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New York embraced Rusty Staub, and he embraced New York

Rusty Staub with catcher Anthony Recker at the

Rusty Staub with catcher Anthony Recker at the Mets' home opener at Citi Field on April 1, 2013. Credit: David L. Pokress / David L. Pokress

The Mets lost a beloved former teammate on Opening Day. So did New York.

Daniel J. “Rusty” Staub, who died of a heart attack at 73 on Thursday, arrived in Queens a year before 1973’s “Ya Gotta Believe” pennant run. His three-home-run heroics helped win the National League Championship Series. Who could fail to love “Le Grand Orange,” a premier hitter with red curls and a love of good food who became a restaurateur?

But it was what he did in retirement that may endure even further. In 1985, he established the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund to support families of slain first responders. The charity donated millions of dollars to families and became even more essential after 9/11, when hundreds of victims were added to the tragic rolls.

This was just one area of Staub’s vital philanthropy. Through his efforts for the needy, he followed in the proud tradition of our best cultural figures. More than a stable presence in the outfield, he shaped and lightened the lives of those of us cheering in the stands. — The editorial board