RIP Rusty Staub
There’s a famous Easter Sunday Mets story as detailed by Matthew Silverman of metsilverman.com details on his site. Even with there being a player strike, Rusty Staub and who he thought was rival Mets manager Gil Hodges would have a warm conversation leading Rusty to exclaim, “Wow! Easter Sunday brings out the best in everybody.”
What Rusty didn’t know and couldn’t know because of the strike was part of the reason Hodges was so nice to him was the Mets had swung a trade the night before to obtain the larger than life right fielder.
What Rusty didn’t know and couldn’t know at the time was this was the last time he would ever talk with Hodges. Tragically, without any warning, Hodges would die the next day. Like many Mets fans and players, Rusty never got to say good-bye. Rather, he was just left with the warm memories of a Mets great believing it was Easter Sunday that brought the best out in a fierce competitor.
If you excuse the sacrilege of a former altar boy for a moment, maybe it wasn’t Easter Sunday which brought out the best in Hodges, maybe it was Rusty.
While the City of Montreal may claim Rusty, he was definitively a Met. Considering the larger than life figure he was, I’m sure we will hear the Astros and Tigers fans claim Rusty as their own. That’s what happens when you have a player who is both great on the field and great off of it.
Personally, I never knew Rusty from his playing days. I was too young to remember him and his 1985 season where he did nothing but pinch hit. Really, the only thing I know of Rusty as Met is the exploits which were touted during the videos on Diamondvision played during rain delays or the tales my father would tell me about how great he was in the 1973 World Series.
No, I remember Rusty as a great Mets ambassador. The advertisements for his charity events for the New York Police & Fire Widows & Children’s Benefit Fund. Hearing about the fundraisers for the event was a big part of the season for a Mets fan. Contributing to it was all the more so. Considering this being his post-retirement’s life’s work, his tireless efforts after 9/11 should come as no surprise.
I also remember the broadcasts. Back when Rusty was calling games, he and Ralph Kiner were one of the reasons you tuned in. Sure, they tended to be Mets homers, but you could excuse it a bit with the old stories and enthusiasm they had for the Mets. It was really no different than listening to your dad and uncles sitting around a table talking which watching a Mets game.
Personally, my favorite Rusty memory was from a few years back. While on a plane from Ireland, Rusty suffered a heart attack. In a situation which would have killed nearly anyone, Rusty survived, and he lived to tell about it. More than than, he relished it, and if you’ve ever listened to him during a Mets game, you knew he could spin a tale.
Those are the memories that we should all miss. For those who watched him play, I’m sure you will miss him all the more.
And now, 46 years after he became a Met, he now leaves us. In a somewhat fitting and tragic fashion, he departs us during the Easter Triduum. After all he has done for the Mets and City of New York, he now rests peacefully. Hopefully, when we all think back upon his life, we will all recall how like Easter Sunday, Rusty brought out the best in all of us.