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Rusty Staub, a six-time All-Star who became a popular figure with the New York Mets and Montreal Expos, died early Thursday morning.

Staub, who would have celebrated his 74th birthday Sunday, died of multiple organ failure in Palm Beach, Fla., according to The New York Daily News. The Mets confirmed his death in a statement later Thursday, saying in part that the man known as “Le Grand Orange” will “be missed by everyone.”

A 23-year major-league veteran, Staub played with five different teams in a lengthy, winding career that began in 1961, when he signed at 17 years old with the Houston Astros, who were at the time called the Colt .45s. After making his major-league debut with the club in 1963, he went on to record at least 500 hits with four franchises — the Astros, Expos, Mets and Detroit Tigers — and retire as a .279 career hitter with 292 home runs and 1,466 RBI.

Staub was widely beloved by Mets fans during his nine years with the team, which included a four-year stint in the early 1970s and a return nearly 10 years later, when the outfielder and first baseman was approaching 40. He was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame in 1986, the year after his retirement.

Staub, a New Orleans native, also made three All-Star appearances in four seasons with the Expos, emerging as arguably the first star player for the newly-created franchise. Despite his relatively short tenure with the team, Montreal retired his jersey number in 1993; Staub was one of only four players to receive that honor before the franchise was relocated to Washington D.C. beginning in 2005.

After retiring from baseball, Staub devoted much of his time to charity through his non-profit organization, The Rusty Staub Foundation. According to the foundation’s web site, it has served millions of meals to the hungry over the past several decades and raised more than $17 million in donations for organizations that share its state mission of “benefiting youth (and) fighting hunger.”

“He was almost as well known for his philanthropic work as he was for his career as a baseball player,” the Mets said in part of their statement. “There wasn’t a cause he didn’t champion. Rusty helped children, the poor, the elderly and then there was his pride and joy The New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund.”

As his charity work continued, Staub started to encounter serious health issues in recent years, including a 2015 heart attack while on a flight. Earlier this month, Staub’s friends asked publicly for prayers as Staub battled kidney failure, with the Mets telling The New York Post in a statement that team executives Fred and Jeff Wilpon had been in touch with the former star and “all of us wish Rusty and his loved ones well in his courageous battle.”

Contact Tom Schad at tschad@usatoday.com or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

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