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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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The Met Most Grand

The 1973 Mets, for months more easily detected on the disabled list than within the National League East standings, overcame health issues once. Now we’re wishing they can do it again. Eddie Kranepool. Buddy Harrelson. Now Rusty Staub. You’d like to believe thoughts (and prayers, if you’re the type to keep those handy) will do these icons who sculpted the identity we latched onto in their and our youth some good. You gotta believe the concept certainly couldn’t hurt.

Rusty is hospitalized in Florida, reported as having contracted a staph infection that led to kidney failure. Bill Madden described the situation facing him in the Daily News on Friday. Friday, Madden wrote, was better than Thursday, and Thursday was better than Wednesday. That’s a trend line you’d applaud if you saw it rising from the dugout, strolling to the on-deck circle and preparing to take the one swing that could turn this thing around

Medical treatment is a complex affair, yet the metaphor of coming through in the clutch is irresistible here. It’s what Rusty did as a Met for four seasons as the regular right fielder and five more as a pinch-hitter deluxe, which sounds like something you’d order at your local diner, provided you couldn’t get a table at Rusty’s. You are no doubt cognizant that Mr. Staub stepped up to the plate in the culinary arts, too. It was his panoply of competencies and commitments, combined with his signature ability to literally change games, that made Rusty Rusty, a person and persona you not only couldn’t have made up but it would have occurred to you to have tried.

He steadily served a stream of satisfied customers. He selflessly served countless families of fallen first responders through his dedicated charitable foundation. Oh, and he served quite a few pitches into the outfield, pushing two generations of Mets clubs into position to win or at least come back.

Coming back. Another metaphor for Rusty. In his second Met go-round, when he was as much living legend as active player, you usually saw Rusty only once per game, generally late in the proceedings. We were probably behind or tied. One swing from Rusty could drastically alter that uncomfortable situation. It was his sacred skill, his higher calling, his raison d’être. He was no longer asked to field or run (save for a memorable spring afternoon in the autumn of his career). But he could hit like he could cook. Just go ahead and get in his kitchen if you had any doubts.

Rusty Staub established his professional credentials as a Colt .45/Astro; colored Canada Le Grand shade of Orange as an Expo; chaperoned the likes of Fidrych, Trammell, Whitaker and Morris as they earned their Tiger stripes; and had a few moments as Daniel, Texas Ranger. But within that pool of characters who you know in your bones are natural-born Mets, was there anybody who seemed to fit our bill more perfectly than Rusty Staub? He is right there with Eddie and Buddy and a handful of others who made the Mets the Mets. Mets like them are Mets you could never imagine as anything but Mets, never mind the baseball cards you had that sometimes indicated otherwise. Rusty had to be traded for the first time, and he had to be signed anew a second time, but he was always a Met waiting to happen. Once he took off the uniform, he remained a Met. Remains a Met to this day.

Every day is a good day to think grand thoughts of Rusty Staub, New York Met. Le Grander, the better.

5 comments to The Met Most Grand

  • Ed Rising

    Nice tribute and lets hope Rusty gets the pinch hit he needs right now.

  • Dave

    Beautifully put, Greg. Those of us of a certain age first remember Rusty in another uniform, yet he fits as well as anyone into the Met For Life Club. Like Eddie and Buddy, Mets fans everywhere are pulling for Le Grande Orange…hopefully lots of late inning pinch hits left in that bat.

  • eric1973

    We knew you would come through for us, Greg.

    For those of us whose baseball lives were formed by the 1973 Mets, we learned that if you never give up and keep trying, even when all hope seems lost, you can still succeed.

    And make no mistake about it, even though we lost to one of the greatest teams ever, that season was a success, and will forever be the most memorable to me, because of men like these.

    I think about that 1973 team probably every single day, and hope/pray that Eddie/Buddy/Rusty come through again in the clutch, just one more time.

  • Lenny65

    I was still quite young but I remember the feeling of total betrayal I felt when the Mets dealt Rusty away for a star pitcher…from the 1960s. I was thrilled beyond belief when they brought Rusty…OUR Rusty…back for another go. While I don’t recall the exact game I remember an extra-inning affair where they were forced to “hide” the then-glacially slow Rusty in the OF, they were moving him from RF to LF depending on the batter. Sure enough someone hit one down the line and, improbably enough, Rusty made a terrific sliding grab and saved the inning. I also remember a game where Rusty belted one down the LF line that just barely curved foul by inches. On the next pitch he uncorked another one which stayed fair by the narrowest of margins and Shea went absolutely apeshit. Best wishes to a true Mets hero who always gave it his all and always carried himself with professionalism and pride.

  • […] no less a legend in Queens, is Rusty Staub. We’ve been compelled to think about Rusty of late for sad reasons, but we can also think about Rusty for the joy he provided us, at the bat and in the field. It’s […]