Hoerburger: Decades before ‘Moneyball,’ there was Rusty Staub

From Rob Hoerburger at the New York Times on December 27, 2018:

During a game, when he wasn’t playing, you could often find him scribbling in a red book, and that, as much as the sweet swing that was admired by no less than Ted Williams, was what helped keep him in the Major Leagues for so long. Decades before analytics became commonplace in baseball, Daniel Joseph (Rusty) Staub compiled the goods on every pitcher he faced in the batter’s box or observed from the top step of the dugout: patterns, windups, motions, a tap of a cleat, an eyebrow twitch, any idiosyncrasy or quirk that might tip a pitch. And he guarded that information, even from teammates it might have helped. “He only let me flip through it once,” said Keith Hernandez, his friend and New York Met teammate in the mid-1980s. “But he usually wouldn’t let me see it. He would say, ‘You didn’t earn it.’ ”

In other words, Rusty Staub had high standards, and by the end of his career, they’d led to some dazzling stats: 500 or more hits with four separate teams (the Houston Astros, Montreal Expos, Mets and Detroit Tigers), for a career total of 2,716; home runs swatted in his teens, 20s, 30s and 40s. And he applied those standards just as strictly off the field. A gourmet cook, he would serve dinner guests on Waterford crystal and Wedgwood china. Meals out often meant “coats and ties, suits,” at places like Le Cirque and the Russian Tea Room, Hernandez said, where “he knew all the chefs.” In postgame interviews, he could sound like an English teacher, and would genially linger over the interviewer’s name — “the thing about that play, Ralph” — as if to say, “I respect you, I only expect the same in return.”

Read the full article here: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/12/27/magazine/lives-they-lived-rusty-staub.html

Originally published: January 3, 2019. Last Updated: January 3, 2019.