JR Richard, A flame-thrower right-handed pitcher whose illustrious career with the Houston Astros was cut short by a stroke in 1980, died Wednesday. He was 71 years old.
The Astros announced his death but did not specify a cause or where he died.
Richard was one of the most intimidating pitchers in baseball in the late 1970s. He stood 6-foot-8, his fastball reached 100 mph, and his long stride toward home plate made him uncomfortably close to the batsmen. He also had a destructive slider.
“When He Pushes That Mound,” Pittsburgh Pirate Slugger Dave Parker told Sports Illustrated In 1978, “It looks like he’s 10 feet away from you instead of 60. That makes you lean back a bit and you feel like you have to swing the bat quickly.”
After a few years in the minor leagues, Richard became Full time member of Astros The rotation began in 1975. Over the next four seasons, he won 74 games and led baseball in strikeouts twice (with 303 in 1978 and 313 in 1979) and earned run average once (with 2.71 in 1979). He can be wild; In 1976, he scored 151 batsmen.
He was pitching well in 1980, but didn’t finish as many games as he thought. In mid-June, he began to feel fatigue in his throwing arm—though that didn’t keep him from starting the All-Star Game. could be stopped. 8 July. (He scored three runs in two innings.)
During his next start, however, he seemed lethargic, feeling nauseous and having trouble seeing his catcher’s signals. After three more third innings, he left the game.
At the time, he had a 10-4 record with a 1.90 ERA.
After Richard was placed on the disabled list, the trial discovered a clot that was blocking primary circulation in his pitching arm. His doctors decided not to operate, fearing it might affect his ability to pitch, but they let him work. On 30 July, while playing catch at the Astrodome, he experienced a number of cascading symptoms that added up to a stroke.
In “Still Throwing Heat: Strikeouts, the Streets, and a Second Chance” (2015, with Lew Friedman), he recalled: “All of a sudden, I had a high-pitched voice ringing in my left ear. And then I did some Throwing more pitches and got nauseous. A few minutes later, I bowled a few more pitches, then the feeling got so bad, I was losing my balance. I got down on the astroturf. I had a headache, I had some confusion in my mind , and I felt weakness in my body.”
He was taken to the hospital, where no pulse was found in his carotid artery. Surgeons performed emergency surgery to remove a clot from the junction of two arteries in Richard’s neck.
Richard’s discovery of a life-threatening condition was proof that he was not lazy, as some members of the press and fans were saying, and that his complaints of hand fatigue should have been taken more seriously.
Richard said in his autobiography, “In the depths of my heart, I knew something was wrong.” “At the time I was about the best pitcher in baseball. Why wouldn’t I want to pitch?”
James Rodney Richard was born on March 7, 1950, in Vienna, LA. His father, James Clayton Richard, was a timber grader. His mother, Elizabeth (Frost) Richard, was an elementary-school cook.
In high school, Richard played baseball and football and turned down several college scholarships to play basketball. He was selected second by the Astros in the amateur draft of Major League Baseball. He played in Houston’s minor league system, and in his first call-up to the Astros, in 1971, he had an auspicious start against the San Francisco Giants: he had 15 strikeouts, including three Willie Mays.
He joined the Astros for good in July 1974.
“No one wanted to face him,” His teammate Enos Caballe said in a statement Released by Astro on Thursday. “People on the other team would say they were too sick to avoid facing him.”
In 1980, the Astros added Nolan Ryan to their rotation, posting a 93–70 record and advancing to the National League Championship Series, where they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies. (The Astros moved to the American League in 2013.)
The Astros went ahead without Richard, who never pitched for them again. He tried to make a comeback but after 21 games in the Astros’ minor league system, he was released in 1983.
After that there were some difficult times. They lost money in business ventures and got divorced twice. During 1994 and parts of 1995, he was homeless, living under a bridge in Houston. A grown man, it was not difficult for people to recognize him.
“At first they can’t believe it, and then no one really wants to bother you,” He told Bill Littlefield of Boston public radio station WBUR in 2015. “They’ll probably look at you and say, ‘Well, he doesn’t look like he’s a happy camper.’ I felt like I wasn’t the guy to mess with at the time.”
He got help from a local pastor and a baseball support team that helps former players. He got a job in construction and eventually become minister in a church, where he helped the homeless and taught baseball to children. (Full information about survivors was not immediately available.)
Richard said that his stroke affected his left side reflexes and sometimes his speech. But he never forgot what it was like to dominate the hitters.
“It was grand, to be in control,” He told The New York Times in 2015. “You weren’t afraid of anyone. You had respect for him as a human being; He can hit a home run and you can get him out as well. But I felt like I was the worst lion in the valley.”
Alex Traub contributed reporting.