Rusty Staub, 1944–2018
The towering slugger who became ‘Le Grand Orange’
When Rusty Staub was traded from Houston to play first base for the newly created Montreal Expos in 1969, the 6-foot-2 ballplayer instantly stood out on a mostly dismal team. The burly, redheaded Staub hit .302 with 29 homers his first season and was the lone All-Star on the 110-loss Expos. After he hit a two-run homer and made a game-ending catch that broke the team’s 20-game losing streak, a Montreal sportswriter dubbed him “Le Grand Orange.” The name stuck with Staub the rest of his life. “Whatever Le Grand Orange represented to Montreal and all those fans,” he said, “they knew I cared and I tried.”
Born in New Orleans, Staub was a “teenage phenomenon,” said The Washington Post. He made his debut with the Houston Colt .45s (later the Astros) in 1963 and developed “into one of the team’s premier players, hitting a career-best .333 in 1967.” After playing in Montreal, he was traded to the New York Mets in 1972. Le Grand Orange soon became a fan favorite in the Big Apple, belting three home runs in the Mets’ five-game victory over the heavily favored Cincinnati Reds in the 1973 National League Championship Series.
Staub was traded to the Detroit Tigers in 1975 and returned to the Mets in 1981, said The New York Times. He retired after the 1985 season and remains the only player to smack 500 hits each for four different teams—recording 2,716 career hits in all. Staub dedicated his post-baseball life to charity, supporting Catholic food pantries and creating the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund. The organization raised more than $100 million after the 9/11 attacks. “You want to get money to the widows and children?” Staub said. “We’re the ones.”