The Baseball Codes

Rusty Staub, RIP

Rusty Staub

Rusty Staub, icon for both the Mets and Expos, passed today at age 73. He batted .423 in the 1973 World Series against Oakland, despite having injured his shoulder so severely in the NLCS that he was limited to pinch-hitting duty in Game 1 against the A’s, and had to underhand flip the ball back to the infield once he was finally able to take the field.

 

He made an appearance in The Baseball Codes, which served to illustrate Don Drysdale’s personality more than his own:

In the National League clubhouse prior to the 1968 All-Star Game, Dodgers catcher Tom Haller saw Hous­ton’s Rusty Staub rummaging through Drysdale’s shaving kit, ostensibly to find evidence of the long-whispered rumor that Drysdale doctored the ball.

Fifteen days later, Drysdale faced the Astros in Los Angeles. Trailing 1–0 with two outs and nobody on in the eighth inning, Drysdale—tipped off by his teammate—wasted little time in drilling Staub. “That’s for looking through my goddamn shaving kit,” he yelled as the hitter stum­bled toward first.

Staub might not have been the world’s best sleuth, but he was smart enough not to say a word in response.

One Staub story that didn’t make the book involved him paying the price for a deking ploy by Dodgers shortstop Maury Wills in 1970, despite the fact that Staub, then with the Expos, wasn’t the one fooled. With rookie Don Hahn on first base, Staub hit a gapper—but Hahn, running on the pitch, failed to follow the flight of the ball. So when Wills stared straight up into the sky and began to wave his arms and shout “I got it!” Hahn believed him, panicked, and spun back toward first.

Staub, meanwhile, had his sights set on third base and didn’t notice Hahn heading in the opposite direction until it was too late. Rather than end up with a possible triple, Staub was credited for a single and called out for passing the runner in front of him. (To make matters worse, when Hahn eventually realized where the ball was actually hit, he turned around again and tried to advance to third … where he was thrown out.)

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