Glancing Back, and Remembering Rusty Staub
Rusty Staub’s long and productive major league career began in the 1960s, first with the Houston Colts/Astros, and then the Montreal Expos, where he was that franchise’s first real star player.
A New Orleans native, Staub signed with Houston in 1961 and made his big league debut two years later at age 19. Staub struggled in his first two seasons with Houston, hitting a combined .221. But his batting average steadily improved, to .256 in 1965, .280 in 1966, and .333 in 1967, fifth best in the National League. In 1967 he led the league with 44 doubles. It was the only offensive category – and only time – when Staub would lead the league.
Yet he was one of baseball’s most productive hitters for nearly two decades. Staub hit .291 in 1968, and after that season was traded to the Expos. Nicknamed “Le Grand Orange” for his striking red hair, Staub had his best power seasons with the Expos (and away from the cavernous Astrodome). He hit .302 with 29 home runs and 79 RBIs in 1969, and followed up in 1970 with 30 home runs and 94 RBIs. Though his home run output for 1971 slipped to 19, he drove in 97 runs with a .311 batting average.
Staub played the next four seasons with the New York Mets. His best year in New York was 1975, when he tallied 105 RBIs. He was traded to the Detroit Tigers in 1976, and he proceeded to rack up RBI totals of 96, 101 and 121 from 1976 to 1978. He stayed in the major leagues through 1985, spending one season with the Texas Rangers as well as return engagements with Montreal and his last five seasons with the Mets.
Staub finished his 23-year career with 2,716 hits and a .279 career batting average. A six-time All-Star, Staub is the only player to collect 500 or more hits with four different teams. He is one of three players (including Ty Cobb and Gary Sheffield) to hit a home run before turning 20 and after turning 40 years of age.