On the opening day of the 2018 baseball season one of the most loved New York Mets players of all time passed away. Rusty Staub was 73 years old. He was an all star right fielder who helped the Mets win the pennant in 1973. When he rejoined the Mets in the early 80's he was the Mets clutch late inning pinch hitter. In 1983 he had eight consecutive pinch hits. After his baseball career he ran two successful restaurants and worked to support charities for firefighters and police officers.
I met Rusty at the end of the 1981 Baseball strike at Shea Stadium. I was still in college and new new staff member at Seton Hall University's Radio Station WSOU. It was early August and the Mets were going to have their first practice since the strike ended. We called Shea Stadium and talked to the Jay Horowitz who was in charge of press passes. He said " Sure come on down." My friend Bob who was also a new WSOU staff member went with me.
We sat behind the Met's dugout and watched the practice for about an hour. One of the people sitting near us was legendary Met's Broadcaster Bob Murphy. Who took the time to come over and introduce himself to us. We must have looked a couple of nervous kids. Murphy was very understanding and kind. I told him I was worried about talking to the players in the clubhouse. He said just "Walk in with me" and you'll know what to do from there.
When I got into the clubhouse I talked to many Mets players of the day: Lee Mazilli, Mookie Wilson and legendary pitching coach Rube Walker. Then Rusty walked in and was sitting alone by his locker. By now I was pretty comfortable. When Rusty saw my microphone and cassette recorder he said: " I'm not talking to any of you!" Rusty was the Mets Player representative and the players were getting a lot of bad press. I apologized and started to walk away. Then he asked where I was from. I said WSOU a college radio station in New Jersey. He laughed and said: "Oh I'm not mad at you. You can talk to me as long as you want." I spoke with him for 5 minutes. In between every time one of the other reporters came over. He would send them away. He even said at one point: "I'm talking to my friend."
That was 37 years ago. Rusty and Bob Murphy are gone now. That day they both taught me about showing kindness to someone who is young trying to learn. To this day I do my best to pass along the kindness they showed me to new people starting in this business who now see me as a person to look up to. You can read more about the great Rusty Staub here.