Who's Who Of Luminaries On Hand To Say Goodbye To A Great Player And An Even Better Man

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The city said its goodbyes to a Mets icon on Wednesday.

The memorial mass for Rusty Staub was held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and led by Archbishop Timothy Dolan, CBS2’s Steve Overmyer reported.

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Staub died on March 29, opening day of the 2018 season for the Mets. He was 73.

The former outfielder, designated hitter and first baseman left an impression on everyone who knew him.

“He’s an inspiration to me. The only thing I regret is we weren’t teammates. I heard so many things about him being a tremendous teammate,” former Mets reliever John Franco said.

Former NY Met Rusty Staub meets fan at Family Day at Citi Field on June 10, 2015 (Credit: Holli Haerr/1010 WINS)

Staub played for the Mets in the 1970s and ’80s. His recognizable red hair earned him the nickname “Le Grande Orange.” While his career exploits earned him a place in the Mets Hall of Fame in 1986, his work off the field left a more lasting impact. Just ask the widow of an FDNY firefighter.

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“He was hope. He was unconditional love. He gave us a chance to socialize, a chance to sit down to dinner,” Shirley Johnson said of Staub. “He put a smile on your face. He kept all of us happy and was a pleasant person. Just as big as he was his heart was … thank you.”

One of Staub’s major partnerships was with Catholic Charities. His longtime friend, Cardinal Dolan, presided over Wednesday’s mass, which was closed to the media. Streaming into the service was a host of the famous. Baseball players, hockey players, politicians and community leaders were all on hand to share their experiences.

“One of the greatest hitters I’ve ever seen, but way beyond that was his support for first responders, what he did before and after 9/11,” former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

“He was one of those characters that makes our game not only a great game but a national pastime,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred added.

Staub made his big league debut with the Houston Colt .45’s only eight days after his 19th birthday in 1963. He played for the Colt .45’s, the Astros, the Expos (two stints), the Mets (two stints), the Tigers, and the Rangers. Staub retired as a career .279/.362/.431 hitter with 292 home runs and 2,716 hits.

A six-time All-Star, Staub received MVP votes in seven different seasons, finishing as high as fifth in the voting. He never did win a World Series ring, however. Staub’s only career postseason appearance came with the 1973 Mets, who lost the World Series to the Athletics in seven games.

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Staub was a longtime supporter of the N.Y. Police and Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund. For more information on how you can help out, visit the fund’s WEBSITE.