Rusty Staub, the orange-haired outfielder who became a huge hit with baseball fans in two countries during an All-Star career that spanned 23 major league seasons, died Thursday at age 73. He died after an illness in a hospital in West Palm Beach, Fla., hours before the start of the baseball season, the New York Mets said in a statement. The team learned of the death from friends of Staub who were with him at the time, a spokesman added. Affectionately dubbed "Le Grand Orange," Staub was a six-time All-Star and the only player in major league history to have at least 500 hits with four teams. He became a huge hit with fans in the US and Canada, most adored in New York and Montreal, per the AP.
A savvy, reliable slugger with left-handed power and a discerning eye, Staub played from 1963 to 1985 and finished 284 hits shy of 3,000. He had 3½ great seasons with the Detroit Tigers and batted .300 for the Texas Rangers in 1980. At the end of his distinguished career, Staub founded the New York Police and Fire Widows' and Children's Benefit Fund. The charity has raised tens of millions of dollars and provided additional support to families of first responders killed in the line of duty. Following the 9-11 terrorist attacks in 2001, Mets players and coaches donated their entire salaries from their first game back, about $450,000, to Staub's foundation.