NEW YORK  — The New York Mets say former slugger Rusty Staub has died at 73.

The team said in a statement he died Thursday after an illness in a hospital in West Palm Beach, Florida, hours before the start of the baseball season. A team spokesman says the Mets learned of the death from friends of Staub who were with him at the time.

Staub was a six-time All-Star and the only player in major league history to have at least 500 hits with four different teams. The orange-haired outfielder became a huge hit with fans in the U.S. and Canada during a career spanning 23 seasons.

Staub played from 1963 to 1985 and finished 284 hits shy of 3,000. Affectionately dubbed "Le Grand Orange" in Montreal, he broke into the majors as a teenager with Houston, lasted into his 40s with the Mets and spent decades doing charity work in the New York area.

(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)