By Danny Gallagher
Canadian Baseball Network
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Rusty Staub looked pale and weak but was alert when I paid the Expos' legend a surprise visit Friday morning.
"I just wanted to tell you that I'm pulling for you and that Expos' fans are pulling for you,'' I told Staub as he lay on his back in his room in a critical-care unit of the lakefront Good Samaritan Medical Centre near the corner of Dixie Highway and Palm Beach Lakes Blvd.
Staub, 73, has been a patient at Good Samaritan for more than a month, recovering from a nasty staph infection and kidney problems which left him in critical condition several weeks ago. His condition has improved.
"He's a lot better than he was,'' a nurse told me inside Staub's room with a reassuring smile on her face.
Another one of Staub's nurses said she could not officially comment on Staub's condition for privacy reasons.
"He's a fighter,'' the same nurse told me.
Understandably, Staub could barely speak above a whisper and his breathing was laboured as I offered him encouragement during the five minutes I was there.
I walked in off the street unannounced and asked a main-floor receptionist if it was possible to see Staub. The receptionist checked out information on her computer and gave me the go-ahead. I was not expecting clearance.
"I'll take your photo and give you a pass and you can go up and see him,'' the receptionist said.
Like most people, I'm not that excited about being in hospitals and tingles shot up my spine as I waited anxiously to see Staub because he's one of my top Expos' heroes along with Dennis Martinez.
"No photographs, no interviews,'' a nurse advised me as final permission was granted for me to enter the room to see Staub.
"I told you this years ago but I just wanted to tell you again that you have the same two given names as me, Daniel Joseph,'' I told Staub as a nurse raised his bed so he could see me better and listen to what I was saying.
When Staub was being prepared for a treatment of dialysis and told a nurse he was getting tired, I departed and gave him the thumbs up and said again, "I'm pulling for you.''
Having seen Staub in the condition he's in, I would think there is no way he will be released anytime soon and it's very, very unlikely that he will be capable of attending the ExposFest gala in suburban Montreal March 25.
Staub is being accorded the best of attention at one of America's top medical facilities that has been around for about 90 years, specializing in acute care.
Staub was the Expos' early-franchise superstar with three stellar seasons from 1969-71 before he was traded to the New York Mets prior to the 1972 season. He also spent the last half of the 1979 season with the Expos following a trade with the Detroit Tigers. His No. 10 was retired by the Expos back in the 1990s and he was elected into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012.
Staub has owned a home in West Palm Beach for decades and just up the street from the Good Samaritan is old Municipal Stadium on Hank Aaron Way where he took part in Expos' spring training in 1969, 1970 and 1971.