Rusty Staub, Mets, Expos icon, dies at age 73

The former New York Mets slugger died Thursday after an illness at a West Palm Beach hospital, hours before the start of the Major League Baseball season.

The New York Mets confirmed his death in a tweet this morning.

Born and raised in New Orleans, Daniel Joseph Staub was called Rusty because of his bright red hair.

Staub registered 500 hits as a member of the Mets, Astros, Expos and Tigers - the only player in major league history to accomplish that feat with four different teams.

Staub's jersey number, 10, was retired by the Expos, who relocated to the USA capital in 2004 and became the Washington Nationals.

NY traded Staub to Detroit in December 1975 and he made his final All-Star team with the Tigers in 1976. He also served as a team broadcaster. He finished 16th in the National League MVP voting.

The Mets, and the National Baseball Hall of Fame, extended their condolences via Twitter.

Only 11 days after his heart attack - Staub was revived by doctors and nurses aboard the flight as it returned to Ireland - he threw out the first pitch at Citi Field before a Mets playoff victory in 2015.

In his retirement he also quietly and without fanfare fed millions of needy people via food pantries and other services run through Catholic Charities.

Staub came up with what was then known as the Houston Colt.45s, later the Astros, in 1963, at the age of 19.

Staub, who had been in failing health in recent years, was awarded spots on six All-Star teams over a career with five teams in which he compiled a solid.279 batting average, with 2,716 base hits, 292 home runs and 1,466 runs batted in. He spent the 1980 season with the Texas Rangers and then signed with the Mets as a free agent, playing his final five seasons with the team.

His Rusty Staub Foundation, which in 1986 established the New York Police and Fire Widows and Children's Benefit Fund, distributed over $11 million in the first 15 years of its existence to the families of New York area police and fire fighters killed in the line of duty, and since the September 11, 2001 attacks, received over $112 million in contributions. He went 1-for-3 with a walk and an RBI. He was on the Hall of Fame ballot for seven years, though he never got as much as 8% of the vote.

Besides his brother, he is survived by his sisters, Sally Johnston and Susan Tully.