On this day in 1980, J.R. Richard pitched his final game in the Major Leagues. Picked #2 overall by the Houston Astros in the 1969 amateur draft, he made his MLB debut in 1971. From 1976 to 1980, he was the hardest-throwing, most intimidating pitcher in the majors – with a fastball consistently around 100 MPH – leading the National League twice in strikeouts, once in earned run average, and three times in hits allowed per nine innings. He struck out 616 batters from 1978-1979.
Richard won at least 18 games each year between 1976 and 1979. His 313 strikeouts in 1979 remains an Astros franchise record, and he held that team’s record for career strikeouts (1,493) until 1987.
A stroke caused by a blood clot ended his Major League career at its apex, at the tragically-young age of 30. In this clip from our interview, Enos Cabell discusses Richard’s work ethic, his injury, and unfair treatment and accusations by the sporting press.