Sad news out of Major League Baseball as former Astros Ace, J.R. Richard, has passed away at 71.
J.R. Richard's story is a cautionary tale about just how fucked up life can be; how anything can go away in the blink of eye. Unfortunately, the Astros hands are not clean. The way J.R. was treated leading up to and after his stroke is shameful.
At the peak of his career, coming off a season where he led the National League in ERA and strikeouts, Richard suffered a stroke during warm ups and never appeared in the Majors again. This was just weeks after starting the 1980 MLB All Star Game.
From 1976-1980, Richard was one of the best pitchers in baseball, twice surpassing 300 strikeouts.
After the stroke, J.R. tried to make a comeback, but sadly, due to his injury, he could never reclaim the skills he once had. It turned out he actually had multiple mini-strokes before the one that ultimately ended his career on July 30th, 1980.
After J.R.'s comeback efforts failed, understandably, he went through some pretty rough times. He lost a significant amount of money in a failed investment and divorce. By 1994 he was homeless. I cannot even begin to imagine how much his situation affected him mentally. To go from absolutely dominating (Dale Murphy once said he was the hardest pitcher of the late '70s to get a hit off of), to finally getting the national recognition you deserve on a team that's in contention for the World Series (even after losing Richard the Astros still made it the NLCS) to the lows he experienced just shows how unpredictable life can be. Many people around baseball believe Richard would've made the HOF with the trajectory his career was on. What happened to him is an absolute shame.
Luckily, J.R. got back on his feet; he even worked as a minister in Houston. Just last year, he was an inaugural member of the Astros Hall of Fame.
I was watching an old Behind the Music on "1977" the other night and they showed reports of Elvis' death where the reporter said he was 45 which I knew was untrue. My guess is without the internet, people had a much harder time of knowing everything about everybody so someone probably just took a shot in the dark. We no longer have that excuse. I'm not a huge play by the book guy, but you HAVE TO get someone's age right in an obit/retrospective. Again, R.I.P.