July 30, 1980: Astro phenom collapses
Submitted by BTGrimes on Mon, 07/30/2012 - 9:00am
J.R. Richard stricken
HOUSTON, TEXAS - Houston Astros phenom pitcher J.R. Richard collapsed during a workout in the Astrodome on this date in 1980. He was rushed to a hospital where he underwent emergency surgery to save his life more than his pitching career. Doctors found a blood clot in his neck. It took 2 hours of surgery to remove. His life was saved, his baseball career was not.
James Rodney Richard was drafted by the Astros in 1969 out of Lincoln High School in Ruston, Louisiana high school. He was a flame thrower, reaching speeds of 100 mph. He came on the major league scene in 1971, but was slow out of the gate. Richard was a combined 11-6 in his first 4 seasons. His breakout year was 1976 when he went 20-15. Richard won 18 games each of the next three seasons, and was 10-4 with an ERA of 1.89 at the time of his stroke. With 303 strikeouts in 1978 he became the first National League right-hander to strikeout more than 300.
Despite trying a comeback in 1981, he never played another regular season major league game. He finished his career with 107-71 and an ERA of 3.15.
According to interviews done then and since J.R. Richard thinks the Astros overlooked his complaints about a tired arm and other warning signs before his stroke. Whatever precipitated it, Richard fell on bad times to the point of being homeless and living under a bridge in 1994. He later straightened out his life with the help of a minister and became a minister himself working with Houston youth.
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