JR Richard, Power Pitcher for Astros in the 70s, dies at 71 – NBC10 Philadelphia

JR Richard, a huge flamethrower right-hander who spent 10 years with the Houston Astros before his career was cut short by a stroke, has died. He was 71 years old.

The team announced his death on Thursday but did not provide further details.

“Today is a sad day for the Houston Astros as we mourn the loss of one of our franchise icons, JR Richard,” the Astros said in a statement. “JR will be forever remembered as an intimidating figure on the mound and as one of the greatest pitchers in club history. He was alongside club icons Larry Dierker, Joe Niekro and Nolan Ryan, to form some of the best rotations in club history.

The 6-foot-8-inch Richard intimidated the hitters with efficient delivery, a fastball that often hit 100 mph, and a nearly untouchable breaking ball. He was selected by the Astros with the second overall pick in the 1969 draft and struck out 15 batters in a all-round win over the Giants in his major league debut on September 5, 1971.

He pitched for Houston from 1971 to 1980, going 107-71 with a 3.15 ERA and 76 full games. Richard won his career best 20 games in 1976, the first of four consecutive seasons with at least 18 wins.

In 1978, he became the first Astro to strike out 300 batters in one season as he led the majors with 303. The following year he led the National League with a 2.71 ERA and fanned 313 for. to direct the majors again.

Richard had a strong season in 1980, posting a 10-4 record with a 1.96 ERA in the first half of the season and starting for the NL in the All-Star Game on July 30. Less than a month later, Richard suffered a major stroke that ended his career.

Richard, who was only 30 at the time, attempted a comeback but was never able to return to the majors and was released by the Astros in 1984.

Enos Cabell, who played with Richard for six seasons, praised his longtime teammate and friend.

“He was one of the greatest pitchers we’ve ever had and probably would have been in the Hall of Fame if his career hadn’t been cut short,” he said. “On the mound he was devastating and intimidating. No one wanted to face him. The guys on the other team said they were sick to avoid facing him. This is very sad news. We will miss him.”

Houston manager Dusty Baker, who has faced Richard many times during his playing career, recalled some of his teammates who injured themselves to avoid the game.

“We had a few receivers, one came with his arm in a sling and another came with crutches,” Baker said. “There was something called JR-itis which was an incurable disease when you were afraid of JR Richard.”

Baker never shied away from the challenge of facing Richard, whom he called a friend, but he could see why others were turning away.

“It was like JR was only throwing about 50 feet,” Baker said. “With his reach and he was all in legs, you didn’t have much time to make up your mind. … You didn’t really feel comfortable on the plate. He was the toughest guy I have ever faced. “

Richard has left his mark in the Astros’ record books and is tied for second career (3.15), third in strikeouts (1,493), fourth in full games (76) and in fifth for wins (107) and shutouts (19). He was inducted into the team’s first Hall of Fame in 2019.

José Cruz, an outfielder who also played with Richard for six years, recalled what it was like to play behind him.

“He was one of the greatest Astros of all time,” said Cruz. “When he was throwing we knew we were going to get a ‘W’. I didn’t get too many balls in the outfield when he was throwing because he was so dominant.

Richard had a hard time following the end of his career. A series of bad investments, failed businesses and a divorce left him penniless, and he was briefly homeless in the mid-1990s.

He eventually took control of his life and worked as a minister in his later years.

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