Monday, February 24, 2014

1980 TOPPS J.R. RICHARD


CARDBOARD GOODNESS RIGHT HERE.



HE WAS STARTING TO PUT IT ALL TOGETHER.


THE FRONT PAGE

  • With a fastball lighting guns at 100 mph and a biting slider touching 93, J.R. Richard was about as subtle as a ball-peen hammer striking sheet metal. There's nasty. Then there was 6-foot-8, 220-pound James Rodney Richard nasty. He seemingly was about to dominate the game in the 1980s when a stroke on July 30, 1980, ultimately ended his career and nearly his life. The right-handed ace pitched only 10 years, but in a little over 1,600 innings, he averaged 8.4 strikeouts and won 107 games. He led the NL twice in K's, once in ERA and thrice in fewest hits allowed per nine. It would've been fun to watch his career play out.

THE BACK PAGE

  • Excellent cartoon, and the stats indicate he was on the cusp of figuring it all out, much in the same way Randy Johnson did after a wild beginning.

PHOTO PLAY

  • The image makes this my favorite Richard card. Big Unit was awfully intimidating and so was Bob Gibson. I don't know. Give me Richard for nine and then as my backup in the roughest toughest bar afterward.

EXTRA, EXTRA

  • In high school in Ruston, La., Richard reached his 6-8 height by his senior year and was simply no match for the poor prepsters who stepped in the box against him. He was unscored upon that year and never lost a game in his high school career.
  • He was the second overall pick in the '69 draft by the Astros behind Jeff Burroughs, who was taken by the Senators.
  • Poor mechanics hindered Richard in the minors despite being overpowing. 
  • Richard made it to the majors for brief periods from '71-'74, starting a total of 24 games, averaging nine strikeout but 5.5 walks per nine.
  • In his major-league debut on Sept. 5, 1971, against the Giants, Richard tied Karl Spooner's major-league record of striking out 15 batters in his first start. He got Willie Mays three times in the complete-game 5-3 victory.
  • Finally made the rotation for good in '75, pitching 203 innings, striking out 176 but leading all of baseball in walks (138) and wild pitches (20).
  • Broke through the next season, winning 20 games for the first and only time and pitching 291 innings, striking out 214 but leading the NL in walks again with 151.
  • In '78 and '79, he led baseball in strikeouts with 300-plus each year but also wild pitches.
  • Broke Tom Seaver's single-season record for strikeouts by a righty in '78 by getting Bob Horner for No. 291. He finished with 303 and struck out 313 in '79.
  • He turned 30 during the '80 season and it was shaping up as his best. His control problems seemed to be a thing of the past; in 113.2 innings by mid-July, he walked only 40 and threw two wild pitches to go along with 119 strikeouts.
  • He started his lone All-Star Game that season on July 8, pitching two scoreless innings but complaining of back and shoulder pain. That would be a harbinger of things to come. 
  • He continued complaining about various aches and pains and of having a "dead arm'' in the following weeks. He was sent to the hospital for tests on July 23, but doctors concluded nothing physically was wrong.
  • Whoops. Something was seriously wrong. A week later and while on the disabled list, Richard reported to the Astrodome and was warming up in the outfield when he suffered the stroke. He had a blockage in the right carotid artery and underwent surgery.
  • He began a comeback in '81 but he never got out of the minors. He was released by the Astros in '84 and was their all-time strikeout king with 1,493 until Nolan Ryan surpassed it in '87. Richard still owns the Astros' single-season strikeout record of 313.

1 comment:

  1. J.R. Richard was the Man. A right-handed Randy Johnson is an apt description in terms of intimidation. It's one of the game's big bummers that he didn't get to play out his career.

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