Born: Mar 7, 1950
James Rodney Richard was a towering, 6'8" righthander from Louisiana drafted by Houston in the first round of the 1969 Summer draft. He was an overwhelming pitcher who used a 103-mph fastball and a 94-mph slider to completely dominate hitters. Some National League hitters were accused of suffering the "J.R. flu", a 24-hour virus that would keep them from having to face Richard in a series. Wildness was his Achilles' Heel, and he did not become a regular member of the starting rotation until the 1975 season.
In his first major league start in 1971, Richard struck out 15 batters, tying the MLB record set by Karl Spooner of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954. In 1976, he won 20 games. It was the first of four straight seasons with 18+ wins. He struck out over 300 batters in 1978 and 1979. But just weeks after he started the All-Star game in 1980, a massive stroke suddenly ended his career and very nearly his life at age 30. Richard was arguably the single most dominating pitcher to don an Astros uniform.
His career record, all with Houston, was 107-71 with an ERA of 3.15. Richard struck out 1493 batters in his 10-year career. He pitched 76 complete games and 19 shutouts.
Richard attempted a comeback in 1981 and 1982, but his slow reflexes on the mound made him a danger to himself and he did not play again except in spring training. His life took many turns afterwards, including a time where he was homeless and living under a Houston bridge. He now spends his time as a minister and counselor.