Friday, September 5, 2014

J.R. Richard Strikes Out 15 Giants in his Debut September 5, 1971

On this day in Baseball History September 5, 1971: Getting the call up from AAA Oklahoma City 89ers, 21-year old James Rodney Richard aka J.R. Richard makes his debut for the Houston Astros against the San Francisco Giants. Richard threw a 1-0 complete game shutout at Candlestick Park, where he struck out 15 Giants. Richard tied Brooklyn Dodgers starter Karl Spooner's record for strikeouts in a debut for a starting pitcher (09-22-1954). Here is the rundown and box score for Richard's debut game from the September 6, 1971 edition of the New York Times.

At 6'8" and 220 pounds, Richard was an intimidating figure on the mound. Richard would lead the National League in strikeouts in 1978 with 303 strikeouts and 1979 with 313. Imagine the excitement of the Astros fans when fellow fireballer Nolan Ryan was signed by Houston for the 1980 season. But the anticipated record setting strikeouts by Ryan and Richard never came to be.

J.R. Richard and Nolan Ryan
Richard would suffer from a life threatening strokes that required surgery to save his life. Richard would hit the proverbial "rock-bottom" in both his career and personal life after he was released by the Astros in 1984. Luckily, Richard was able to find his way through the help of  Reverend Floyd Lewis of the New Testament Church of South Houston. Richard would finish with a 107-71 career record and 1,493 strikeouts.

Here is footage of J.R. Richard in his only All-Star appearance in 1980:

I have to say, that the little limited action I got to see of Richard (either on This Week in Baseball or the occasional Game of the Week broadcast) was downright impressive. Its sad to think about where his career could of ended up had it not been derailed by health issues. At least there is a happy ending to the story, with Richard being healthy and back on his feet. Will Richard ever get his wish of getting his number 50 retired by the Astros? We'll have to wait and see.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- Click here to access J.R. Richard's career statistics from Baseball
- Click here to access the article entitled From Unhittable to Homeless: The J.R. Richard Story By Blaine Spence from Bleacher Report dated July 14, 2009
- Click here to access the article J.R. Richard appreciates Astros honor but wants more by Zachary Levine from the Ultimate Astros Blog Page from the Houston Chronicle dated May 31, 2012