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Stroke Ended the All-Star Career of JR Richard

Astros star later overcame homelessness
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 5, 2021 7:05 PM CDT
Stroke Ended the All-Star Career of JR Richard
Former Astros pitcher J.R. Richard meets with homeless people to share his own struggles in the past with homelessness and to remind them that there are ways to get out of it in 2018 in Houston.   (Marie D. De Jesus /Houston Chronicle via AP)

(Newser) – JR Richard, a star starting pitcher for the Houston Astros during the 1970s whose career was ended by a stroke, died Wednesday. He was 71, Click2Houston reports. In a statement, the Astros said Richard "will forever be remembered as an intimidating figure on the mound and as one of the greatest pitchers in club history. He stood shoulder to shoulder with club icons Larry Dierker, Joe Niekro and Nolan Ryan, to form a few of the best rotations in club history." Richard spent his 10-year MLB career with the Astros. He had a 100mph fastball and posted a 107-71 record, with a 3.15 ERA and 1,493 strikeouts. His career ended when he had a stroke while playing catch in the outfield at the Astrodome in July 1980, shortly after starting the All-Star Game, at age 30. Richard had been dealing with numbness in his fingers and other symptoms that season that caused him to leave games. He finally was sent to doctors, per USA Today, who couldn't figure out the problem. There was suspicion that Richard was faking it, and the team kept sending him to the mound.

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"I never could understand how the Astros handled things," Richard wrote in his autobiography. "If I meant so much to the ballclub and I started saying I had problems and didn't feel right, why didn't they send me to a doctor right away?" He tried to make a comeback several times in the early 1980s but didn't play in the major leagues again, per CBS. After paying nearly $1 million in a divorce settlement and being scammed out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in a business deal, Richard lost his home and lived under a highway overpass in Houston in 1994-95. Friends and a minister helped him get back on track, and he qualified for an MLB pension in 1995. "He had the greatest stuff I have ever seen," the late Hall of Famer Joe Morgan once said, per ESPN, "and it still gives me goose bumps to think of what he might have become." The Astros will pay tribute to Richard on Saturday during their team Hall of Fame ceremony. (Read more obituary stories.)

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