Partial Transcript of Rusty Staub's Conference Call with Mets Bloggers

May 4, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Former Houston Astros player Rusty Staub throws out the first pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals before the first inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-US PRESSWIRE

Mets legend Rusty Staub took a few minutes on Wednesday evening to chat with a group of Mets bloggers on a conference call hosted by the team. I managed to join in on the fun.

On Davey Johnson managing the Washington Nationals:

He is his own guy. He goes about it his own way and doesn't care what everybody else thinks and that's probably a good thing for a manager to be. I just was very happy for him to get another shot in the big leagues and the fact that the team is spending a little money on players and they're doing pretty good.

On Ike Davis's hitting woes:

I've watched the Mets on TV quite a bit and I mean he's had the bat in different positions. He's pumping that thing up and down. I don't think he's giving himself much of a chance. I think he's got to slow it down and be quieter and not have so much... especially if your hands start moving down when that ball is coming, you're not getting there. He does that a lot.

On the type of heat he brings to his burgers:

Oh, I believe in high heat. There's a lot of things I believe in. Radiant heat. Maybe get a little showing of fire and then get it off. But burgers, I like to just go get ‘em.

The fuller transcript is below.

(Note: Due to traffic and an unruly dog, I unfortunately joined the call already in progress. As I believe that means I missed Staub's reflections on Gary Carter, I'll be sure to link to it should any of the other bloggers make it available.)

Without further ado, this picks up from a question from Greg Prince of Faith and Fear in Flushing regarding Davey Johnson being the manager for the Washington Nationals:

Rusty Staub: ...I had respect for the way (Davey Johnson) handled the game. Probably, the whole team lacked a little bit of discipline - there's no question about that. We all know what happened off the field with this team. They were a great group that probably should have won more. But he was very, very good on the field. He doesn't need my okay for everybody to understand that because he did very well in every place he's ever managed. He is his own guy. He goes about it his own way and doesn't care what everybody else thinks and that's probably a good thing for a manager to be. I just was very happy for him to get another shot in the big leagues and the fact that the team is spending a little money on players and they're doing pretty good.

Steve Keane (The Ed Kranepool Society): Good evening, Rusty... Coming from the National League, you played 13 seasons in the National League and in '76 went over to the Detroit Tigers - not just changing teams again but going to a new league back in the ‘70s with the advent of the designated hitter. I have a two-part question on this: What was it like going to the American League, which at that time was a real different style than the National League, and learning to play that DH position, which not being in the field at which you excelled at the outfield and first base? And the second part is, you made the All-Star team back in '76 and you were also an All-Star of course in the National League back in that day, the All-Star Game was really an important game and it was an intense game where both leagues wanted to win. Can you talk about how both clubhouses are being in on an National League All-Star team and an American League All-Star team in the 1970s?

Rusty Staub: I hope I can remember all this.

I'm going to the card thing with the All-Star stuff because that's on my mind. The truth is, anytime you get an All-Star opportunity, it's great to be with the people that are the top players in the game. Yes, there was tremendous competition. And believe me, I was never on the team - either with the National League or the American League - that didn't want to win the game. We had a lot of intensity. When I think of Pete Rose and Fosse, I mean, that tells you about the intensity of how the players played that game.

I think it was a great thing for me to get an opportunity to see some of the really terrific pitchers and players in the American League when I went over there. It's not that easy; you just don't go over there, especially if you're a student of pitching and you haven't seen these guys much. There were a lot of pitchers I'd never faced before.

And come on, if the guy in Anaheim is struggling right now and he's been struggling all year, he might be coming out of it, you know he will. But he's seeing a whole lot of new people, although you have a lot of interleague play. You know, he's got a little bit of the normal pressure that comes with signing a huge contract, moving to a new city and proving himself to his teammates. I had to do all that when I went to the Tigers. They had a lot of kids but they had some veteran players there, too. You go do everything you can do. By the grace of God for me, I still was playing extremely well and I got off to a pretty good start and it was a great experience for me to see the differences which were more blatant back then than they are now, that's for sure. Go to the other part of the question. You had so many parts.

Steve Keane: Well, you got me most of it, but the All-Stars and then you switching over and working as a designated hitter...

Rusty Staub: Yeah, let me finish that for you. I didn't want to be a designated hitter, but Ralph Houk needed me to be. The truth is, the Tigers made a decision on their left fielder that had been there for years and years. Steve Kemp was coming up. I knew they wanted me to be the DH. So, it would be a competition between them to see who was going to play left field and they felt Steve Kemp was going to be the one who was one to get it. It happened, and they traded the guy and I'm just drawing a blank on the name right now... Willie Horton. I mean, he was an all-time player there and I really liked the guy. He's a tremendous teammate. But, you can tell and I've told Ralph Houk, "I'm going to give you one year. That's it." I said, "If I can't do this, I'm going to say something. But for one year, I'll shut up and I'll do everything I can to be the best DH I can be." And that's what I did.

Scott Mandel (Sports Reporters): Congratulations on your bobblehead day! I wanted to talk to you about the fact that you came up in '63 with Houston and a lot of people look back at those days as sort of being the golden years of Major League Baseball, Staub_bobblehead_medium particularly in the National League where there seemed to be one Hall of Famer on every team or several Hall of Famers on every team and the pitching... Koufax and Gibson and Drysdale and Aaron and Mays and people like that, the league was loaded with true superstars...

Rusty Staub: There were only 20 teams then.

Scott Mandel: That's right, and only one winner in each league. So coming up as a 19-year-old in '63, what was your initial impression? Other than being just, "What am I doing here?"

Rusty Staub: My first week, I faced the Giants and the Dodgers. So, they only had four Hall of Fame pitchers in the two series with Koufax and Drysdale and they had Gaylord Perry and Juan Marichal and their opening day pitcher, Jack Stanford. There was an unwritten rule that whoever won the most games the year before usually got Opening Day. Well, he outpitched, as far as wins were concerned, Juan Marichal the previous year, so he got the Opening Day start.

I was not overmatched with the baseball, but I might have been a little more overmatched in elements expecting on life. Because I was the All-American kid. I was too young to go anywhere with anybody without somebody getting in trouble. There were more grown up teams to get by then almost anything else. But I do think the fact that I survived it made me stronger. You just have to take your lumps some times and keep on fighting. Keep trying to be the best you can be. I remember reading a big article in one of the magazines. I was 20 years old and they were talking about me being washed up by my 21st birthday. It's not an easy world. You got to get a tough skin and you just got to put your head down and just keep fighting.

Even for all the young kids coming up now, you just got to stop listening to all this stuff. The type of media coverage now is so vast and the only way people can be heard most of the time is if they're controversial. Just don't work on that stuff. You got to play. You got to train correctly. Some of these people start making money and they think that makes them brilliant in most subjects of the world, much less a better player than anybody else. You forget that you've got to keep working your ass off to be a good player. Those are the players I respect the most; the guys that day in and day out try to do all the parts of the game correctly.

Scott Mandel: Can I follow up with one more question: Best right-handed pitcher and best lefty you ever faced?

Rusty Staub: I've always said the same thing. If my life depended on it and I had to have a righty and a lefty pitch a game for me, I would pick, with all due respect to some great people, I would pick Sandy Koufax and I would pick Bob Gibson.

Shannon Shark (Mets Police): I'd like to talk to you about your other career. And particularly, it's Memorial Day and I'm having a pool party. I'm going to get the grill out and I was wondering if you had any quick tips for burgers, dogs, sausage or steak.

Rusty Staub: Well, just pay attention - don't overcook ‘em! Just like anything else, you have to - I always believing in concentrating. If you concentrate when you're doing the cooking part, it's not like you're going to be married to the stove or to the grill. But just have an idea of what you want to do and go do it. It's fun. That's the great thing about cooking: No matter how old you get, you keep getting better.

Shannon Shark: High heat or medium for burgers?

Rusty Staub: Oh, I believe in high heat. There's a lot of things I believe in. Radiant heat. Maybe get a little showing of fire and then get it off. But burgers, I like to just go get ‘em.

Mike Branda (Mets Merized Online): My question is actually currently in regards to what we've seen with Ike Davis lately. Every hitter is obviously going to see a tough time at the plate. There's going to be maybe a month where you're just not going to see the ball right. You're just not getting the hits, the swing, anything. What are things that a hitting coach or has done to just help you through a tough time at the plate?

Rusty Staub: Well, the most important thing you have to understand is yourself, okay? I don't know what's happening; I'm not privy to anything that's being said down in that dugout. I don't have an idea what the hitting instructor is talking to Ike Davis about. But, Ike Davis came up as a very good young prospect as a hitter and he had very good talent. And right now he's so messed up in his head, it's beyond comprehension.

I've watched the Mets on TV quite a bit and I mean he's had the bat in different positions. He's pumping that thing up and down. I don't think he's giving himself much of a chance. I think he's got to slow it down and be quieter and not have so much... especially if your hands start moving down when that ball is coming, you're not getting there. He does that a lot.

He's going to get out of this thing. Whether he's got to go to the minors and get himself together... I had to do that once myself in my career. What Ike has to start doing is starting himself in knowing why he's doing well what he's doing well and have an idea. Every pitcher has a strength and a weakness. Some of them don't have as many weaknesses as others, but you can't go up there hoping. You have to go up there with an idea of what you want to do against that pitcher and you try to execute that. Right now, I think he's so confused. I'm not too sure getting a little time to get his act together wouldn't be the best thing in the world for the young man, as terrible as that sounds. Ike will be back. It's just not easy to hit the type of long-term injury he had in the previous year and come back automatically swinging the bat great.

Matthew Artus: I was just curious, as this weekend you'll also be an honorary judge for Banner Day, if, looking back during your time playing with the Mets, you have any particular memories about Banner Day - as a player, some of the signs that you may have seen in the crowd, or some of the games and waiting around in between the doubleheader while Banner Day was going on.

Rusty Staub: Well, the thing you've got to remember is that Banner Day hasn't been around for such a long period of time. The truth is: THE FANS LOVE IT! They had a great day. You know, they spent time - Again, some did modest things and some people did elaborate things, but it was a special day. The players, here was something that took place in between games of a doubleheader so it's kind of delayed the second game. Some people liked that; some people didn't. Everybody always went out and there was a little banner the team put together thanking the fans for their support. I thought that was a pretty good deal when I first came here, but there's no doubleheaders anymore unless there's a makeup.

I just think it's terrific that the fans are going to be able to have a day that kind of seems like it's for them. They're going to come out with their banners and have their chance to cheer for the guy or say something - whatever they want to do, and walk on the field, I'm sure. I've promise I've talked to Mookie (Wilson) about it. We're going to the best we can to judge it well.

Paul Festa (Mets Today): My question has to do with the 1973 season. You had a team come back from so far behind and took one of the strongest teams at the time - the Oakland A's - to a game seven in the World Series while falling just short. My question is: What are your memories that you have of that season overall? Was it positive? Maybe a little disappointed? Or are you very proud of it?

Rusty Staub: It was a tough season for the team. You have to remember we were in last place at the end of August. A bunch of people got hurt. Grote broke his arm. I'd had the hand operation in '72 and the reliever with Pittsburgh, Ramon Hernandez, hit me in my other hand. So I had neither hand. I was taping up both hands and using pads on both hands to try to play.

It seems that we got toward August and I know there was a period of time when they gave me three days off and the correct use of cortisone can really be a positive. I actually took seven shots. I'm telling you: four in one hand and three in the other and I didn't play for three days. And when I came back on Sunday, which was the fourth day, it was a day game on a Sunday, and I took batting practice, I was astounded that I had pop back in my hands.

I was an RBI guy that drove in a lot of the big runs and we all know that. Me coming back made it a lot easier, but the thing you have to remember - this is what I said in September when I was with some friends of mine out in California when we were playing a series out there - we had Seaver, Matlack and Koosman and George Stone was pitching terrific. You have that starting staff and you got a shot - and it was so close.

I remember Bob Bailey was my teammate in Montreal. We were in last place and I said, "We're not out of it, either." And he kind of laughed at me. Kind of belittled my comment. Well, you know, I remember that as went through and played so well in September and went right through them and then also winning the NL championship.

Mets Official: Saturday is your bobblehead day. Can you talk a bit about how you feel having a bobblehead? Is this your first bobblehead?

Rusty Staub: It's not my first bobblehead. I'm not sure whether the Mets have done one in the earlier part of my career. I don't remember, but I know they had one in Montreal. Again, this is something the fans love. To be one of the players and it's the 50th anniversary year, to be selected by the ball club as one of the players, it's an honor. So I'm thrilled to do it and I hope everyone comes out and gets one.

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