The Base Ball world lost an all time great yesterday, JR Richard, at the age of 71. He’s not a Hall of Famer, and frankly, if he hadn’t died, you probably never heard of him. Unless, of course, you’re a reader of mine, and of HTTA.
I wrote the below last November, and thought I’d publish it again, as a tribute once again, to the GREATEST PITCHER YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF.
below was published Nov 24th, 2020:
I was perusing a list of the pitchers throughout history who have posted a 300K season. For reference, since 1900, there have been 38 occurrences of a pitcher striking out 300, and only 19 individuals to accomplish the feat. Of these 19, ONLY 9, have accomplished the feat more than once. Among those men…is J.R. Richard.
J.R. Richard was a member of the Houston Astros, and his career spanned 10 seasons. He was only a full time starter for 5+ seasons- and during those seasons (1975-1980) he:
- Four Straight 18+ Win Seasons
- Four seasons of 200+ K’s
- 3.01 ERA
- A 3rd & 4th Place Cy Young finish
- Led the league in a total of 18 categories
- In 1979, he was the BEST pitcher in the NL, despite coming in 3rd in Cy voting to a reliever and Phil Niekro’s little brother
Simply put, he was a certified STUD. He was better than Nolan Ryan, who became his teammate in 1980.
But during that ’80 season, at age 30, the Astros Ace threw his last MLB pitch, derailing a seemingly certain HOF career. I assumed he must’ve fallen victim to pre-Tommy John arm issues, but unfortunately the truth is much worse than that.
In mid-1980, Richard experienced what he described as a “dead arm”. Over the course of the next few weeks, as his condition worsened, it was determined that he had a blood clot, and it has begun to affect his carotid artery. In the middle of his All-Star season and his professional peak, the 6’8″ Richard had had a stroke.
He attempted a comeback in 1981-82, but never made it out of the minors. A setback in ’82 led to a bypass in his left leg- abruptly ended his road to a return, despite a near-full recovery from the stroke.
Richard ended up back back home and tried his hand in business, which went about as well for him as Big Papi’s Cantina went for David Ortiz. And by 1984, (like Ortiz is, “allegedly”) he was completely broke, and living under a highway overpass back in Houston… which, by Houston standards probably isn’t the worst place in town, but still, a terrible situation for the once Ace.
It wasn’t until the mid-90’s when stuff started to turn around for Richard, as he began working with a minister and church in the area, was able to find suitable housing, and has gone on to raise money for children’s baseball programs. He has also since been honored by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
I know what you’re thinking, “Mike, why were we subjected to “Trouble With the Curve” while there was an incredible baseball story, primed for the Hollywood treatment right under our noses?”- well, I can’t answer that. And you’re right, TWTC was absolutely terrible. There was a low-budget movie made about Richard’s career, 2005’s Resurrection: The J. R. Richard Story, but judging by the shittiness of that title, I can’t imagine much effort was put into the production.
So, as of today, November 24th, 2020, aka JR Richard Day, I hereby call on the best and brightest in La-La Land, to drop the goddamn superhero movies and remakes of stupid TV shows for 1 god damn second, and get a script fast-tracked, for a REAL JR Richard Biopic. I’m talking a legit director, actors I’ve heard of, and even though I know it’s the thing you people are doing now, DO NOT have the character of JR Richard be a woman. Is that really too much to ask???