Daniel J. “Rusty” Staub, the beloved former New York Mets outfielder of the 1970s and 1980s who later partnered with archdiocesan Catholic Charities to help feed millions of New Yorkers, died March 29, the opening day of the baseball season. He was 73.
A Memorial Mass will be offered at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Wednesday, April 25, at 2 p.m.
“With all of New York, the Archdiocese of New York joins in mourning the passing of our beloved Rusty Staub,” Cardinal Dolan said in a statement issued March 29.
“Known as a great baseball player and teammate, Rusty was also a great philanthropist who did so much to support Catholic Charities, Catholic schools, and our Catholic food pantries and food distribution programs.
“Whenever we were together, he would say, ‘Tell me what you need, Cardinal,’ and he would always come through.”
In January, the Rusty Staub Foundation announced that it had worked with Catholic Charities to collectively serve more than 9 million meals to New Yorkers in need over the past 10 years.
In June 2016, Staub received the Terence Cardinal Cooke Humanitarian Award for his outstanding commitment to youth at the CYO Club of Champions Tribute Dinner. Eleven years earlier, at the same dinner, he won the John V. Mara Sportsmanship Award. He is the only person to be honored with both awards.
Staub, in his acceptance remarks for the Cardinal Cooke Award, alluded to the health problems that plagued him in recent years. “When I go to church every Sunday, I say, ‘Thanks for another week.’...I say, ‘I don’t know if there is something else I’m supposed to be doing, but if there is, I don’t have that in my mind. I’m going to continue the work I’ve been doing.’”
Food, and its preparation, was a major part of his professional life, too, as Staub, a chef, owned two eponymous Manhattan restaurants over the years.
Service to others was ingrained in the New Orleans native from childhood. His uncle, Marvin Morton, was a police officer who was killed in the line of duty when Rusty was a boy, leaving behind a wife and young children. “I remember how difficult it was for my uncle’s family,” Staub told USA Today in 2001. “I remember saying the Rosary on the bed with my mom.”
Staub later created the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund, which has raised millions of dollars to support the families of first responders killed in the line of duty.
At Jesuit High School in New Orleans, from which Staub graduated before he began playing professional baseball in 1961, he learned the religious order’s motto, “A Man for Others,” and put it into practice throughout the rest of his life.
On the baseball field, he fulfilled that role for Mets teammates, many of whom have spoken movingly about how he shared his deep knowledge of the history of the game as well as life in the Big Apple.
Staub also played with skill and longevity, making six All-Star teams over 23 Major League seasons. He is the only player in Major League history to collect 500 hits for four teams (Houston Astros, Montreal Expos, Detroit Tigers and the Mets).
He was one of the leading players for the Mets’ 1973 World Series team, hitting .423 during the series, after returning from a serious shoulder injury sustained in the playoffs.
After his playing career, Staub was a Mets broadcaster from 1986 to 1995.
Staub is survived by his brother, Chuck, and sisters, Sally Johnson and Susan Tully.