Rusty Staub 1944-2018.
Opening day is supposed to be a joyful day and instead it is a sad occasion this year because of the death of Rusty Staub. Rusty was a great player and a great man. He led many baseball lives: teenage phenom for the Colt 45s, expansion star Le Grand Orange for the Expos, World Series catalyst for the Mets, all-star DH for the Tigers, washed up fat guy for the Rangers, and then reborn pinch hitting specialist for the Mets (again). He is also part of one of my favorite bits of useless trivia as one of only four men to hit homers as both a teenager and a 40-year old (with Ty Cobb, Ken Griffey Jr. and Gary Sheffield)***.
Rusty is one of those players who I always use as an example of being not-quite a hall of famer (along with the likes of Rocky Colavito, Harold Baines, and Vada Pinson). This is no insult what-so-ever; there is no shame at all in being in the top 3% of baseball players of all time but I like to imagine the hall being reserved for the best 1 or 2% at most. And sure, there are players much much worse than Rusty in the hall of fame (Ross Youngs? Rabbit Maranville? Bill Mazeroski? I'm looking at you...) but there is a line that has to be drawn and it is a sad fact that Rusty would be on the outside of that line. But few players in history are as beloved or will be missed more that they are gone. I hope Jesus has a rack of ribs cooking for you up in baseball heaven. Godspeed Le Grand Orange.
***It was not Griffey Jr., it was A-Rod who became the 4th person to pull this trick. Starting Nine regrets the error.