MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Staub reflects on achievements on and off field

Mets' ambassador healthy after having heart attack two years ago

Staub reflects on achievements on and off field

NEW YORK -- Former Major Leaguer Rusty Staub, now a Mets ambassador, said recently he is feeling fine. It helps that a pacemaker was put in his system on March 10 at the Cleveland Clinic in Florida.

After receiving the pacemaker, Staub, 73, feels energetic, is walking better and back to playing golf. You can even see him on occasion at Citi Field to watch a Mets game.

Staub's heart problems started two years ago. He was flying from Ireland to New York, when he suffered a heart attack. According to published reports, Staub was flown back to Ireland and started his recovery in that country. He would later return to the States before receiving the pacemaker.

"[The doctors] put a pacemaker in me … and I'm doing very well with it," Staub said via telephone. "The doctors had me restricted quite a bit, and they want to make sure everything settles in the right way."

Staub is now in his 18th year as the Mets' ambassador. But it was on the field where he made a name for himself. Besides the Mets, the former outfielder/designated hitter also had stints with the Astros, Expos, Tigers and Rangers.

And what a player Staub was. Remember that rifle he called an arm? Don't you dare run on it. What about his clutch performance against the Athletics in October 1973? As a member of the Mets, Staub played valiantly in the '73 World Series even though he played with a damaged right shoulder. He is the only player in Major League Baseball history to record 500 hits with four teams -- Mets, Expos, Astros and Tigers.

It wasn't until Staub became a member of the Expos in 1969 that he became a legend. He was nicknamed Le Grand Orange because of the color of his hair, and the fact that he spoke French fluently and was the best player on the team during his three years in Montreal.

"I played very well. … [I did] the things I did to let the community know that I was part of their existence," Staub said. "Charity things were done. I think all of that stuff influences people as far as how they look at you."

Although he was a respectable .279 career hitter, Staub played for five teams in his 23-year playing career. He never stayed more than six consecutive years with one team, and that was with the Astros. Staub believes being a member of the Major League Baseball Players Association played a role in him not playing for one team for at least 10 years.

"You have to remember, during the course of my career, I was a player representative," Staub said. "The thing you have to understand is that when you play in different cities -- and whatever degree of success there is -- there are times where another club wants you so [badly]. The Mets wanted me to come from the Expos and [New York] made an incredible offer to the Expos, so they can have me play right field. …

"I was very fortunate. When you see [players] like [Carl] Yastrzemski, Cal Ripken Jr., [playing for one team], that all sounds good, but that dog doesn't hunt much anymore. It's not something that you see. It very rare. It's usually about money."

Staub is proud of what he accomplished on the field, however, he said his greatest achievement was establishing the New York Police & Fire Widows' & Children Benefit Fund. He was instrumental in the Mets' efforts following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The foundation helped around 720 families, Staub said.

Staub is also proud of the Rusty Staub Foundation, which has raised money benefitting children, the elderly and the poor. According to him, the foundation has provided close to a million meals a year to lots of people.

"Those foundations are meaningful in my life right now. That's what I do," Staub said. "I want to give back. The city has meant a great deal to me. A lot of things in my life were great because of New York City. … I didn't want to sit around and bask in the glory."

Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002 and does a podcast, Newsmakers. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.