the French culture, and on his arrival in Montreal, he became a player loved by French-Canadian fans. He hit 302 with 29 homers in his first season with the Expos, and was the only All Star in a team that suffered 110 losses. Then the Montreal Gazette sportswriter: Ted Blackman, began to refer to him as: «Le Grand Orange», evidently for his orange hair. That nickname would stay with him the rest of his life.

Staub had two more All-Star seasons in Montreal. Despite the bond of admiration between Staub and Montreal, the Expos, on the eve of the 1972 season, decided to trade him to the Mets for outfielder Ken Singleton, first baseman Mike Jorgensen and infielder Tim Foli.

With the Mets, Staub played a pivotal role in returning to the National League pennant in 1973, hitting 279 with 15 homers and 76 home runs in the regular season. In the playoffs, he hit three homers with five RBIs in the NLCS and in the World Series against the Oakland Athletics, he finished with a 423, 1home run and six RBIs. In 1975, Staub became the first Met to recorded 100 RBI’s in a season (105), but by then the team was in decline and looking to get rid of the payroll. As the team’s second highest-paid player ($ 120,000) behind Tom Seaver, Staub was traded to the Tigers for veteran lefty Mickey Lolich.

He returned to Montreal in 79, then traded to the Rangers in the 80 and from 81 to 85 he returned to the Mets to finish his illustrious career. In 1983, at the age of 39 while playing for the Mets, he tied Dave Philley as the only players in baseball history with eight consecutive hits. In addition, he is the only major league player in history to achieve 500 hits with four different teams and, along with Ty Cobb, Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield, one of the only four players in history to hit home runs in the majors before turning 20 years. In 1986, he was elected to the Mets Hall of Fame.

His lifetime numbers were excellent. His average of 279, with 2,716 hits, 292 homers and 499 doubles in 23 seasons.

Staub was not only a star in the big leagues, he was a great humanitarian. He created the “Rusty Staub Foundation”, which was a charitable fund for children of Police and Firefighters in New York, and in which more than $ 11 million was distributed in the first 15 years of its existence. This Foundation helped the families of firefighters and police in the New York area who had been killed in the line of duty and since the attacks of September 11, 2001, received more than $ 112 million in contributions.

Staub announced that, along with Catholic Charities, his foundation had also served a total of 9, 043,741 meals to hungry people in food pantries throughout New York for the past 10 years.

Undoubtedly today is a big day, full of joy because baseball’s back, but at the same time many hearts are sad because a great player and even a better human being has gone. Rusty Staub «Le Grand Orange» rest in peace, now playing for Heaven Team.

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