This Day in Baseball History: July 30th, 1980

They were supposed to be the fearsome twosome in 1980.

On July 30, 1980:

JR Richard suffers a stroke before the Houston Astros game.

James Rodney Richard was a high school phenom. In his entire high school career, he never lost a game, and during his senior season, he didn’t even give up a run. At 6’8″, he received lots of scholarships to play basketball (he was good at that, too), but he decided to put his name in the 1970 draft. With the second pick, the Astros selected Richard.

Being able to throw a 100 mph fastball and 93 mph slider will move one through the minor-league system pretty quickly, and in September of 1971, Richard earned his taste of the majors. Over the next four years, he wouldn’t pitch very much (39 games) as he bounced between AAA and the minors, but he received his first real chance in the rotation in 1975 when the Astros traded away Claude Osteen and when Don Wilson committed suicide. Richard was a bit wild and unsuccessful in his first real season, but he followed it up with a breakout 1976 season in which he won 20 games. Over the next 3 seasons, he would become one of the better pitchers in the National League, winning 18 games each season and leading the league in strikeouts twice.

On July 30, 1980, Richard was having an outstanding season with a 10-4 record and 1.90 ERA, but before the game that night and while playing catch, he suffered a stroke. During his previous starts, he had complained of a “dead arm” and not being able to see the catcher’s signs. Some took this as a sign of mental weakness in the 30-year old, but when he checked into a hospital, the blood pressure in his right arm was almost non-existent due to a blockage in an artery. However, the hospital believed nothing was seriously wrong and sent him back to the team just days before suffering a stroke.

But Richard was determined to make a comeback. In 1982 and 1983, he climbed the ladder again, attempting to prove he could pitch, but when he reached AAA, he struggled. Late in 1983, a graft in his left leg closed and needed surgery. Fearing the consequences of continuing to pitch, Richard retired after the Astros released him in November.

Trivia Time
In 1979, JR Richard’s 313 strikeouts were the most by an NL right-hander in a season. One righty has beaten that record. Who is it? How many strikeouts did he have? And how many times has he beaten Richard’s 313 strikeouts?

Yesterday’s Answer –> George Lee Anderson

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5 Responses to “This Day in Baseball History: July 30th, 1980”

  1. Ron Rollins Says:

    Nolan Ryan, with 383.

    He did it 5 times.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    National League. Ryan achieved that mark in the AL.

  3. Bill Says:

    Curt Schilling? 322? Twice?
    All random guesses. šŸ™‚

  4. Ian Says:

    Adding to the sad story of J.R. Richard is that he had started the All Star Game earlier that same month in which he pitched his final game in the majors. I think at one point he even ended up homeless, though I believe he's doing better now. Oh, what might have been…

  5. tHeMARksMiTh Says:

    I should have added "NL righty" into the question, but Ron is right about Ryan. So Ron, you get one more guess on the house to guess a pitcher who did while in the NL.

    Sorry for the confusion and thanks to "Anonymous" for helping out.

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