The Week That Was: Remembering Mets Legend Rusty Staub

     The passing of Rusty Staub last Thursday morning from kidney failure, a malady that he was battling for quite awhile, certainly took a lot of the joy out of Opening Day for the Major League Baseball community, especially for the Mets. Rusty was one of the first inductees into the team’s Hall of Fame.

     Given that Rusty Staub was a six-time All-Star and collected over 2,800 hits in a 23-year Major League Baseball career, it can be argued that he should be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown as well.

     Longtime Mets fans will fondly remember Rusty as a key figure on the 1973 “You Gotta Believe” team that came within a game of winning the World Series against the Oakland Athletics who were in the middle of their three-year run as World Series champs.

     Mets fans and media always cite the June 15, 1977 trade of Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds as the worst personnel decision in franchise history. That is clearly true but what frequently gets overlooked was the horrible deal the Mets made nearly 18 months earlier when they sent Rusty Staub to the Detroit Tigers for washed-up pitcher Mickey Lolich which was done to save a few payroll dollars.

      Staub and Seaver were close as teammates. Although we’ll never know for sure, my guess is that had Staub stayed with the Mets so would have Seaver since he would have had fewer reasons to demand a trade.

      Many athletes have lent their names to restaurants over the years but Staub, who was known for being an epicurean, was a very hands-on owner at “Rusty’s,” located on the Upper East Side, where he helped popularize the southern delicacy of smoke ribs to New Yorkers.                                                     

      Staub’s philanthropic and humanitarian work are well-known and he never liked receiving compliments and thanks for it, particularly for his yeoman labor following the events of September 11, 2001.

     What isn’t as well known was his terrific storytelling. I remember him sharing an anecdote in the Citi Field press dining room about a 1968 game where Dodgers future Hall of Fame pitcher Don Drysdale kept throwing high and inside at him when he was a member of the Houston Astros. Drysdale finally drilled him in the arm with a fastball (It should be noted that Don Drysdale made Noah Syndergaard look like a softball pitcher in comparison).

     “Drysdale and I were wooing the same girl so I knew what was coming and I smiled as I walked to first base. Our pitcher, Larry Dierker, asked me if he should retaliate. I shook my head. The best revenge that I could have was our team winning the game and that’s what we did that night in Dodger Stadium!” Rusty recalled with a big smile.

     His presence will be missed at Citi Field.

     The Mets have quietly parted ways with their longtime public address announcer Alex Anthony. While he didn’t achieve the celebrity icon status that the late Richmond Hill native Bob Sheppard did with the Yankees or  Dan Baker, who is now in his 47th season as the Phillies’ PA voice enjoys in Philadelphia, Alex’s dulcet tones added to the fun of a day at Citi Field. I loved how he would elongate each syllable of Mets captain David Wright’s name when it was his turn to bat.

     Last Saturday’s Cardinals-Mets game was the first and last that will begin at 1:10 on that day for the rest of the season. When I was growing up Saturday matinees were very popular because families could enjoy a game together and get home at a reasonable hour. Over the years, Saturday games have shifted to either 4:10 or 7:10 PM starts. I don’t understand why the Mets don’t play all of their home Saturdays in April, May, and September at 1:10 PM. The Yankees play a lot of Saturday matinees so it’s not just because of some national television network stipulation.

    Another reason that the Mets should consider playing more games on Saturday at 1:10 is that they beat the Cardinals by a score of 6-2. That may be a lucky time for them. That’s not the case however for Sunday matinees however. The Mets rarely won on Sundays last year and that hex continued into 2018 as they were beaten 5-1 by the Cards. Frankly it felt as if the score was 12-1.

     Citi Field has a new tenant as Mikkeller Brewing NYC has opened along the 126th Street of the ballpark. Mikkeller, is a California microbrewery chain and it’s the first to open outside of the Golden State. In addition to their huge selection of beers, A Mikkeller manager told me that the pub will offer bites made at other Queens restaurants.

    Mikkeller is open on days when the Mets are not home and plans on staying open throughout the year even though foot traffic in that area is negligible once the Mets conclude their season. Parking is free in Lot G on non-event days at Citi Field for Mikkeller customers.

     The 2018 New York International Auto Show runs through this Sunday, April 8th. Chevrolet has a virtual reality game which allows you to try to hit a home run off a pitcher in a big league ballpark. Toyota, as per custom, had cars painted with Mets and Yankees logos since the company is a corporate sponsor of both teams. In a first, a hotel chain frequently associated with highway road trips, Super 8, has an interactive exhibit in an effort to show that it’s not your father’s dowdy lodging company. My favorite moment at the NY Auto Show was hopping behind the wheel of the newest truck that is being utilized by the Department of Sanitation of New York.

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