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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Baseball Great Rusty Staub Dead at 73; was It AIDS?

 

Staub was known for his love of fine food and wine. As these photos show (this card is from 1964), he even had intermittent weight issues during his prime. And after he retired in 1985, he blew up.
 

By Nicholas Stix

We were just watching NY1 News, and learned that Rusty Staub, who was a star for the Astros, Expos, Mets and Tigers, and one of the greatest pinch-hitters of all time (in his later years with the Mets) had just “died of an undisclosed illness.”

That Staub was purportedly a discreet homosexual, combined with the “undisclosed illness” line, suggests that that was it. So, maybe the queers will finally have a real poster boy, instead marching behind incompetents like Glenn Burke and Billy Bean, or defaming real greats who were straight arrows, like Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax and Mike Piazza.

Staub was selected to the All-Star Game five years in a row (1967-1971), at one point (and again in 1976) and hit .300 three times, with a career high of .333 in 1967. He finished with 2,951 games played over 23 seasons (no, that’s not a typo; he is currently 13th all-time, but was seventh at the time he hung up his spikes, after the 1985 season), 2,716 hits, 499 doubles (now 64th, but then 25th), 292 home runs and 1466 RBI (now 60th all-time, but 32nd at retirement), and was the rare hitter with pop who got more walks (1255) than strikeouts (888). However, he was a butcher with the glove in right field, finishing with a career fielding percentage of only .970, while the league average over his career was .976, and that might have been .977, not counting Staub.

 

His 1975 Mets card
 

Although Staub only played for three seasons (1969-1971) in Montreal, it seemed like much longer, due to his status as fan favorite. Fans dubbed him “la grande orange,” due to his orange-red hair. Alas, not too many Canucks supported the Expos, which is why they’re now called the Washington Nationals.
 

On this 1960s' Astros baseball card, Staub looks trim
 

Staub played the longest for the Mets, nine seasons spread over two tours of duty (1972-1975, and 1981-1985). He only played in the postseason once, in 1973, when he had a splendid World Series, hitting .423, which was marred however by manager Yogi Berra’s bad judgment in choosing his game seven starter, in picking fatigued Jon Matlack over a well-rested George Stone, who’d had a career year, which cost the Mets the series.

When Staub’s longtime friend and sometime teammate, Keith “Mex” Hernandez was interviewed today, he said, through tears, “Rusty has a place in Met…” I finished his sentence, “lore.”

The Boss gave me a dirty look, and said, “You know too much,” but my chief of research smiled.

“He’s like a member of the family,” I offered in my defense. “I know how his mind works and how he speaks, so I can finish his sentences.” Mex has been part of the Mets’ TV broadcasting team on SNY for 12 years—they started their 13th season this afternoon—with retired Mets’ star pitcher Ron Darling, and anchor Gary Cohen. (In other words, I’ve watched parts of over 500 games that Hernandez has worked.)

Heck, The Boss finishes my sentences all the time.

Given that Gary Cohen is much more emotional even than Mex, the tears must have flowed freely in the broadcast booth this afternoon, as the Amazins played their season opener at home in Corporate Stadium against the Cardinals, winning 9-4, behind braindead Noah Syndegaard.

Postscript, 5:57 p.m.: A friend pointed out that the Mets are in first place. This may be their only time on top all season, so flaunt it, baby!

 


 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I thought he was light in the loafers.The only thing he DIDN'T do was wear one of those Paul Lynde scarfs around his neck as he played the game.He could hit though.
--GRA