My step-father took me to a ballgame at Colt Stadium in Houston in 1964. This is the only ballgame I remember the two of us going to together. The Houston Colt 45’s were a new expansion team playing in a temporary stadium. The new ballpark for the team was being built, the Astrodome, where the Colt 45’s would play from 1965 to 1999. I can’t imagine today a sports team being named after a firearm. But those were different times. My grade school in Fort Worth, Texas in the late 1950’s had a gun day when the boys could bring a toy gun to school, no caps allowed.
I don’t remember the occasion that brought my family to Houston. I remember two things about the game, it was a hot humid day and although it was an evening game we were sitting in the sun sweating. Secondly, I remember there was a young lean left handed hitting player, a rookie who had a couple of hits. His name was Rusty Staub, rusty because of his reddish brown hair. That day I saw Rusty for the first time. He was starting what would be a twenty-three year major league career highlighted with many honors.
Twelve years later, in 1976, Rusty Staub, now a veteran was traded to the Detroit Tigers from the New York Mets. When in Detroit for three years I followed him. There he would hit seventy home runs and drive in 358 runs. I watched him play at Tiger Stadium.
As I remember him, Rusty had a pension for the dramatic, getting the big hit in important situations which of course was endearing for a fan. Rusty played first base and designated hitter for the Tigers. I too was left handed and played first base in my playing days.
Rusty was born four years before me in 1944. I saw him at the very beginning of his career and near the end. Rusty Staub died at the age of seventy-three in March of 2018. The New York Times ran a long obituary for Rusty, known as Mr. Met by some because of his time playing in New York. I followed Rusty throughout his career until his death.
A couple of years ago I went to Safeco Field in Seattle for Ichiro Suzuki’s return at forty-three years of age to the ballpark where I had watch him so many times over the years, another career I followed for years. During that Seattle visit I couldn’t help contemplating mortality. I have watched many ball players complete their career. Rusty Staub, just one example.