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He's still Le Grand Orange
Larry Keith
August 21, 1978
In Detroit he is known simply as Rusty Staub, but in any language the Tigers' 34-year-old DH is one solid swinger
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August 21, 1978

He's Still Le Grand Orange

In Detroit he is known simply as Rusty Staub, but in any language the Tigers' 34-year-old DH is one solid swinger

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Staub's quirks are most evident in his routines before and during games. He girds himself with knee pads and ankle tape and his back brace. Once on the field, he is easily recognized, and not just for his bright-red hair. Staub does not look like the other guys. For batting practice, instead of baseball shoes and a regular uniform top he wears rubber-soled shoes and a dark-blue warmup jacket with the right sleeve cut off near the shoulder. Instead of following the current fashion of wearing uniform pants with legs low enough to meet the top of high-stirrup socks, his pants legs extend to just below the knee and his stirrups are short, exposing very little of the white sanitary hose underneath.

Staub is also not a typical ballplayer once he gets in the batting cage. He stands in front of the plate, well outside the batter's box, and he uses a ponderous 38-ounce bat. Instead of just swinging freely, he practices game situations: hit and run, sacrifice fly, opposite field.

Before the game begins, Staub changes into dry clothes (replacing one obscene T shirt with another) and puts on his regular uniform jersey and spikes. He takes a lighter, 36-ounce bat from the clubhouse and places it near the bat rack, not in it. At the plate, he stands as far forward as possible and as close to the plate as he can. He chokes up and hits with a quick, compact swing. And hit he does. "With a man in scoring position, there's no one I fear more," says Texas First Baseman Mike Hargrove.

If Staub gets on base, he exchanges his lighter, softer, more expensive gloves for a heavier, more durable pair. If he makes an out, the bat boy is under instruction to hand him the bat so he can return it to the dugout himself—a penance, one supposes.

Between appearances at the plate, Staub often returns to the clubhouse, where he either watches the game on television or listens to it on the radio. He may also jump rope or, if he is particularly upset with himself and wants to clear his mind, work on a crossword puzzle.

"The toughest thing about being a DH," he says, "is being mentally prepared to hit. I'm a very intense person and if I mess up I need something to take my mind off it. I used to be able to do that by playing defense, but not now. That's why crossword puzzles are so helpful."

Which brings us, finally, to this question: Does anyone know two five-letter words that mean red-haired, good-hitting eccentric? Rusty Staub? That's it. That's it exactly.

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