April 1, 2009

Happy Birthday, Rusty Staub

The former Tigers outfielder and DH — a.k.a., Le Grand Orange to ’70s Expos fans in Montreal — turns 65 today.

Before then-TV analyst Al Kaline reminded us at every turn that Tony LaRussa is also an attorney in Florida, Mr. Tiger liked to talk about Staub being an accomplished chef. More on that shortly.

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Daniel Joseph Staub debuted in 1963 at the tender age of 19 with the Houston Colt .45s and spent six years in H-Town — two of those seasons were pre-Astrodome which means he played outdoors. In Houston. In the summer. If you’ve been there, you know.

In 1967, he hit .333 with 10 home runs and 77 RBI and made the All Star team for the first of five consecutive seasons. Two years later the Astros traded him to the expansion Expos where he spent three seasons. In 1972, the Expos sent him to the Mets for Ken Singleton, Mike Jorgensen and Tim Foli. All he did in New York was hit.

On Dec. 12, 1975, Staub was traded along with Bill Laxton to the Tigers for Mickey Lolich and Billy Baldwin. (Laxton appeared in only 26 games for the 1976 Tigers: 0-5, 4.96, 2 saves. He was selected by the Mariners in the expansion draft.)

In Detroit, Staub wore #10 and posted solid numbers during his first three seasons:

  • 1976: .299 – 15 HR – 96 RBI (All Star)
  • 1977: .278 – 22 HR – 101 RBI
  • 1978: .273 – 24 HR – 121 RBI

Things got ugly in 1979 as Bill Anderson described in his excellent book The Detroit Tigers:

Staub had a disastrous season, holding out for weeks trying to renegotiate his contract and unsettling the team. He finally signed in May but was then peddled to Montreal and had a lost season.

You have to give Staub credit for having the guts to hold-out on former Tigers’ GM Jim Campbell. He had to know that wasn’t going to end well.

The Tigers didn’t get much for him in the July 20, 1979 trade: a player to be named later and cash. About five months later the Expos sent minor-leaguer Randy Schafer (December 3, 1979) to the Tigers to complete the trade.

In the offseason the Expos sent Staub to Texas where, in 1980 at age 36, he merely hit .300. He returned to the Mets for his final five seasons, retiring after the 1985 season at 41. Staub’s final numbers for a 23-year career: .279 – 292 HR – 1,466 RBI – .362 OBP.

Now, about the culinary side. Here’s a clip from a review of Staub’s second Manhattan restaurant, Rusty’s on 5th Avenue, which appeared in The New Yorker 20 years ago:

Staub has an extensive background in cooking. It started when he was in the Instructional League in Scotsdale, AZ when he agreed to do the cooking for his roommates if they would clean up. Then a few years later, when he was in the Majors, he did all the cooking for a large Christmas party & the response was tremendous.

In 1969-71 when he was with Montreal he dated the manager of a restaurant in the Old City. He worked with chefs there. When he came to NY in 1972 chefs were interested in atheletes who cooked. While rehabilitating from a hand operation in ’72, Staub put in 1500 hours working with chefs.

The original Rusty’s opened in 1977 when Staub was with the Tigers. Rusty Staub’s on 5th was first proposed by Fred Wilpon, co-owner of the Mets & chairman of the board of the company that manages the building, in the late summer of 1987.

According to this site, Staub appears to be out of the restaurant business for now. Back in the day, though, he performed awfully well in his day job.

Happy Birthday, Rusty.

2 Comment(s)

  1. Jen | Apr 1, 2009 | Reply

    Ooh, I like the deal he made to cook for teammates–I’d cook WAY more if someone would always clean up after me!!

  2. Bill | Feb 9, 2012 | Reply

    That cheap Jim Campbell! Why didn’t he trade Rusty right away when he was holding out and get somebody of value in return?

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