Rusty Staub: Rusty Just In the Name

By Rich Mancuso/ Sports Editor
The passing of  73-year old Rusty Staub became the news of Opening Day Thursday. The orange haired outfielder that shined a room was in poor health after a long illness down in Palm, Beach Florida. He was appropriately known as “Le Grande Orange”, the six-time All-Star and the lone player to have at least 500 hits with four teams.

And loved up in Montreal, but the personality that will always be known as a New Yorker. A New York Mets icon of sorts, Staub certainly earned that distinction.
He was a player, tried a stint as a baseball broadcaster. The charity work went beyond and his efforts assisting families of first responders after the tragic events of 9/11 will forever be told, more so, Staub, as the player was a great teammate and the person who went that extra mile for those in need as founder of the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund.
His charity has raised millions of dollars to those responders families that were killed in the line of duty. All you have to know is seeing the smiles on those families and children that would gather in the outfield pavilion areas at Shea Stadium and Citi Field. Staub was there every year, so were his colleagues that play on the baseball field that always contributed their part to a good cause.
So this Opening Day at Citi Field had a solemn tune. Early morning news about the passing of Staub was not expected, though for weeks there were reports his health had deteriorated and it was a matter of time.
However there was always time to be with Rusty Staub. As a fan then, when Staub made his mark in New York, this eventual reporter would listen as the late Mets radio voice, Bob Murphy, would say home run “Le Grande Orange.” Awesome call and made a Mets fan content because it led to another win.
Years later, as recently as last season, Rusty Staub would travel up to New York often and sit with yours truly and other colleagues at the same table in the Citi Field dining room. It was baseball talk and “Le Grande Orange” still had that orange hair and quiet demeanor that made him a part of New York baseball lore.
Five years ago, Citi Field and it was Staub and yours truly meeting for the first time. Orange hair and that huge handshake, the Mets icon sitting across a table in that room. The best part, just “Le Grande Orange” and greeting those who shook that hand.
“A pleasure to finally get to meet and talk with you,”  He said, “Pleasure is all mine, and you are?” There were occasional other talks, one-on-one, the way this columnist wanted it to be. Rusty Staub enjoyed lots of company around him, but for some reason that one-on-one was like a talk in the pre game and post game clubhouse  meetings when media had that intimacy with ballplayers.
He did not dominate conversation. Did not stay long but had a presence that few had when meeting someone for the first time. It was like being with a longtime friend and Staub enjoyed reminiscing how a fan and now a member of the media recalled some of those great Rusty Staub moments at the plate.
“You got some memory,” he said with that grand smile.  Yes, those were great memories at a time when the New York Mets were mediocre and trying to build a winning team in New York before the championship year of 1986,
He smiled after being told about tying an NL pinch hitting record in 1983 in eight consecutive pinch-hits. That he had 25 pinch-hit RBI that chased a record and with that the conversation went back to baseball and the current Mets, a franchise that adopted the presence of Rusty Staub.
Soon, expect the Mets to do something in the memory of Rusty Staub. A right field porch, or perhaps renaming that press dining room in his memory.
It’s a name that will live forever in the annals of New York baseball and the Mets. Rusty Staub, the orange hair, his smile, and efforts to make things different for those in need. He was never meant to be the center of attention but gave that to baseball and fans in New York.
Rest In Peace!
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