Rusty Staub, slugger who played 23 seasons, dies at 73

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NEW YORK (AP/FOX 17) — The New York Mets say former slugger Rusty Staub has died at 73.

NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 28: Former New York Mets players Rusty Staub waves to the fans at home plate after the game against the Florida Marlins to commemorate the last regular season baseball game ever played in Shea Stadium on September 28, 2008 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.(Photo by: Al Bello/Getty Images)

The team said in a statement he died Thursday after an illness in a hospital in West Palm Beach, Florida, hours before the start of the baseball season. A team spokesman says the Mets learned of the death from friends of Staub who were with him at the time.

Staub played for the Detroit Tigers from 1976 to 1979, making the American League All-Star team in 1976.  He also played for the Houston Astros, Montreal Expos and Texas Rangers.

Staub was a six-time All-Star and the only player in major league history to have at least 500 hits with four different teams. The orange-haired outfielder became a huge hit with fans in the U.S. and Canada during a career spanning 23 seasons.

Staub played from 1963 to 1985 and finished 284 hits shy of 3,000. Affectionately dubbed “Le Grand Orange” in Montreal, he broke into the majors as a teenager with Houston, lasted into his 40s with the Mets and spent decades doing charity work in the New York area.

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