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Rusty Staub “Le Grande Orange”: The Greatest New York Met of All Time

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Rusty Staub “Le Grande Orange”: The Greatest New York Met of All Time

In 1975 the New York Mets lost their owner Mrs. Joan Payson the decisions that followed crumbled the “you gotta believe” Mets. Rusty Staub, the Mets right fielder (first baseman) had his best season since being traded to the Mets from the Montreal Expos.

That’s not to say the year’s prior for Staub were Swiss cheese.

Rusty had so many brilliant games as a Met that when news came out that prior to the start of the 1976 season, Rusty and fellow teammate pitcher Bill Laxton were being traded to the Detroit Tigers for a “former 20 game winner” Mickey Lolich and a hardly used outfielder Billy Baldwin the lamenting in Queens began.

After that awful trade, the only player among them to continue playing in 1977 was Staub. Lolich prior to being traded to the Mets had lost 18 games—something was seriously wrong with his arm. 

When he arrived as a Met he carried on his new tradition by losing 13 of his 21 starts. Baldwin started only five games and played in nine. Both Baldwin and Lolich were through as far as the Mets went and New York sure didn’t want them, but the one that got away Rusty Staub continued to have success. 

In 1976 Staubs RBI’s were down meagerly (most likely due to his missing Shea Stadium and Queens), he had only 96 RBI’s and he scored 73 times (down 20 from the previous season with the Mets). 

Albeit Rusty got over it all and in 1977 and 78 he topped 100 RBI’s in both years. As a matter of fact in 1978 Staub had 175 hits (his on base percentage was .347). Rusty had 121 RBI’s 30 doubles, 24 homers, 76 walks, and only 35 strikeouts. 

Man did Detroit stick it to the Mets or what? In 1981 Le Grande Orange returned to Queens as a Met but not before closing his New Orleans style rib restaurant. Staub closed it ironically in 1980 because he could not operate it any longer from afar. 

Well six years is pretty good for a business—not really—New Yorkers and Shea fans made Rusty's establishment a popular place to go. That’s two losses for New Yorkers. It’s amazing that Rusty Staub did not harbor resentment towards the Mets. I did! 

Although I was glad to see Rusty home the years that should have belonged to Shea Stadium were forever lost in time. The years were lost observing Rusty change his batting gloves while standing at base after a hit.

The years of watching Staub offended by close pitches, as he would put his hands on his hips and gaze at the pitcher were forever gone. But most importantly seeing Le Grande Orange wait on his pitcher so perceptively and with the most precision afforded any baseball player punch it out of the stadium.  Yes those memories – lost.

People don’t realize just how good the Staub Mets were. In 1973 the Mets took the Oakland A’s (one of the greatest teams of all time) to seven games before losing. However the Mets had the advantage in the series 3-2 with their best pitcher (Tommy Seaver) on the mound in game six.

The A’s won the last two and were crowned champions. 

The A’s won the title the next two years as well but with the departure of Reggie Jackson the A's team was also dethroned. The same is said of the Mets after Rusty Staub left. 

Rusty had a rocket for an arm and he hustled and gave his all—always. He was a class guy giving to fans, widows, and orphans—always. Rusty was missed—always (until 1981 and up until his retirement in 1986). Rusty Staub is still missed—always.

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