Major League Baseball player Rusty Staub was raised in New Orleans and attended Jesuit High School before being becoming one of the New York Mets; most popular players and a six-time All-Star.
Taniel J. “Rusty” Staub was one of the most accomplished baseball players ever to come out of New Orleans. In twenty-three major-league seasons, Staub was an All-Star six times. His uniform number was the first ever retired by the Montreal Expos, and he was a key member of the New York Mets team that won the National League championship in 1973. A noted gastronome, Staub owned and operated two Manhattan restaurants during his playing days. Following his retirement from professional sports, he was a highly regarded philanthropist, founding two notable charities in New York.
Staub was born in New Orleans on April 1, 1944, to Raymond Sr. and Alma Morton Staub. His distinctive red-orange hair was the source of his lifelong nickname, Rusty; during his years with the Montreal Expos, French-Canadian fans dubbed him Le Grand Orange. He attended St. Cecilia School in New Orleans’s Bywater neighborhood and was an altar boy at St. Cecilia Catholic Church. At Jesuit High School, he excelled in baseball. After graduating in 1961, Staub signed his first professional contract at the age of seventeen with the Houston Colt .45s, one of two new teams approved to join the National League the following season. After just two seasons in the minors, Staub made his debut for Houston in 1963 at nineteen years old. He started in the outfield and emerged as a star by his fifth season. In 1967 he was named to the All-Star team and remained an All-Star the following four seasons.
In 1969 he was traded to the Montreal Expos, where he would have his best two seasons. That same year, Staub hit .302, with twenty-nine home runs and seventy-four runs batted in. In 1970 he hit .274, with thirty home runs and ninety-four runs batted in. As he was the only true star in Montreal, he emerged as the fan favorite. Locals celebrated his on-the-field play and his off-the-field interests, which ranged from wine and gourmet cooking to mastering the French language.
In 1972 Staub was traded to the New York Mets. There he was instrumental in securing the Mets’ National League championship the following year. He excelled in the World Series, totaling eleven hits in twenty-six at-bats, including one home run and six runs batted in. The Mets lost the dramatic series to the Oakland A’s, four games to three. Staub was traded to the Detroit Tigers in 1975 and named to his sixth All-Star team in 1976. Two years later he became the first player to appear in all 162 games as a designated hitter. Staub went back to Montreal in 1979, played for the Texas Rangers in 1980, and returned to the Mets in 1981 for his final five seasons. Playing mainly as a pinch-hitter in his later years, Staub set major-league records for consecutive pinch-hits (eight) and pinch-hit runs batted in for a season (twenty-five). After twenty-three seasons Staub retired in 1985 as the only major league player with 500 or more hits with four different teams. When he retired, he was one of only three players in major league history to hit home runs before his twentieth birthday and after his fortieth.
Indulging his longtime passion for food, he opened his first restaurant, Rusty Staub’s, on Third Avenue in Manhattan in 1979. Ten years later he opened Rusty Staub’s on 5th, an upscale diner on Fifth Avenue. Staub also joined the Mets’ broadcasting team, which let him stay close to baseball.
Staub also found ways to give back to the community. He established the Rusty Staub Foundation to do charitable works. In 1986 he founded the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund, a cause dear to him: his uncle Marvin Morton, a New Orleans police officer, was killed in the line of duty when Staub was a boy. During its first fifteen years of existence, the fund raised and distributed $11 million for families of policemen and firefighters killed in the line of duty. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Staub’s organization has received contributions in excess of $150 million and has played a vital role in helping the many families affected by the tragedy.
Staub dief of complications from multiple organ failure on March 29, 2018. He was 73.