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Former MLB slugger Rusty Staub dies in South Florida, hours before start of season

6-time All-Star spent 23 seasons in league, including New York Mets

Rusty Staub (pictured here in a July 12, 1984, file photo), who became a huge hit with baseball fans in two countries during an All-Star career that spanned 23 major league seasons, died March 29, 2018, in West Palm Beach, Florida. He was 73.
Rusty Staub (pictured here in a July 12, 1984, file photo), who became a huge hit with baseball fans in two countries during an All-Star career that spanned 23 major league seasons, died March 29, 2018, in West Palm Beach, Florida. He was 73. (Associated Press)

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Rusty Staub won't get a chance to see how his former team performs this season.

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. He was 73.

A team spokesman said the Mets learned of the death from friends of Straub who were with him at the time.

The New York Daily News reported that Staub became woozy while playing golf near his home in Palm Beach Gardens in late January and was later discovered to be suffering from cellulitis.

He reportedly died early in the morning Thursday at Good Samaritan Medical Center.

The New York Daily News said Staub was initially admitted eight weeks ago with pneumonia, dehydration and an infection. He would have turned 74 on Sunday.

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.

In addition to his two stints with the Mets (1972-75, 1981-85) and Montreal Expos (1969-71, 1979), Staub also played for the Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers.

His final at-bat came with the Mets in October 1985. He 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.